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Geotechnical Engineer

In constructing our civilizations, we build on, with, from, or around soil, rock, other geo-materials, and groundwater. Geotechnical engineers assess and engineer the conditions needed for construction.

Also Known As

Engineer, Professional Engineer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Geological Engineers (2144) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Geological Engineers (C044) 
  • 2011 NOC: Geological engineers (2144) 
  • 2016 NOC: Geological engineers (2144) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Geological Engineers

2006 NOC: 2144

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to conduct studies of ground-water flow and contamination; to develop guidelines for site selection, treatment and construction; to analyze and prepare recommendations for construction and improvement projects such as rock excavation, pressure grouting and hydraulic-channel erosion control; and to analyze and prepare reports on settlement of buildings, stability of slopes and fills, and probable effects of landslides, and earthquakes to support construction and civil engineering projects

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working to design, develop and implement computer applications for geophysics, geochemistry, geology, mapping and related fields, and to plan, develop, co-ordinate and conduct studies in mining exploration, evaluation and feasibility

DIRECTIVE

Interest in supervising technologists, technicians, and other engineers and scientists; and in providing recommendations on the suitability of locations for civil engineers, mining and oil and gas projects

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests

Duties
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Geotechnical engineers use their knowledge of soil and rock properties to evaluate risk and solve problems on infrastructure projects. These can include:

  • Civil infrastructure projects such as bridges, dams, reservoirs, power plants, roads, sewers, railways, airports, and housing projects
  • Underground mines, open pit mines, and quarries
  • Petroleum exploration, production, reservoir analysis, and the geomechanics of subsurface reservoir operations for conventional petroleum or oil sands projects
  • New pipeline construction or existing pipeline maintenance
  • Transmission lines
  • Terrain analysis and remediation
  • Major structures in rock such as tunnels, caverns, military bunkers, basements, and shafts
  • Other projects involving soil, rock, and groundwater interactions such as forestry operations, waste management, and landslide prevention

Geotechnical engineers work with geologists, scientists, and other engineers. They often specialize or take part in working groups in specific areas. They may be generalists within that area or specialize further. These areas can include:

  • Cold region or permafrost engineering
  • Dam engineering and safety
  • Foundation engineering and testing
  • Geohazards and geomorphology
  • Geophysical exploration
  • Groundwater hydrology
  • Land remediation
  • Materials engineering and testing
  • Mining and tailings management
  • Numerical modelling
  • Offshore exploration and engineering
  • Rock engineering
  • Seismic engineering
  • Slope monitoring, analysis, and stabilization
  • Soil-pipe stress interactions
  • Tunnelling and trenchless technology

In general, geotechnical engineers:

  • Provide practical geotechnical recommendations
  • Check for cost implications of their recommendations
  • Maintain client relationships and a thorough understanding of the end goal of a project
  • Keep onsite safety standards in mind

Duties most often fall into 3 stages.

During literature review or desktop study, geotechnical engineers assess whether planned projects are feasible from an engineering point of view. They:

  • Study geological maps, geotechnical reports, and aerial photos to understand potential subsurface conditions and risks
  • Study the combined physical, geo-mechanical, and geo-environmental interactions of geological formations and construction projects
  • Plan and coordinate the gathering, analysis, and mapping of different types of data (geotechnical, geological, geophysical, or geohydrological)
  • Complete a preliminary review of proposed foundation plans based on potential ground conditions
  • Assess possible geohazards
  • Create a plan to prevent risks to the foundation, such as landslides, harsh climate conditions, and natural disasters
  • Search for environmentally sensitive features such as waterbodies, landfills, or wildlife habitat
  • Develop a site investigation program

During site investigation or monitoring, they carry out “ground truthing” exercises to assess potential risks to humans and the environment. They:

  • Oversee major engineering works that involve excavation, embankments, cut-off walls, ponds, pipelines, or water-intake structures
  • Inspect the site to confirm the desktop study
  • Supervise the drilling crew as it collects soil samples or rock cores for laboratory testing
  • Supervise investigations
  • Solve complications such as unexpected subsurface conditions
  • Prospect for minerals, building material resources, and drinking water
  • Monitor conditions such as groundwater levels during and after construction

During lab testing and reporting, they:

  • Complete lab testing of soil and rock samples
  • Complete geotechnical calculations, numerical modelling, and drawings
  • Prepare recommendations related to the proposed use of the site
  • Use computers to store and analyze data and create computer-aided designs
Working Conditions
Updated Apr 11, 2022
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Geotechnical engineers may spend a large part of their working hours outdoors. This is most likely early in their careers.

They may work on projects in remote locations, which requires a lot of travel. Otherwise, they may have to travel less than half of their time.

They may have to carry heavy bags of soil. This is most likely early in their careers.

Traits & Skills
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Geotechnical engineers need:

  • High ethical standards
  • Independence
  • Organizational skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Multitasking skills
  • Leadership skills
  • The ability to manage people
  • Technical and non-technical communication skills
  • An aptitude for math and science
  • The ability to take a practical and creative approach to their work
  • The ability to see objects in 3D from 2D drawings
  • The ability to work on their own or as part of a team

They should enjoy:

  • Analyzing and synthesizing information
  • Performing precision tasks
  • Working outdoors
  • Cooperating with others
Educational Requirements
Updated Apr 11, 2022
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

The basic educational requirement for geotechnical engineers is a 4-year bachelor’s degree. The degree must include courses in a related engineering discipline. This could be civil or geological engineering.

A graduate degree in this field is an asset. Along with several years of practice, it provides confidence in decision making.

Geotechnical engineers need to know how to use geotechnical software such as GeoStudio™, LPile, gINT®, and Settle 3D.



Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Apr 11, 2022
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

Certification is not required. However, it may be an asset when seeking employment.

Certain professional titles or duties within this occupation are protected by provincial legislation. Requirements vary if you use these titles or perform these duties.

The related legislation is shown below. If there are multiple related legislations, select a certification heading to learn about each one.

Engineer

Professional engineers design, construct, evaluate, advise, monitor, and report on the performance of materials, equipment, systems, works, processes, and structures.

Legislation

Under Alberta’s Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act [pdf] and Engineering and Geoscience Professions General Regulation [pdf], you must register as a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) to practice as a Professional Engineer or engage in the practice of engineering.

You do not have to register if you work under the direct supervision of a professional engineer and do not call yourself a Professional Engineer or use the word “engineer” in your job title.

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Engineer.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Geotechnical engineers may work for or contract out to:

  • Engineering consulting firms
  • Oil and gas exploration, production, and transportation companies
  • Petroleum services companies
  • Electrical utility companies
  • Mining companies
  • Governments
  • Education and research institutions

Success in this career requires practical knowledge and good engineering judgment. Engineering judgment comes mostly from experience and mentorship. New engineers can gain these through co-op, internship, or practicum programs, or part- or full-time employment.

Landing a job may be hard without related experience. Some companies provide internship and practicum programs to new graduates. These are also open to international professionals with no North American experience. This builds resumés to enter the job market or obtain professional engineer certification.

Experienced geotechnical engineers may become:

  • Technical specialists
  • Consultants at their own firms
  • Design, engineering, or construction contractors
  • Business engineering analysts

They may also move into management. Working with experts in many different fields may help them develop management skills. They may move into positions in:

  • Engineering
  • Science
  • Sales
  • Marketing

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2144: Geological engineers occupational group, 89.6% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2144: Geological engineers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 0 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Earnings vary depending on factors such as:

  • Location
  • Company
  • Office vs fieldwork
  • Project complexity and associated responsibilities
  • Leadership level
  • Subject matter expertise

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Geological engineers

2016 NOC: 2144
Average Wage
$57.07
Per Hour
Average Salary
$115,230.00
Per Year
Average Hours
38.8
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2144 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $28.00 $67.31 $35.65 $28.00
Overall $43.27 $74.76 $57.07 $57.14
Top $46.98 $120.20 $92.59 $92.05

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
ALL INDUSTRIES
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
18%
18%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
N/A
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
5%
5%
Vacancy Rate
3%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Engineering, Architecture and Related Studies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) website: www.apega.ca

Engineers Canada website: engineerscanada.ca

Geological Association of Canada (GAC) website: gac.ca

Petroleum Industry Human Resources Committee (PIHRC) website: www.oilandgascareerinfo.ca

PetroLMI, Careers in Energy website: careersinenergy.ca

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2022. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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