sealPurdue News

April 2000

Civil engineers pave way to the future

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Next time you cruise around town in your '57 Chevy, take a moment to thank a civil engineer for the roads you travel.

But highways aren't the only contribution civil engineers have made to life in the 21st century: They are also credited with synchronizing traffic lights, designing homes, building bridges, erecting industrial facilities and constructing recycling plants.

"Most people think of civil engineering as people who build highways and waste treatment plants, but it's much more than that," says James E. Alleman, professor of civil engineering at Purdue University. "If you think about it, you could say that civil engineers helped invent the building blocks of American enterprise."

Vincent P. Drnevich, head of Purdue's civil engineering program, says the university has more than 11,000 civil engineer graduates working around the world.

"Purdue has made a great impact on civil engineering in the United States, and on an international level as well," he says. "Right now we have about 1,000 alumni living and working abroad."

Drnevich says Purdue's reputation in the field is extensive.

"We are in everybody's top 10 list for rating engineering schools in the nation, and our students leave Purdue with a strong sense of the Midwestern work ethic, they're willing to relocate, and they have the education to do the job."

Job placement for graduates of Purdue's civil engineering program runs around 90 percent. "We don't have exact figures, but it isn't unusual for a senior to receive three or four job offers," Alleman says.

Purdue civil engineering graduates with a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $36,243 to $50,560 a year, depending on their field of study. Those fields include construction, environmental and hydraulic, geomatics, geotechnical, materials, structures, and transportation and infrastructure systems.

Nationally, graduates who complete a master's degree program will earn an average salary of $55,000, and those with a doctorate in civil engineering earn an average salary of $60,000, according to the National Science Board.

Purdue doctoral candidate Priscilla Johnson of New York says it wasn't the salary that drew her to civil engineering.

"Civil engineering is by far the most rewarding profession, especially when you consider the important role you have in helping the general public," Johnson says. "You have the power to make lives run better and influence public policy."

CONTACTS: Drnevich, (765) 494-2159,; Alleman, (765) 494-7705,; Johnson, (765) 463-6337,

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-9723;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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