If you are in high school, a great way to learn about what transportation and civil engineers do, as well as other types of engineers, is by attending an engineering summer camp. Different types of programs are offered throughout the United States and Canada. Find camp directories and further information at http://www.engineeringedu.com/store/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=8. Keep up with transportation industry issues and developments by reading publications such as ITE Journal. Find current and past issues at http://www.ite.org/itejournal/default.asp. Learn more about different types of transportation projects and find other resources by visiting the Transportation Research Board's Web site at http://www.trb.org/Projects/UpcomingCRPProjects.aspx. A part-time or summer job with a transportation engineering firm will give you a good idea of what's involved in this profession. You may also have the chance to conduct an interview with a transportation engineer to learn more about the types of projects they work on and how they got started in their career. Ask your school's career services office for help with the job search and setting up an informational interview.
Transportation engineers design and prepare plans for surface transportation projects. They create new designs and improve on existing designs for transportation structures and facilities. The types of projects they work on may be for new or existing streets, highways, or freeways, to help keep traffic moving and reduce accidents. They may develop plans for transportation systems or parts of systems, such as commuter trains, airports, bridges, drainage structures, or even the lighting for roadways. They also design the systems for drainage, erosion, or sedimentation control.
Transportation engineers work closely with contractors, utility companies, and government agencies, staying in contact on a regular basis to make sure everyone clearly understands the project plans, specifications, work schedules, and other essential aspects. The engineers review the construction plans and design calculations, and estimate the costs for labor and materials. They prepare the budgets and schedules for transportation engineering projects and ensure that the work estimations and costs are accurate and conform to engineering standards and practices.
In addition to strong engineering knowledge, transportation engineers must be well versed in various computer software programs. The most common software programs that they use in their work include analytical or scientific software such as Citilabs Cube; McTrans HCS+; and Trafficware SynchroGreen; computer-aided design software such as Autodesk AutoCAD, Bentley MicroStation, and Trafficware SimTraffic; and project management software such as Microsoft Project and Oracle Primavera Enterprise Project Portfolio Management. They also use Microsoft Office and Excel for documents and spreadsheets.