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Civil and Environmental Engineering Major Guide for 2008-2009

What is Civil and Environmental Engineering

Civil and environmental engineering is about the basic infrastructure of society and community service, development and improvement– the planning, design, construction and operation of facilities essential to modern life and economic vitality.  Civil engineers design structures such as buildings and bridges, transportation facilities including roads and airports, geotechnical projects such as tunnels and dams, and water supply and sewage systems. They must consider many factors in the design process, from the construction costs and expected lifetime of a project to government regulations and potential environmental hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

Environmental engineers develop solutions to environmental problems using the principles of biology and chemistry. They are involved in water and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues. They design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems. Environmental engineers study and attempt to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion.

An established department in civil engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville dates back to the mid-1800s, making it one of the oldest programs in the Southeast. The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department (CEE) offers proficiency in environmental and water resources engineering, geotechnical and infrastructure materials engineering, structural engineering and construction, and transportation engineering leading to a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. In addition, the College of Engineering offers an undergraduate minor in environmental engineering.

Consistent with the mission of the Department of CEE department, graduates of the program will have:

  • Technical competency to conduct engineering projects and to advance with increasing responsibility.
  • Professional competency to continually increase engineering proficiency, proceed on a track to attain professional licensure, and contribute to the profession and community.

The university’s engineering programs are fully accredited by the ABET Engineering Accreditation Program.

Career Opportunities in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Civil engineers are found throughout the workplace in a variety of functions. Aside from private engineering firms that are responsible for contracted projects from start to finish, civil engineers work for construction companies, utility companies, telecommunications businesses, and consulting firms.  There are a large number of civil engineers who work in federal, state and local governments, working each day to serve the public in thousands of projects nationwide. Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions, from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others may work in design, construction, research, and teaching.

In their first job, most civil engineers are teamed with a senior engineer. They are guided through a variety of assignments, depending on the civil engineering specialty area. Later, job responsibility increases with continuing education and experience. During this process many engineers seek professional licensure that requires a depth of knowledge and skills essential to success in the field.

The U.S. Department of Labor expects civil engineers to experience 18% employment growth during the next decade. Spurred by general population growth and the related need to improve the Nation’s infrastructure, more civil engineers will be needed to design and construct or expand transportation, water supply, and pollution control systems and buildings and building complexes. They also will be needed to repair or replace existing roads, bridges, and other public structures.

With respect to environmental engineers, the U.S. Department of Labor expects a  25% growth during the next decade. More environmental engineers will be needed to comply with environmental regulations and to develop methods of cleaning up existing hazards. A shift in emphasis toward preventing problems rather than controlling those that already exist, as well as increasing public health concerns resulting from population growth, also are expected to spur demand for environmental engineers.

Salary Trends in Civil and Environmental Engineering

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2008-20095 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual earnings of civil engineers was $68,600 in 2006.  The average starting salary for a bachelor’s degree was $48,509. The Occupational Outlook Handbook states that over the next decade environmental engineers should experience the fastest growth of all engineering disciplines, while civil engineers should see the largest employment increase.

High School Preparation

Core academic subjects required for admission:

  • 4 units of English
  • 2 units of algebra
  • 1 unit of geometry, trigonometry, advanced math or calculus
  • 2 units of natural science, including at least 1 unit of biology, chemistry or physics
  • 1 unit of American history
  • 1 unit of European history, world history or world geography
  • 2 units of a single foreign language
  • 1 unit of visual or performing arts

Computer courses prior to the freshman year in engineering are also highly recommended.
Prospective students who want to enter the engineering program are required to meet the criteria of the “Success Prediction Index” (SPI). The formula for SPI is 10 x high school core GPA + math ACT score. The following indicates the minimum required SPI for the corresponding academic year:

  • Academic Year 2008-09 Minimum SPI of 58
  • Academic Year 2009-10 Minimum SPI of 59
  • Academic Year 2010-11 Minimum SPI of 60

Students who are unable to meet this requirement may register as “university undecided” students and complete appropriate mathematics, science and other courses before applying for admission to the COE.

How to Major in Civil and Environmental Engineering

The civil and environmental engineering degree programs are administered by the UT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). The department does not currently offer an undergraduate major in environmental engineering, but it is offered as a minor and as a major course of graduate study. Students applying for entry to the university should specify civil engineering as their chosen major when completing the admission form. Students who are transferring from other departments within UT or from other educational institutions should contact the department for more information regarding the appropriate entry level and any additional courses necessary. For more information on the admissions process, visit

Requirements for Civil and Environmental Engineering

The CEE department does not have any special requirements for admission to the civil or the environmental engineering program, other than the general admission requirements for the university and the college. College of Engineering students at the sophomore level and above are required to own computers. For more information, please visit

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

  • All UT freshman engineering students are automatically enrolled in the innovative Engage Engineering Fundamentals Program, designed to help students learn basic engineering concepts and teamwork skills through a series of hands-on projects and activities:
    The College of Engineering’s Office of Professional Practice (OPP) provides income-generating opportunities for engineering students to experience real-world engineering challenges through cooperative education (co-op) and internship programs. Both programs offer structured learning environments where students develop increasing responsibilities by holding full-time paid positions in a professional environment related to their academic and career goals:
    In addition to financial and scholarship programs available to all students, the college also provides special scholarships and support programs to minority students, including:
  • Diversity Engineering Scholarship Program (DESP)
  • Engineering Diversity Programs Office (EDP)
  • The Pipeline Engineering Diversity Program
  • Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (TLSAMP)

The College of Engineering participates in the University Honors Program, which is designed to give academically outstanding students a unique undergraduate experience consisting of special courses, seminars, mentoring and research projects:  The Department offers a honors concentration in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Highlights of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Civil and environmental engineering students have many opportunities to participate in hands-on research projects and compete with their peers across the nation in judged design competitions.  The competitions feature steel bridge design and construction, concrete canoe races, and other challenging events.  CEE students are encouraged to participate in student organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Engineers Without Borders, and the Chi Epsilon Honor Society.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

The UT Center for International Education collaborates with the COE to create opportunities for engineering students to study in other countries:  The CEE department has developed a relationship with Tongji University, China, sending students to their school for competitions as well as having their students participate in US competitions.

Learn more about UT's Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today's world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Junior Year Credit Hours
Senior Year Credit Hours

For More Information



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.