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Geotechnical engineer

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Summary of occupation

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.

ANZSCO description: Plans, directs and conducts survey work to analyse the likely behaviour of soil and rock when placed under pressure by proposed structures, and designs above and below ground foundations. Registration or licensing may be required.
Alternative names: Geological Engineer
Specialisations: Engineering Geologist, Groundwater Hydrologist, Remediation Engineer, Rock Mechanics Engineer
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A geotechnical engineer needs:

  • an interest in the natural world
  • practical and technical skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • planning and organisational skills
  • strong written and oral communication skills
  • the ability to work independently, or as part of a team.
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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.

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Salary details

On average, geotechnical engineers, classified under civil engineering professionals, can expect to earn between $2,307 and $3,076 per week ($120,000 and $160,000 per year), depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience.  

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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.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

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. Learn more about your study options.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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