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Learn About Transportation Engineering

The transportation industry is always changing as new technologies emerge to help us move people and things where they need to go and do so in a more environmentally sustainable way. Just as horses gave way to trains, cars, and planes, today’s vehicles and the infrastructure to support them will give way to newer and better solutions. At the forefront of all of this are transportation engineers, who combine deep knowledge of how transportation systems and technologies work with problem-solving skills and creativity to improve how people and products move.

What Is Transportation Engineering?

Transportation engineering is the branch of engineering that has to do with designing, running, and maintaining transportation systems that move goods and people efficiently while minimizing negative economic, environmental, and quality of life effects caused by these systems. Transportation engineers work on things like roads, public transit systems, railroads, air traffic management systems, and oil pipelines.

What Do Transportation Engineers Do?

Transportation engineers can be involved in a variety of industries, but at the core, their job is to design and analyze transportation projects. For each project, these professionals will collect data about traffic patterns that prompted the plan, relevant laws, the cost of the project, and the potential negative impacts of the project. They then use this information to develop a plan that maximizes the benefits of the project while minimizing potential harm. Specific tasks that fall under a transportation engineer’s job description include identifying problems with traffic flow and coming up with solutions, drafting the plans for new transportation projects, explaining these plans to contractors and the public, and ensuring that everything complies with safety standards.

What Do You Need to Know to Become a Transportation Engineer?

Transportation engineers need a combination of technical skills and people skills. If you want to be a transportation engineer, you’ll need to have a solid understanding of engineering, including knowledge of design principles and the ability to use software to analyze and design projects. Transportation engineers also have to keep up with the latest technological advances in areas such as sustainable transportation and autonomous vehicle development. You’ll also need to be able to effectively manage projects, solve problems, and communicate well with others.

Do You Need Any Specialized Education or Credentials?

Typically, transportation engineers will have a college degree in civil engineering, which provides a good foundation of knowledge for entering this field. Most are also licensed professional engineers. To earn a PE license, you need to have at least a four-year college degree, pass two different engineering exams, and work for four years under the supervision of another licensed PE. You may also need to satisfy requirements set by the state you live in. Licensed professional engineers earn an average of $5,000 more per year than those who don’t have a license, so it can be well worth the effort to earn this credential.

What Kinds of Jobs Can You Get?

Transportation engineers are employed across the public and private sectors, so you might find yourself working as a transportation engineer for a government agency, an engineering firm, a construction business, or a transportation company. You could also specialize in one particular area by becoming a traffic engineer, a highway engineer, a freight transport engineer, or a safety engineer. Most of these jobs take place primarily in an office, but some may require you to visit sites in person to assess problems or oversee construction.


This page was last updated by Marc Gregory