Frequently Asked Questions

QUESTION: In choosing the engineering design elective courses in my program of study, will I benefit my career most by trying to specialize in one specific area or by spreading the electives through several areas?

ANSWER: It depends upon your interests, future plans for employment, and the philosophy by which you choose to approach your program of study. Basically, there is no need for you to become highly specialized at the undergraduate level. In fact, most professionals agree that specialization can only be obtained with post-baccalaureate study. Many of you may go on to graduate school and this would provide ample opportunity to focus in one area. We believe there are advantages to making sure your background is general in your undergraduate work. Let’s look at both sides of this issue.

First, what are the merits of following a general track at the undergraduate level?

  1. You have a chance to see more of what each area is about before you choose to specialize.
  2. Many of the projects you will see in the “real” world will require you to communicate with numerous types of specialists, and having a general background will facilitate this interaction.
  3. If you go into general practice, you will encounter a variety of problems, and a broad background will be of benefit.
  4. Few people follow a single track focus throughout their careers, and change to new areas is common. A broad education will help you adopt to changing conditions.

Having made the points for a general background, let’s look at the advantages of specialization. Specialization fits well under the following circumstances:

  1. You have been able to clearly define you career goals, and you feel that having a sharp focus for your courses is appropriate.
  2. Graduate school is not in the picture for you in either the short or long term, and the only opportunity for you to specialize will be at the undergraduate level.

The choice of general or specialized electives should be made following careful consideration of all of your options, and discussions with your advisor. Keep in mind too, that no one advocates that you take a random hodge-podge of courses. Some focus is desirable, and it should be based on rational choices.

QUESTION: How do I go about getting a summer job in civil and environmental engineering and preparing a resume?

ANSWER: Announcement for summer jobs in civil engineering and closely related fields, as well as permanent jobs, are send out to your account on a regular basis. You may also go to the Civil and Environmental Engineering Office (105 Boardman Hall) directly. The Umaine career center  may also be helpful. They provide materials and free workshops on such topics as “How to Find a Summer Job,” “Resume Writing,” “Interviewing Techniques,” “Job Seeking Strategies,” and several others. The ASCE Student Chapter also holds a resume preparation meeting with a speaker from the Career Center.

QUESTION: Where can I get an up-to-date transcript of all my courses and grades?

ANSWER: Student copies of transcripts may be obtained directly from your mainestreet account ; official transcripts can only be obtained from the Office of Student Records.

QUESTION: What are the benefits to be gained by going to graduate school? How do I apply?

ANSWER: As a general rule, people with graduate degrees tend to move up faster in private industry and in government than those without them. They tend to become leaders in the firms they are associated with and generally have more challenging and interesting careers. Further, the lifetime earnings of an engineer with a masters’ degree is far greater than those with bachelors’ degrees.

Most graduate programs require the graduate record exam (GRE) in order to be admitted. Information on the GRE and applications for graduate school at the University of Maine may be obtained in 103 Boardman Hall or at the graduate school. Applications for graduate school should be submitted by the end of January.

For students completing their junior year with a GPA of 3.0 or better, the CIE Department will offer early admission to the graduate program. This will enable you to start taking graduate courses during your senior year so that you can obtain both your BS and MS at the end of five years.

Shaleen Jain is the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. If you have any questions regarding graduate school, please feel free to contact him.