Geotechnical engineers are master geologists and engineers combined in one profession. They understand the behavior and properties of soil, rock, and other materials that make up the earth. Geotechnical engineers typically work in the construction and infrastructure industries, and their primary responsibilities are to ensure the stability and safety of buildings, roads, bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure projects through geotech engineering.
Geotechnical engineers often conduct site investigations and collect soil and rock samples to analyze the characteristics of the materials at the site. Based on the site investigation data, geotechnical engineers design foundations, retaining structures, and other components of the infrastructure project to ensure that they are safe and durable. They must assess the potential risks associated with the construction site, such as soil instability, landslides, and earthquakes, and design measures to mitigate these risks. Soil engineering plays a big role in a geotechnical engineer’s job.
In addition, geotechnical engineers will be involved in supervising the construction of an infrastructure project to guarantee that the design specifications are being followed. Geotechnical engineers also actively take into consideration the impact of building on the environment, designing measures to minimize any negative impact. An eye for detail, a passion for geology, and a strong team working attitude are all a part of the job as a geotech engineer.
Geotech engineers can find opportunities in a number of sectors where geotechnical services are needed. Sectors include construction, energy, transportation, and the environment.
Common geotech engineering responsibilities
- Performing initial field and environmental investigations before building planning;
- Using geological maps and photographs to aid in site selection;
- Making a strategic plan for the geotechnical engineering site and executing the geotechnical research as planned;
- Collecting samples like rocks, sand, and such items from the site;
- Analyzing soil and other geotechnical findings;
- Carrying out tests on the samples and noting the pollution values;
- Designing the geotech projects based on the research;
- Creating 3D models and technical specifications using latest modeling software;
- Developing design proposals and estimating costs for safe construction together with expert colleagues;
- Assessing and advising on geological dangers during planning and execution of the engineering project;
- Examining diverse building materials and potential stresses which includes ability and strain levels;
- Establishing cost and time limits on ground studies;
- Coordinating work with geologists, soil engineers, other geotech engineers, and advisors;
- Protecting the environment while undertaking engineering work;
- Traveling to geotechnical engineering sites.
Qualifications for geotech engineers
Geotech engineers should have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Geotechnical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Civil Engineering, Geophysics, or a related technical field. An advanced degree is advantageous. In some countries, an engineering license may also be required.
Additional supporting skills and experience include:
- Previous experience in a role in geotechnical services;
- Expertise in geology, climatology, chemistry, and mathematics with extraction and transportation engineering knowledge and skills;
- Expertise in using geotechnical computer software, AutoCAD, ArcView-GIS, SEEP/W, SLOPE/W, and finite element analysis software such as PLAXIS are strongly preferred;
- Strong analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills;
- Ability to work well in a team and manage multiple projects and team members simultaneously.