What is a Construction Engineering Degree?

Construction engineering is closely aligned with civil engineering. But it is different. Civil engineers typically focus on a construction project’s design, analysis, and planning. Construction engineers often participate in this process, but their focus is onsite management, the execution of the project. They coordinate, organize, and manage the day-to-day construction process, ensuring compliance with designs and plans.

Students of construction engineering, therefore, learn how to create construction budgets, assemble necessary equipment and materials, build and supervise a team of construction and engineering professionals, oversee progress and safety of the building process, keep up-to-date logs, and communicate with contractors, clients, and construction company leadership.

Program Options

It is important to select degree programs in construction engineering that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Engineering – Four Year Duration
Through lectures, lab work, and field experiences, bachelor’s programs in this discipline build upon concepts of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and basic engineering to give students a foundational knowledge of civil, construction, and environmental engineering. Computer-aided engineering, safety protocols, and industry ethics are also introduced throughout the program.

In some cases, the curriculum integrates technical aspects with studies in social sciences and humanities to provide sensitivity to social challenges and problems related to the field of engineering. The undergraduate degree in construction engineering prepares students for entry-level professional positions or graduate studies.

Here is an example of the core undergrad curriculum:

  • Construction and Culture – a look at the cultural context of construction, the evolution and expansion of built environments as expressions of ethical and historical value systems; the relationship between culture, geography, construction materials, and built expressions of cultural legacy; interdependence of built environment and society
  • Construction Concepts and Building Codes – concepts of control and information exchange in construction; development of construction-related codes and standards to protect public health and safety, compliance with requirements, and design using codes
  • Construction Methods – components and methods of construction including earthwork (work usually related to larger construction projects involving the processing of large quantities of soil to create holes or for levelling the ground); foundations; wood, steel, and concrete construction; roofing and cladding; and interior construction; field experience in observing and/or conducting construction operations
  • Construction Ethics, Law, and Contracts – the legal and ethical environment of construction; study of documents and common procedures in construction administration and their legal and ethical implications for general contractors and subcontractors; contract documentation
  • Mechanical and Electrical Principles for Construction – engineering principles for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; thermodynamics and energy principles; electrical theory, circuits, and motors; static and dynamic principles for fluids and pipe flow; mechanical and plumbing equipment
  • Construction and Estimating – identifying and estimating time and cost requirements for construction operations based on drawings and specifications; using computer applications for estimating
  • Principles of Engineering Economy – mathematics of finance applied to engineering and managerial decision making; cost management in engineering and construction
  • Analysis and Design of Construction Operations – use and integration of construction equipment; assessment of equipment needs and selection; site utilization and layout planning; incorporating efficiency and safety protocols
  • Construction Planning and Scheduling – fundamentals of scheduling logic including critical path method, deterministic and probabilistic scheduling, and impact of project constraints (quality, time, cost, scope, benefits, risks); development of a construction plan using industry computer applications
  • Construction Materials – selection, design, and control of mixes of portland cement and asphalt concrete; properties of these and other materials used in construction
  • Design of Temporary Structures – design of structures for temporary support of constructed work including scaffolding and formwork, bracing, and excavations; influence of codes and standards on the design process; degrees of safety and concepts of liability
  • Environmentally Conscious Construction – design and design processes to target a sustainable structure; construction practices associated with protection of the environment; application of industry standards for environmental and energy performance of buildings; impacts on selection of methods, materials, and equipment for construction; design of procurement and management systems to support environmentally conscious building
  • Construction Management and Safety – management and control of critical project processes for construction projects, including planning, estimating, bidding, and documentation; fundamentals of construction safety planning and design

Master’s Degree in Construction Engineering – Eighteen Month Duration
Many master’s programs in construction engineering are designed for holders of a bachelor’s degree who are working for engineering and construction related companies and are interested in a career path in construction engineering and project management.

Advanced coursework at this level covers areas such as:

  • Advanced Project Management - introduction to the Project Management Institute’s Body of Knowledge (PMBOK); risk management, financials, labor, safety, equipment, contracting; individual management strengths and weaknesses, team building, and characteristics of successful companies
  • Estimating and Bidding – estimating and pricing focusing on labor, equipment, materials, subcontractors, job conditions, location, overhead, and profit; constructing a detailed work breakdown structure; students develop a bid estimate for a small construction project
  • Construction Liability and Contracts – contract forms and provisions related to liability for engineering design and construction companies, roles in the process, and dispute resolution; the importance of contract language negotiation and the impact of project risk transfer
  • Construction Methods and Equipment – the International Building Code; the fundamental principles of green building and sustainable design; detailed study of typical building materials, design concepts, and construction methods; planning and deployment of equipment, materials, labor, and subcontractors; the roles of designers, engineers, material suppliers, inspectors, and constructors in the commercial building process
  • Techniques of Project Planning and Control – use of scheduling techniques for project control, resources management, cash flow management, risk management, and project completion date management ; related computer software products
  • Green Building Design and Construction – introduction to emerging trends in green building sustainable design and construction; prepares students for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Green Building Rating System certification exam
  • Advanced Construction and Engineering Economics – generally accepted accounting practices; establishing company financial records and financial statements; using financial data for internal cost controlling, planning, and budgeting
  • Construction Project Risk Management – methodologies employed in the engineering and construction industries to assist in rational decision making in the face of uncertainty
  • Construction Management and Leadership Challenges in the Global Environment – remaining trained and relevant in the changing business environment; resume writing and interview skills; preparing and presenting a dynamic business plan
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM) Techniques – overview of the evolution of BIM technology in the construction industry; hands-on training in the basic application of contemporary BIM software

Degrees Similar to Construction Engineering

A degree in architecture will appeal to individuals who have an interest in and appreciation for both the sciences and the arts. This is because architecture is itself the art and science of designing and engineering structures and buildings. It is a field with a foundation in creativity, technology, and social and cultural trends.

Architectural Engineering
Degree programs in architectural engineering combine architecture and engineering. Their goal is to produce engineers with technical skills in all aspects of building design and construction. Courses, therefore, cover subjects like architectural drawing and design, building construction, lighting and acoustics, energy systems, and fire safety.

Architectural Engineering Technology
These technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist architectural engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, architectural design and construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing.

Civil Engineering
This degree field is focused on the processes of design and planning of civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. In their work, civil engineers are concerned with such things as how much weight a structure can support and the environmental issues presented by construction. The emphasis of civil engineering degree programs is math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, building codes, and statistical analysis.

Construction Engineering Technology
Majors in this field learn the basic engineering principles and technical skills needed to assist construction engineers. The duties of a construction engineering technologist may include developing drawings from preliminary concepts and sketches; preparing construction specifications, cost and material estimates, and project schedules and reports; conducting field surveys or inspections; or performing other technical functions.

Construction Management
Construction managers plan, organize, direct, control, supervise, and evaluate construction work. Construction management degree programs teach the various aspects of the occupation, which include preparing cost estimates and contracts, budgeting, hiring subcontractors, managing staffing schedules, enforcing building codes and safety regulations, labor relations, liaising with clients, and overall project management.

Drafting Technology
This degree field teaches students to use computer programs to create specialized drawings that are used in engineering, construction, and manufacturing.

Environmental Engineering
Students of environmental engineering learn how to apply principles of engineering, soil science, and chemistry to environmental protection and restoration. They examine issues like climate change, pollution, deforestation, the supply of energy resources, and population growth.

Urban Planning
Degree programs in urban planning teach the processes involved in designing communities, towns, and cities. Students learn how to make decisions about the need for and placement of infrastructure like roads, highways, tunnels, bridges, airports, railroads, dams, utilities, parks, and other urban projects. Coursework includes environmental planning, which considers environmental, social, political, and economic factors.

Skills You’ll Learn

In addition to the technical skills they learn, construction engineering students develop a very transferable set of non-technical skills:

  • A problem-solving mindset – in construction, new technologies are frequently being introduced; this means that many of the situations and challenges encountered have not been experienced before
  • Communication skills – the construction industry calls for different types of communication; the way to speak internally, to a colleague, is different from the way to speak with people in the supply chain and different again from the way to speak with a client
  • Building relationships and a reputation – students learn that earning the support of customers and suppliers is a key to success
  • Influencing skills – the abilities to influence, to persuade, to get ‘buy in’ and inspire confidence are essential for navigating the competing demands and priorities of different parties involved in a construction project
  • Commercial awareness – a basic understanding of how one’s role fits into a project as a whole, how one’s actions would affect the profitability of a project and/or company; awareness of political and economic events and trends which could affect the industry
  • Organization and time management – being organized, managing one’s time, and working to deadlines are crucial in construction
  • Adaptability and flexibility – students learn the importance of being sufficiently flexible to change course and reprioritize tasks when unexpected things occur

What Can You Do with a Construction Engineering Degree?

Construction engineering grads combine management skills with their knowledge of construction methods to oversee the building of facilities that are safe and on budget.

Typical roles and titles include:

  • Site Manager
  • Safety Inspector
  • Project Engineer / Manager
  • Construction Consultant
  • Site / Field Engineer
  • Scheduling Engineer
  • Residential / Commercial Property Developer

Other common career paths include:

  • Surveyor – uses reference points to provide accurate and precise measurements of the land where construction is planned
  • Sustainability Specialist – conducts analysis and research to provide guidelines and best practices for construction projects that involve demands for green or eco-friendly methods
  • Facilities Manager – is responsible for the maintenance and oversight of commercial or residential facilities; ensures that buildings run smoothly once construction is complete


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