Geotechnical engineer

What they do

Geotechnical engineers analyse and advise on the most effective way to guard and maintain physical structures, such as soil and rock formations and groundwater deposits, whilst also planning and developing building and construction projects. They take soil and rock samples, analyse these, and provide advice to civil and structural engineers, architects, construction personnel and landscapers on the most appropriate tools, methods and materials with which to undertake construction in that area. Geotechnical engineers have the opportunity to work across the State, on large-scale construction projects in our quickly expanding residential areas, to mining operations throughout the North West.

Working conditions

Geotechnical engineers work out in the field and in laboratories. During fieldwork they may work at surveying sites and on building sites, or sites that have not yet been developed or cleared but have been earmarked for construction. They may be expected to work in most weather conditions. They may be required to travel either locally, across the State, interstate or overseas to visit sites, or to attend conferences. They may also work in laboratories in universities or other engineering and geology organisations, as well as spend time in an office environment.

Tools and technologies

Geotechnical engineers use rock sampling drills and sediment corers to extract core samples (small cylindrical tubes of soil). They also use explosives, surveying equipment, and GPS systems. They analyse rock and soil samples using magnetometers, microscopes and various computer programmes, as well as specialised analytical equipment. They are usually also required to use computers for research, word processing and data management purposes. Out in the field, they are often required to wear safety equipment including helmets, goggles, steel-capped boots and harnesses.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a geotechnical engineer you usually need to complete a degree in engineering, majoring in geotechnical engineering or a related field such as civil engineering. You may need to complete postgraduate study to specialise in geotechnical engineering.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.