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There are many types of engineers—electrical, computer, mechanical, and agricultural, to name a few—and each field is as different from the rest as it can be. One type of engineering many people may not be familiar with is geotechnical engineering, an off-shoot of civil engineering.

You can start to understand what a geotechnical engineer does by looking at the name. These engineers identify the geographical features that are beneath the ground and determine how this will impact construction products, relying on their knowledge of science and math to do so. A geotechnical engineer can provide their expertise for commercial, infrastructure, and residential projects, including wells, dams, railroads, tunnels, roads, bridges, and power plants.

All construction begins with a site investigation to determine whether the locations can be used and, if so, how. Geotechnical engineers will look for things such as underground water flow, seismic activity, seepage, soil strength, slope stability, and sediment erosion.

The overall umbrella of geotechnical engineering can further split into specific fields

  • General geological engineers
  • Geotechnical engineers who work on oil sands projects
  • Hydrogeological engineers who focus on discarded oil sands materials and restoring the environment
  • Reservoir geomechanics engineers who work with oil and gas companies before drilling, and
  • Geomechanics engineers whose focus is marine operations. 

Outside of construction, energy, and mining companies, geotechnical engineers may find employment at universities, utility companies, consulting firms, real estate development companies, governments, and research organizations.

While most people think of construction projects as dry-land projects, that’s not always the case. A geotechnical engineer can be useful for marine or mining operating. Even organizations building floating ice platforms will employ a geotechnical engineer to ensure that these constructions and the resulting structures are safe and can withstand the weather.

Those people who are most suited to be geotechnical engineers like to draw sketches, investigate the details of a project, work on-site rather than in an office, and feel a sense of accomplishment knowing they helped build something. A curious and logical mind will be useful for a geotechnical engineer.