The Civil Engineering Alphabet

Thank you for visiting the companion webpage for The Civil Engineering Alphabet by Seth Chalmers, PE, Director of Traffic Engineering at Dibble. Below you will find information on civil engineering college programs, professional organizations, and STEM resources for students.

Civil Engineering Education

Civil engineering is a broad and diverse branch of engineering that focuses on the built environment and what is needed to create and sustain it. The goal is to improve communities and enhance lives. Civil engineers use applied sciences such as math, chemistry, and physics to define and solve problems using effective, efficient, and safe techniques and approaches. The practice of civil engineering encompasses many of the disciplines areas known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

It is important to note that civil engineers are not scientists or mathematicians. While some civil engineers may focus more on science or mathematics in research or academic settings, most civil engineers use STEM principles for planning, design, and construction. You do not necessarily have to excel at math or science to study civil engineering (or engineering in general). What matters most is a deep curiosity to know how things work, to design and build things using STEM, and to define and solve problems with motivation and passion.

Civil engineering as a profession dates back to the late 1700s, when the term “civil” was used to distinguish it from “military” engineering. Originally, civil engineering was a learned profession – engineers learned while working as a surveyor on projects such as roads and canals. In 1802, civil engineering education became formalized when the United States Military Academy at West Point was formed. The first non-military civil engineering degree was conferred by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1835. To become a civil engineer, the first step is to earn a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering degree.

Universities with Civil Engineering Programs

In the United States, over 200 universities and colleges offer programs in civil engineering. The mission of these civil engineering education programs is to prepare students to be proficient in civil engineering and related fields and get them ready to help improve, operate, and maintain infrastructure for the public good. This includes fostering the ability to think creatively and critically to define and solve problems in a manner that is economically sound and fair to all people.

Universities in the Southwest with civil engineering programs are listed below by state. A listing of universities across the United States with civil engineering programs can be found here.




New Mexico


Community College to University Pathway

Some college students choose to begin their college studies at a community college or smaller university without a civil engineering department, then transfer to a four-year university to complete their civil engineering degree. This pathway often takes extra time but can be a more economical way to achieve an engineering degree.

Engineering Professional Organizations

The oldest engineering professional organization is the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which was formed in 1852. Below are some links to specific programs ASCE has regarding engineering education and civil engineering as a profession.

Additional engineering professional organizations fall under various civil engineering disciplines.

General Engineering

Transportation/Traffic Engineering/Traffic Safety

Water Resources Engineering

Structural Engineering

Electrical Engineering

Construction Engineering

Environmental Engineering


Urban Planning/Land Development

Aviation Engineering

Energy/Power Engineering

STEM Resources for Elementary, Middle, and High Schoolers

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Seth Chalmers, PE