By; Amber Ashli
I am a 2016 alumni of Central Connecticut State University with my Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering, and Minor in Mathematics. Unfortunately, while in school I didn’t have the pleasure of befriending even ONE other black woman within my field. I have yet to meet another black female civil engineer or black female engineer in general for that matter. I was the only black female in my class among there being two females in total. There were no black female professors within the engineering school and I have yet to find a local black female civil engineer or mentor. Le struggle.
So you may ask what is civil engineering? What do engineers really do? How much money do they make? Is it really that hard? Civil engineering as I like to explain in simple terms is “the eyes behind the hands of construction” Or according to Wikipedia, a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings.
Under this profession, you can attain job positions such as a project engineer, someone who schedules preparation, pre-planning and resource forecasting for engineering and other technical activities relating to a particular project. A cost estimator, someone who collects and analyzes data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service.
Pursing a civil engineering degree would require passing the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam to become an Engineer in Training (EIT) and then completing a four-year understudy with a Professional Engineer. After that, you are then able to take the Professional Engineering Exam to attain your Professional Engineer license. At this point, you become a person who is qualified by reason of her/his knowledge of mathematics, the physical sciences and the principles of engineering, acquired by professional education and practical experience, to engage in engineering practice, including rendering or offering to render to any client. Basically, you have the cognizance of your discipline to sign and seal drawings for structures to legally get built and open your own engineering firm.
Starting salary for a project engineer in the US is approximately $66K , a cost estimator is $59K and professional engineer is $94K.
Sounds like a lot and it is challenging but the reward is having the fundamentals to build WHATEVER you want. For example, you plan to buy a house but instead you now have the knowledge and tools to build it yourself….from the ground up! You can utilize one of the many softwares available such as AutoCAD, which is a commercial software for 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting to build everything necessary.
About three years ago, the Center for American Progress released an article by Maria Guerra, a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles and an intern with the Progress 2050 team at the Center for American Progress, where the statistic showed “Only 2 percent of African American women are represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM fields, while women in total make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce.”
This makes me sad…
Although engineering is not one of the “prolific” college majors to choose from, if you’re in college, indecisive and plan to get your loan worth out of your college years, try petroleum engineering. I mean it’s the highest paying bachelor degree of 2016 averaging $110K annually. – Glassdoor.com Maybe you’ll be the one to find a way to keep gas prices low forever!
Aside from civil engineering, there are other engineering disciplines lacking our melanin. There is aerospace engineering, which is the study of flight vehicles and systems, computer engineering that is the study of integrating hardware and software components of computer systems, and mechanical engineering, which is the study of mechanical and energy conversion systems including machines, devices and structures. There are many more but with just these three alone, we could build our own world ladies…seriously!
The very things we lack in our community, we need to become the developers, the mentors to our peers and the youth to collectively find solutions. The library is free and books are ubiquitous. Just take some time for yourself and read about engineering greats and renowned structures built. You never know what you can build from reading, just ask William Kamkwamba, who built a windmill to power a few electrical appliances in his family’s house in Wimbe using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrap yard.
For humanity and the livelihood of the environment, it is the responsibility of an engineer to just create to make the world a better place. When I say create, this includes being the thinkers, the innovators, the inventors, the developers, the designers and planners. Life comes with the good and the bad but I believe having an engineer handy can sure rationalize things.
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