Stability, structure and integrity! These words describe the
essence of geotechnical engineering and the professionals who work
in it. Geotechnical Engineers determine the impact that geological
formations may have on construction projects, ranging from drilling
a well hole to preparing a structural foundation.
As a Geotechnical Engineer, you will use your advanced knowledge
of scientific and mathematical processes to analyse and examine the
formation of the earth beneath and around residential, commercial
or industrial structures. You will apply these skills to drill
wells, construct production and storage facilities, transport
petroleum products and examine ground water flow. This work has
amazing possibilities, from marine operations off the east coast,
to floating ice platforms in the Arctic, or the busy mining
operations in the Alberta oil sands.
All this and more awaits you if you select a career in
What do Geotechnical Engineers do?
Geotechnical Engineers perform generalist and
specialist functions within the framework of the following typical
- Geotechnical or Geological
Engineers (General): Provide analysis and mapping of
technical results obtained from seismic surveys. They also
investigate subsurface conditions and materials to determine their
properties and risks.
- Geotechnical or Geological
Engineer (Oil Sands Projects): Design open pit walls, mine
waste dumps and dam structures used in oil sands mining. They
analyse slope stability, seepage and hydraulic separation on dam
Engineer: Provide design and analysis of ponds containing
discarded oil sands materials, water extraction from soil and sand,
and steam injection into wells. They evaluate underground water
layers trapped in rocks (aquifers). They also provide advice on
- Reservoir Geomechanics
Engineer (Oil and Gas Operations): Analyse the strength of
soils, drill hole stability, stress constraint, permeability of
rock formations, and the degree of trapped hydrocarbons in
- Geomechanics Engineers
(Marine Operations): Analyse the relationship between
physical structures and marine geology, anchoring systems, sediment
erosion, slope stability, and foundations for offshore and coastal
How do I become a Geotechnical Engineer?
You will need a four year Bachelor of Science degree from an
accredited college or university. You can choose from a variety of
engineering disciplines which include civil/structural, computer
process control, geological, mine, and ocean and naval
You will also need a license to practice as an engineer.
Provincial engineering associations are responsible for
administering and issuing licenses. For more specific information
about engineering qualifications and professional certifications,
check out the following website: www.engineerscanada.ca.
For additional information on working as a Geotechnical
Engineer, visit www.apegga.org.
What are the working conditions like?
Geotechnical Engineers spend most of their time working in
comfortable office settings. They occasionally visit operation
sites such as production platforms off the East Coast, floating ice
platforms in the Arctic, oil sands projects in northern Alberta, or
drilling sites on the prairies. When visiting these sites, you
could be exposed to potentially hazardous conditions and inclement
weather. Safety protocols are strictly adhered to. Extended visits
do occur and on occasion relocationmay be required.
Do I fit the bill?
Do you think you have what it takes to become a
- I am interested in geology, applied
mathematics, and the basic laws of physics and
- I am creative, imaginative and
consider myself an idea person.
- I am good at clearly explaining
technical things to others.
- I pay special attention to detail and
accuracy and am not easily distracted.
- I am a good problem solver and think
quickly on my feet.
- I am a great
- I have an aptitude for using
specialized computer software.
- I am interested in pursuing a
university education that may require at least four or more years
- I am quite versatile and can work on
my own or with a team.
- I have well developed communication
and computer literacy skills.
- I am able to travel to and from work
- I think a career as a Geotechnical
Engineer is exciting and I'm up for the challenge and
Quick tips and next steps!
- Visit career fairs and talk to
employers who offer jobs and careers in this occupation. Check
withemployment centres, educational institutions, newspapers,
petroleum-related magazines andthe internet for information on
- Choose a university that offers co-op
engineering programs. These programs combine academicclasses with
practical experience terms involving participating
- Obtain employment with a construction
company during your summer breaks from university.
- Review Engineering Your Future -
a Career Planning Guide in Engineering at the Association
ofProfessional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta website at:
- Check out the P-Eng website at www.peng.ca for helpful information,
including a section forstudents and Frequently Asked
- Review the Generation-E 'Career
Launch Handout located at www.generation-e.ca.
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