Angelo State, in keeping with its successful practice of tailoring academic programs based on the needs of various industries across Texas and the U.S., unveiled its new Civil Engineering Department this fall and is now well-positioned to educate future civil engineers with strong career prospects.
“The country has a huge deficit in maintaining our infrastructure,” said Dr. William Kitch, department chair. “That includes bridges, roads, and water and power distribution. There are all kinds of work available in power distribution with all the windmills that are going up. Whether it’s a power project, a highway project or a water distribution project, nothing gets built without civil engineers.”
“That is the big drive for employment in civil engineering, all that infrastructure work that needs to get done,” he added. “On the commercial side, there is also development work. Now that we are coming out of the recession, there is more land development work and construction going on. If it touches the earth, a civil engineer is building it.”
Civil engineering is one of the broadest and fastest-growing segments of the engineering industry, with a projected 20 percent job growth through 2022, compared to 5 percent growth for mechanical engineering and just 4 percent for electrical and chemical engineering. ASU’s Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering program will initially concentrate on the particular sub-disciplines of structural, transportation, water resource, geotechnical and construction engineering.
“That will prepare our graduates for public sector employment opportunities with municipalities and regulatory agencies,” Kitch said. “The private sector jobs will be in the construction and design industries, both building and designing buildings and other structures.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those are the exact areas with the highest civil engineering employment rates: local, state and federal government agencies, engineering services firms and non-residential building. Also, Texas ranks second only to California in the number of civil engineers employed and second only to Alaska in highest median salaries. That translates to a strong future for ASU’s civil engineering program that will not be dependent on just the oil and gas industry.
“In our region, access to water resources and improving roadways are issues that will continue to drive employment even after the oil boom is over,” Kitch said. “Our graduates will be employable throughout our region and all over Texas.”
“Obviously, in urban areas where there is more business and more construction there will be more jobs,” he added, “but there are agencies in our area, like the Texas Department of Transportation, and we have one of the largest steel fabrication companies here in San Angelo. Anywhere people are moving the earth to build something, there will be civil engineering jobs. If there is a human presence someplace, civil engineers have to be there to provide and maintain the infrastructure for people to live.”
Texas ranks second only to California in the number of civil engineers employed and second only to Alaska in highest median salaries.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Recognizing the significance of adding the civil engineering program, the ASU campus and the community have thrown their support behind it. Already, ASU has received a $2.87 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help fund new engineering faculty and infrastructure, as well as a $4.5 million anonymous gift to fund construction of the Hunter Strain Civil Engineering Laboratories. Further anonymous gifts include $100,000 to purchase laboratory equipment and $20,000 to fund the program’s first endowed scholarship.
It was that type of support that helped convince Kitch to choose ASU, and there was also a more personal reason.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a civil engineering program from scratch,” Kitch said. “We will have one of the best undergraduate civil engineering programs in Texas because our focus is on teaching our students. At many other schools, the focus is more on research. Since we focus on how to best educate our students, we can do that better than they can.”
“Employers are asking for graduates who communicate well, have good design skills, understand ethics and can work together in teams,” he added. “Those are threads that will be woven throughout our curriculum. Students learn those skills through practice as they grow through our program. Instead of just having a basketful of courses, we have a real curriculum. I’m really fired up about that.”
“Besides, why live in someone else’s house when you can build your own?”