Geotechnical Engineers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

While in high school, take as many math and science classes as possible, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, and geology. Shop and drafting classes are also important. Engineers write a lot of reports and work with a variety of people, so strong communication skills are essential—communications and English classes will help you in this area.

Postsecondary Training 

Geotechnical engineers may have a bachelor of science degree in geotechnical engineering, civil engineering, or structural engineering. To become licensed, you will need to attend an ABET-accredited institution. Some geotechnical engineering educational programs are accredited by ABET; visit https://amspub.abet.org/aps for a list of accredited programs. Students take such courses as hydrogeology, geology, construction engineering, environmental engineering, solid waste management, groundwater hydrology, pavement design, rock fragmentation, and rock-slope stability. Computer-aided design classes are also strongly recommended, and business management classes are extremely useful. Most engineers gain practical work experience while in college by participating in an informal apprenticeship or an internship or co-op with a geotechnical engineering firm.

Many companies prefer to hire engineers with a master of science degree in engineering. Approximately 25 percent of civil engineers (including geotechnical engineers) have a master's degree, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Other Education or Training

Many professional associations provide continuing education opportunities to geotechnical engineers. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers' Geo-Institute offers webinars and other continuing education opportunities. Past webinars included Energy Piles: Background and Geotechnical Engineering Concepts, Underpinning and Strengthening of Foundations, and Foundations for Metal Building Systems. The International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering offers webinars such as Elements of Geophysics, Geophysical Tests for Geotechnical Site Characterization, and Risk and Geotechnical Engineering. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

In the United States, a professional engineer (PE) license is required for engineers who provide services to the public. To receive a PE designation, engineers must have a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, four years of related work experience, and pass a state examination.

Engineers who secure voluntary certification can advance to positions of greater responsibility and secure higher salaries. Organizations such as the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists and the American Society of Civil Engineers (via its sister organization, Civil Engineering Certification Inc.) offer certification programs to professional engineers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Aspiring geotechnical engineers should participate in an internship, co-op, or an informal apprenticeship during college to gain valuable experience. Participating in these programs will also allow you to build your professional network, which could lead to a job offer after graduation.

Geotechnical engineers enjoy investigating sites and solving problems. They write many reports, often translating technical information into language that people less familiar with the industry will understand. Strong analytical and creative abilities combined with excellent written and verbal communication skills are essential in this field. Knowledge of different software programs (including soil-analysis software) and databases is also required.