Education and Training Requirements
Transportation engineers must have strong mathematics skills. Take as many math classes as your school offers, including algebra, calculus, geometry, and physics. Be sure to also take chemistry, art, design, history, social science, English, business, and computer science classes. Participating in an engineering summer camp while in high school will also help you learn more about the field and be viewed favorably by prospective colleges.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for transportation engineering work. Many engineers have a degree in civil engineering with a specialization in transportation engineering. Courses usually cover topics such as math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, structural analysis, and hydrology. Students may take elective courses in transportation and traffic engineering, railroad planning, and transportation safety. There are also foundational courses such as calculus, chemistry, and mechanics. A master's degree is required for management-level positions.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Transportation engineers must hold a professional engineer (PE) license to work on projects that affect property, health, or life. Many transportation engineering jobs are in government agencies, which is why many engineers take the steps required to obtain the PE license. Requirements are different for each state—they involve educational, practical, and teaching experience. Applicants must take an examination on a specified date. Engineering students can take the fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam while they are studying for their bachelor's degree. They receive the engineer in training (EIT) designation when they pass this first exam before going on to the PE exam.
Transportation engineers may also receive voluntary certification to enhance their skills and knowledge. The American Planning Association offers certification in transportation planning to those who meet education and work experience requirements. This certification must be renewed every two years. Find information at https://www.planning.org/certification. The Transportation Professional Certification Board, in affiliation with the Institute of Transportation Engineers, offers several certification programs: Professional Traffic Operations Engineer, Professional Transportation Planner, and Road Safety Professional. Find information at https://www.tpcb.org.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Transportation engineers usually have four years of experience working under a licensed engineer. Many hold the professional engineering license and have experience working on transportation engineering projects. They may have participated in a cooperative engineering work study program, receiving on-the-job training while still in school. The job requires strong math skills, deep knowledge of design principles and tools, and an understanding of technical blueprints and drawings. Transportation engineers are well versed in engineering science and technology. They know the different types of materials, methods, and tools needed for construction and repair of transportation structures and systems. Other skills needed for this job include decision-making, leadership, organizational, problem-solving, speaking, and writing. The ability to work well with others is essential, because transportation engineering projects involve teams of various engineers, technicians, contractors, subcontractors, and others. People who do best in this field are realistic and investigative, detail oriented, good-natured, and honest and ethical.