Civil Engineering

What is Civil Engineering

The Department of Civil Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona is a leader in polytechnic education, where hands-on learn-by-doing is the foundation of a broad-based educational experience. The department has the largest undergraduate civil engineering program in the United States and produces approximately 15 percent of young civil engineers in California. The civil engineering department offers the civil engineering program, with options in general civil, environmental, and geospatial engineering, and the construction engineering and management program.

We also offer a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering ( MSCE) with options in construction engineering and management, environmental and water resources, geotechnical, structural, and transportation Engineering.

To meet the challenges of an evolving society, we provide practice-oriented civil engineering education that fosters personal, professional and social responsibility; technical excellence and creativity; and effective communication, teamwork and leadership.

The civil engineering department has many constituencies. These include the following:

  • Our alumni and alumnae have an interest in the continued excellent reputation of our programs.
  • Employers need a supply of well-prepared entry-level engineers and rely on Cal Poly Pomona as an important source of new employees.
  • The civil engineering department faculty have dedicated a major portion of the professional life to the department and its vision and mission, and have a professional and personal commitment to its continued success.

What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineers design, build, operate, and maintain structures and infrastructure that form the built environment of our modern society. The built environment include buildings, bridges, highways, water supply systems, environmental protection systems, ports, railroads, dams, flood control works, airports, and many others.

The American Society of Civil Engineers notes that civil engineers provide "a better world by design" because their projects improve the quality of life for mankind while being economically viable and environmentally conscious. This is the oldest branch of engineering, and will continue to be essential so long as civilization exists. Civil engineering is an exciting and rewarding profession.


Branches of Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is a very broad profession that encompasses a wide range of activities. The Civil Engineering Department at Cal Poly Pomona is divided into the following branches.

Gold Line, which connects Los Angeles with Pasadena (Photo courtesy of Kiewit Pacific)
Building the Gold Line of the Metro's light rail system
Construction engineers oversee the actual construction of civil engineering projects. They start with the design drawings and specifications prepared by design engineers, and convert them into a physical reality. Students interested in this branch of civil engineering can major in either civil engineering or construction engineering and management. Some students also choose to do a double-major.

Reviewing design drawings for an engineering project.
Construction management includes leading, coordinating, overseeing, and other similar management activities as applied to construction projects. Engineering managers typically have an undergraduate degree in engineering, with additional education or experience in management.

Sanitary landfills provide safe disposal of municipal wastes, thus protecting the environment.
The pipelines shown in the photo collect methane gas from the landfill, which is then used to generate electricity.

Environmental engineering focuses on engineering works that clean and protect the environment. These projects can include designing facilities to safely handle solid waste, industrial waste, or municipal wastewater. It also can include identifying and remediating existing pollution, such as underground contaminant plumes. It has been said that civil engineers have saved more lives than doctors, and much of this benefit has come from environmental engineering.

Using a surveying instrument to record topographic data in the field.
Geospatial engineering includes surveying, mapping, remote sensing, and other similar activities. Geospatial engineers use precise global positioning system (GPS) receivers and 3D scanners to establish horizontal and vertical coordinates. They also participate in the design and implementation of geographical information systems (GIS), which are geographically-based computer databases.

La Conchita
Geotechnical engineers work to prevent disasters like the 2005 La Conchita landslide that killed 10 people.
Geotechnical engineers focus on soil, rock, and underground water, and their relation to the design, construction, and operation of civil engineering projects. This work includes providing adequate foundations for structures, preventing or repairing landslides, identifying and remediating liquefaction hazards, and other similar activities.

Skyway Bridge
Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida is a cable-stayed bridge.
Structural engineers work on buildings, bridges, towers, and other structures. They are responsible for designing these structures in a way that will be safe, sustainable and economical. One of the most important aspects of structural engineering in California is earthquake-resistant design.

Maglev train
High-speed maglev trains are one solution to intercity travel.
Transportation engineers provide fast, efficient, and safe transportation facilities. These include highways, railroads, ports, airports, and other similar projects. Transportation facilities are essential to society, and improving our transportation infrastructure is a high priority for the coming decades, all of which requires civil engineers with expertise in transportation engineering.

Water Treatment
A water treatment plant purifies municipal water before it is distributed to the community.
Water resources engineering includes various civil engineering projects needed to provide safe drinking water and flood control works. These projects include aqueducts, pipelines, water treatment plants, dams, levees, and other similar works. Water is a very important topic in California, and water shortages will become an ever-growing concern as the state's population continues to grow. The implementation of desalinization plants, more efficient water usage, and new water distribution facilities are some of the solutions to these problems, all of which require civil engineers with expertise in water resources.