Q: What is civil engineering?

A1 (strict definition)

Civil engineering refers to the technologies for creating new environments by building structures for public use. This includes work on flood control forestation and river improvement projects to prevent disasters. Since civil-engineering projects require discussions and cooperation with a variety of related parties, it can be described as a form of human-centered engineering as well.

Civil engineering technologies can help create safe and comfortable environments that make our lives more convenient and more efficient by building the infrastructure necessary to support society and industry.

For example, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011, top priority was given to restoration of water, gas, sewer, transportation, and communication lifelines. This work was a perfect example of civil engineering. It would be no exaggeration to say that civil engineering supports our livelihoods in a wide variety of ways. Japan could be struck by any of a wide range of other disasters in the future, and the job of civil engineering includes building communities that are resilient against such disasters and assisting in disaster recovery.

A2 (loose definition)

Civil engineering also is involved in the scenery that you see when walking on the street to or from work or on a date, or when resting in the mountains or at the beach. All types of scenery from cute brick-lined alleys through beautiful bridges and imposing dams to ports, railways, and airports all were created through civil engineering.
In addition, civil engineering is deeply involved in our everyday tasks such as eating a meal at home, watching television, or taking a bath. This is because another of civil engineering’s roles is that of infrastructure development, including water service, electricity and gas supply, and telecommunications systems.
The name civil engineering itself reflects the way the field is closely related to people’s livelihoods and civilian society.

The purpose of civil engineering is to plan and realize an environment that is safe and comfortable for human beings. Civil engineers should be environmental experts who understand the land and water technologies that have evolved over human history.

We believe that as long as human beings continue to live on the Earth we must develop environments that are good for the planet to ensure that the Earth’s diverse ecosystems can survive. Recent topics addressed in civil engineering include barrier-free structures, waste-related issues, growing plants on structures and walls, development of underground spaces, and ocean development.

In addition, since infrastructure projects are large in terms of both their scale and their budgets and they involve significant impacts and other effects, they need to be planned and implemented appropriately. Infrastructure development plans are based on forecasting the future along with the study and analysis of multiple factors including economic conditions and surrounding environments. The field of civil engineering comes up with proposals for such policies.

Since, as described above, infrastructure projects are massive and closely related to people’s lives, they require the ability to take an overview from broad-ranging perspectives, not just those related to research. The Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering help students to acquire this ability. A wide range of career paths are available to graduates.

No other field is so closely related to the way people live or provides so much support for people’s livelihoods. Consider joining us in the Course of Civil Engineering or the Course of Public Policy and Engineering, where you can learn rewarding skills that are essential to society.

Career Q&A

Q1: What kinds of career options are available to graduates?
A: Civil engineers are employed in a wide range of places, including government, general contractors, consultancies, power companies, and engineering firms. Many also find work with employers such as trading companies and banks.
Q2: What kinds of jobs are available for civil engineers in the public sector?
A: Many graduates of the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering have gone on to work as engineers in the public sector instead of at private firms. The main categories of work in the public sector are as public servants in national and local governments. Those working in national government are posted to government offices where they take on national civil engineering issues. Examples include planning recovery and restoration from the Great East Japan Earthquake and disaster planning to prevent such damage from occurring again. Civil engineers working in local government work on community development that reflects the concerns of local residents, which are deeply rooted in the local community.
Q3: Do the courses provide support for civil-service examinations?
A: We provide enthusiastic support for civil-service examinations. Instructors hold lectures on taking the civil-service examinations, and they prepare unpublished solutions to actual questions on the exams and can lend to students in the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering booklets showing these solutions together with past exam questions.
Q4: What does consulting involve?
A: As one example, when building a bridge consultants handle measurement and design for bridge construction and study the bridge’s impact on the nearby environment.
Q5: What does a general contractor do?
A: The general contractor is the company that actually builds a structure. Many graduates of the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering serve as site supervisors for general contractors, planning and controlling construction processes rather than actually operating heavy equipment.
Q6: Do the courses provide career support?
A: Our career support is even more enthusiastic than that of other courses. HU’s civil engineering programs have a long history, and many former graduates are active in the field. As a result, HU has earned the trust of many employers and some even set aside positions for graduates recommended by HU. Instructors also provide enthusiastic career advice. Job fairs are held on campus for the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering as well.
Q7: How do graduates choose employers?
A: While that depends on the individual, one feeling that is common to all of us who want to work in civil engineering is the desire to work for the benefit of people, of our nation, and of the world. The ability to work for society is one of the attractions of the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering.

Q&A on entering graduate school

(i) Graduate school

Q1: What is the difference between the Division of Field Engineering for the Environment and the Division of Engineering and Policy for Sustainable Environment?
A: The Division of Field Engineering for the Environment studies the environment in which people live, including rivers, oceans, the ground, soil, and materials, while the Division of Engineering and Policy for Sustainable Environment program studies the social infrastructure necessary for living, including urban planning, construction, and building materials.
Q2: Are there any connections between the Division of Field Engineering for the Environment and the Division of Engineering and Policy for Sustainable Environment?
A: Since the content of both these programs together makes up the broader field of civil engineering, we believe that there are deep ties between students and instructors in the two programs. They also hold a wide range of events that provide numerous opportunities to get to know other people, including classmates, senior students, and instructors.
Q3: What percentage of students go on to graduate school?
A: In an average year, about 70% of students go on to graduate school.

(ii) Research team activities

Q1: What kind of research activities go into the preparation of undergraduate and and master’s theses?
A: Your research should describe new knowledge in the field of civil engineering, such as unsolved phenomena or technological development using new materials. While methods vary by research team, generally each individual is assigned a research topic that he or she addresses over a lengthy period of time. As a result, when you have completed your undergraduate or master’s thesis, you might feel as if you have created a kind of treasure that belongs to you alone. Prospective students are encouraged to take on this challenge.
Q2: How do students and instructors interact?
A: Ordinarily, students interact on a one-to-one basis with their class instructors. Students and instructors also become familiar with each other through activities such as visiting pubs together or joining in athletic activities.
Q3: How do different research teams work with each other?
A: Research teams addressing similar research subjects work quite closely together, for example, by holding joint seminars, symposia, and athletic events. Interaction is also enhanced through holding an annual athletic tournament for students from across the field of civil engineering.
Q4: What are the differences between the graduation thesis or department degree, master’s thesis or master’s program, and doctoral thesis or doctoral program?
A: The periods you spend on research differ: one year for the graduation thesis, two years for the master’s thesis, and three years for the doctoral thesis. Also, since your amount of specialized knowledge and experience will increase year to year, by advancing into graduate school you should be able to pursue knowledge in your field in greater depth.
Q5: Do students interact with other universities?
A: You should be able to make many new acquaintances at academic conferences and other events in Japan and around the world. Other opportunities for interaction include chances arranged by instructors to meet with students from other universities.
Q6: Can students get involved in international activities?
A: Many research teams offer overseas internships and chances to study abroad. You may also travel overseas frequently to present papers on your own research at international conferences and other events. Since there are many international students in the courses, you can also get a taste of international studies while still in Japan.
Q7: Are the courses affordable?
A: In some ways the costs to a student may be high. But there are various loans, scholarships, and tuition exemptions available, and probably the majority of students apply for such programs. In particular, a system is in place by which students advancing to the doctoral program may apply for tuition exemptions. Other opportunities include research grants-in-aid and work as a salaried researcher. While these are highly competitive, civil engineering students often succeed in securing them.

(iii) Advancing to graduate school

Q1: What are the benefits of going on to graduate school?
A: One benefit is the ability to earn a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, each of which is a qualification highly regarded in society. While one option is to earn a master’s or doctoral degree after beginning a professional career, in many cases employers will not provide assistance for such studies so it might be easier to advance directly to graduate school right after earning your undergraduate degree. Another benefit is the valuable opportunity to take your time to learn specialized knowledge and skills under the direct instruction of instructors who are authorities in their fields. The knowledge you learn, the friendships you make during your studies, and the connections you build with senior students and instructors should prove irreplaceable.
Q2: Are there any drawbacks to going on to graduate school?
A: The largest drawback is the lack of income as a student.
Q3: What kind of things do students learn?
A: One thing they learn is specialized knowledge. From the comments of various students, it would appear that most acquire specialized knowledge and skills useful in society following their assignment to a research team. Another thing they learn is the social skills needed to work within the unit of a research team. A research team can be likened to a company’s organization with the instructor in the role of management, senior students in the role of superiors, and classmates in the role of colleagues. In this way, students can acquire various skills useful for their future careers. Lastly, through research students have the opportunity to get a glimpse of society from an in-depth perspective. Through their studies, they learn how the products of civil engineering, which they may have taken for granted previously as basic parts of society, are actually the result of repeated studies.

Q&A on events and students’ everyday life

Q1: Can students take part in extracurricular activities and events in addition to their studies?
A: Many current students belong to athletic teams that have rigorous practice schedules. It is not only possible but common for students to balance extracurricular activities and studies.
Q2: What kinds of classes are offered?
A: While there are a variety of classes available, the four main categories are those concerning structures, earth, water, and planning. Students progressively learn about subjects such as structural performance and design, soil and ground strength, the properties of water movement, urban planning, and national planning. See the syllabus for details.
Q3: What kinds of experiments do students conduct?
A: Students’ experiments include testing structural and soil strength, water channel experiments, and bridge modeling. Students have many opportunities to join activities such as making concrete themselves and conducting water flow experiments in large tanks. Groups of students compete to build the strongest bridge models in an annual competition.
Q4: While my friends have chosen the Course of Civil Engineering, I have chosen the Course of Public Policy and Engineering. I am worried about fitting into my classes after we split into our individual courses.
A: Since both the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering offer classes that involve group learning (such as courses in civil engineering construction experiments and civil engineering planning practice), you will be able to make friends naturally in class. Also, the courses’ active participation in the School of Engineering’s athletic meet and tug of war definitely help strengthen comraderie. Every year students get along well with each other.
Q5: Please tell me about events specific to the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering.
A: Major events include field trips and preparatory courses for the civil-service examinations, which begin in the second semester of the third year of the courses. Students enjoy events such as receptions held after the School of Engineering’s athletic meet and tug of war as well as after practical training and surveying activities.
Q6: I did not take physics as an elective in high school and I am not that good at physics even now. Will I still be able to succeed in the courses?
A: Prior to the start of the general entrance exams for science, the Department of Socio-Environmental Engineering, to which the Course of Civil Engineering and the Course of Public Policy and Engineering belong, recruited students from chemical/biological and chemical/earth-science backgrounds. While many courses do deal with dynamics, the course content is designed to be approachable even to students who lack strong backgrounds in physics, so you should have nothing to worry about.