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What does a Geotechnical Engineer do?

Learn all about Geotechnical Engineer duties, skills and much more. Get expert advice on how to become a Geotechnical Engineer.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 4 min read

A geotechnical engineer is a professional who specializes in the study of the physical and mechanical properties of earth materials. They are responsible for investigating, evaluating and recommending solutions to problems that involve the use of earth materials.

Geotechnical Engineer job duties include:

  • Design and oversee construction of foundations, retaining walls, and other structures
  • Evaluate soil, rock, and groundwater conditions to determine the best foundation for a proposed structure
  • Perform or oversee drilling and sampling of soil and rock
  • Analyze data from tests to determine the strength and stability of soils and rocks
  • Prepare reports detailing findings and recommendations
  • Plan and oversee slope stabilization, landslide mitigation, and other remediation projects
  • Manage geotechnical aspects of construction projects
  • Conduct or direct research into the behavior of soils and rocks under various conditions
  • Teach classes in geotechnical engineering principles

Geotechnical Engineer Job Requirements

Geotechnical engineers typically have a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, with a focus on geotechnical engineering. They may also have a master's degree or doctorate in geotechnical engineering. In addition, they must be licensed as professional engineers in the United States. Geotechnical engineers typically have 5-10 years of experience working in the field before becoming licensed professional engineers.

Geotechnical Engineer Skills

  • Soil mechanics
  • Rock mechanics
  • Foundation engineering
  • Groundwater
  • Geophysics
  • Soil stabilization
  • Slope stability
  • Tunneling
  • Excavation
  • Grouting
  • Erosion control

Related: Top Geotechnical Engineer Skills: Definition and Examples

How to become a Geotechnical Engineer

A geotechnical engineer is a professional who applies the principles of soil mechanics, rock mechanics and engineering geology to the design, construction and operation of foundations, embankments, tunnels, levees, dams, roads, pipelines and other infrastructure projects. In order to become a geotechnical engineer, one must first obtain a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or a related field. After completing an undergraduate program, many students choose to pursue a master's degree in geotechnical engineering. Although not required, obtaining a professional engineer (PE) license is recommended for those who wish to practice geotechnical engineering at the highest level.

To become a licensed professional engineer, one must pass two exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The first exam, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, can be taken after earning a bachelor's degree. The second exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, is typically taken after several years of professional experience. Once both exams have been passed, an individual can apply for state licensure through their respective Board of Professional Engineers.

Geotechnical engineers play an important role in society by ensuring that the built environment is safe and stable. They are responsible for investigating the subsurface conditions of proposed construction sites and providing recommendations for foundation design and earthwork operations. In addition, geotechnical engineers often serve as consultants during construction projects, providing advice on issues such as slope stability and soil compaction. With the ever-increasing demand for infrastructure development around the world, there is a need for qualified geotechnical engineers to help meet this demand.

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