Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that deals with the study of earth's matter and its effects on the construction and safety of the foundations of dams, buildings and other monuments. The field revolves around rock and soil mechanics and their application in understanding earth's matter and other conditions at the desired construction site. The field has great importance in the field of civil engineering, but is also extremely important for military, petroleum, mining or other fields of engineering involved in construction on or inside the earth's surface.
Other fields where geotechnical engineering is applicable are coastal engineering and ocean engineering wherein the construction of marinas, jetties, docks, foundations for oil platforms and other off-shore structures takes place.
Key Responsibilities of a Geotechnical Engineer
A geotechnical engineer is closely related with many decisions involved in a construction project. The work begins with the assessment of the material to be used for the project, eventually getting involved in phases such as site-investigation, design, risk assessment and on-site development as well. The work also involves research in the field of improvement of the soil matter to be used in the construction. For better understanding of their work, a detailed account of geotechnical engineer responsibilities is covered below:
Project Review: A geotechnical engineer is required to review the project so as to define the exact materials needed, their strength and capabilities. Inconsistency in the base matter used such as soil could make the project weak.
Site Investigation: By using specialized drilling machines, a small cylindrical hole is made at certain depths and the rock structures or the soil at that depth are studied so as to understand their strength. This helps in understanding the engineering properties of soil, rock, bedrock and an assessment of fault distribution throughout the site so as to understand their overall interaction with the project. Investigations also include the study of effect or risks the construction project will pose to humans and nearby properties. Also, the effect that some natural calamities like earthquake, landslides, rockfalls, etc., could cause, if they pertain in or nearby the property, is studied. Design: The geotechnical engineer is involved in determining and finalizing the design of pavements and foundations to be built for the project. The design of the foundation depends on various factors like the type of subsurface rock, the type of soil, the type and scale of project and many more, and so a detailed study of all related factors is required.
Research and Apply Ground Improvement Strategies: Ground improvement strategies involve improvement of the engineering properties of the soil under concern. Attempts are made to add to its strength and permeability so that the the site becomes ideal for the construction purpose.
Form of Work
A geotechnical engineer is required to travel on a frequent basis at various construction sites, domestic or international, to study the soil and other factors involved in the construction, to investigate and research. Designers need to have a thorough understanding and working experience of the various software tools available for this purpose.
A close collaboration with all the other staff, structural engineers and architects is required. The work may also involve keeping a track of the researched data by documenting it as well as creating various presentations and reports.
Educational Qualifications and Other Skills Required
Most preferably, a geotechnical engineer will need an MTech or MS in geotechnology from a reputed institute, having which the individual would be liable to get a license for undertaking such construction work professionally.
The candidate needs to have in-depth knowledge of design softwares for geotechnology and basic computer skills too. The candidate should also have good assessment, technical writing and analytical skills along with good written and verbal communication skills.
Skills that may Help
A geotechnical engineer is closely involved in a lot of drilling and mining activities and so a person who can handle huge noise, continuous traveling, spending long hours on the field under constant sun, and between dust, soil and rocks can do well with this job.
Geotechnical engineers get lots of opportunities to work in the applied fields of geology. They may work with environmental scientists, applying their knowledge of engineering to draw results from research data collected. They might work in the civil engineering field assisting civil engineers and architects in designing foolproof monuments or in the mining industry and design various kinds of mines like open-cut and underground mines.
Many geotechnical engineers also work in high-schools and universities, teaching various introductory and specialized courses in the related field, various applied courses and basic sciences. Experienced resources in the field of geotechnology have huge demand in the field of teaching and so the salaries are also huge.
An average geotechnical engineer earns anything between $60,000 to $140,000 depending upon the positions held and the field of their specialization. The basic salary for an entry level engineer ranges anything between 40 to 70 thousand dollars on a yearly basis; specializations and good educational qualification added to a talented mind make the amount even more.
If you take interest in some practical on-site work, you would love to research in geologically diverse situations and find the geotechnical engineer responsibilities interesting. You can approach this field as a prospective career choice, one that has job stability and earns very well.