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The term geotechnical refers to the practical applications of geology, typically for the purposes of civil engineering and mining. Most geotechnical companies take this science at apply it to designing earthworks and structure foundations, monitoring site conditions, and foundation construction. Generally, these projects involve subsurface site investigation of bedrock, soil, and fault distribution.
Geotechnical companies are usually made up of civil engineers. They work on construction projects determining the chemical, physical, and mechanical properties of subsurface materials in order to assess the potential risks the condition of these materials might pose. Site investigations are crucial in order for the construction and geotechnical companies to develop a detailed knowledge base of the area where the engineering and building will take place.
Some of the details these investigations look for might include the assessment of the risk to people, property, and the environment from natural hazards like earthquakes, landslides, and sinkholes. The manner in which surface explorations are conducted can include geologic mapping, geophysical methods, and photogrammetry, a process by which geometric properties of items can be determined from a photograph. The type of foundations, earthworks, and pavement subgrades required for most construction projects are determined by geotechnical engineers. The nature of these construction projects are usually high-rise buildings, bridges, and tunnels. Geotechnical engineers and other civil engineers can also be called on to provide expertise at earthquake engineering, environmental engineering, and water resources engineering sites.
Coastal engineering and ocean engineering are considered sub-disciplines of geotechnical engineering. The construction of marinas, wharves, and jetties are generally a job for coastal engineering companies. Ocean engineering geotechnical companies can also be called subsea companies, and they concern themselves with the ocean floor. Many of these subsea companies search for oil and gas fields for the purposes of mining using drills, pipes, and exploration equipment.
Other types of organizations can also be considered geotechnical companies. Manufacturers, distributors, and service companies can also make use of geotechnical and civil engineers to plan, build, and manage their infrastructure. Geotechnical engineers can also work on complex forensic engineering projects and the building of medical institutions and institutes of higher learning.
Anyone considering employment with a geotechnical company should know that most geotechnical engineers are graduates of a four-year civil engineering course. Many of these engineers also go on to earn a graduate degree. In the United States, engineers are usually licensed by the state in which they work. Often a civil or geotechnical engineer will gain licensure after graduating from an accredited school, working in the field for several years, and scored a passing grade on the professional engineering exam.
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