FAQ for Prospective Students


What is CEM?

CEM is an exciting program with a curriculum designed to teach you the skills you need to pursue a number of rewarding careers. CEM is a professional discipline dedicated to the design, planning, and execution of construction operations to construct the built environment, which includes buildings, bridges, roads, tunnels, railroads, airports, stadiums, dams, utilities and many other structures and facilities. Professional construction engineers earn excellent salaries and derive great satisfaction working in any one of the many sectors of the construction industry. Their product is tangible and valuable. Construction engineers build things that make people’s lives better and positively contribute to the development of communities!

There are many misconceptions and old notions about the construction industry that are not true today. CEM is not

  • Simple and unsophisticated
  • Boring
  • Unrewarding

CEM is

  • Diverse and interesting
  • Fast-paced
  • Challenging
  • Enhanced by technology
  • Lucrative

What type of work can you do with a degree in CEM?

Construction is a technically driven, complex business that requires knowledgeable, highly-skilled engineers to lead operations. There is and will be a continuing strong demand for CEM professionals. Construction engineers must possess strong fundamental knowledge of engineering design and management principles. CEM graduates may design temporary structures and systems, design construction operations including means and methods, perform cost engineering, planning and scheduling, project and company management, and a host of other diverse duties.

What is the work environment like? 

Construction engineers are not chained to a desk, but have the opportunity to work in the office or out in the field. Usually, it’s a combination of the two; the best of both worlds! CEM is an ideal career choice for those who prefer an environment that is constantly evolving.

How is technology used in construction?

The construction industry is rapidly changing, driven in part by technological innovation. Virtual and augmented reality, building information modeling (BIM), simulation, drones and other technologies are the tools today’s CEM practitioner.

What is the CEM Curriculum? 

The core of the curriculum includes courses in CEM, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and Building Construction (BC). The total number of credits required for graduation is 130. CEM courses include:

  • Introduction to CEM
  • Construction Estimating & Scheduling
  • Temporary Structures in Construction
  • Construction Health and Safety
  • CEM Capstone I and II
  • Construction Economy
  • Construction Law & Contract Administration

To view the curriculum and sequence of courses, click on the 2022 Checksheet.

What skills do CEM graduates have? 

CEM graduates:

  • demonstrate strong problem-solving skills

  • possess depth and breadth in the construction body of knowledge

  • immediately add value to an organization

  • are equipped to perform equally well in the field or office

  • display growth potential that is not limited to front line or technician status, but are destined to become future industry leaders

How do we prepare CEM students for their future careers?

The undergraduate CEM Program at Virginia Tech is designed to develop your technical skills related to design (e.g. structural engineering, building systems engineering), construction engineering (e.g. cost estimating and scheduling) and management (e.g. teamwork, leadership, communication).

You'll be presented with design, engineering and management problems and will be supported as you learn through real-world experience in peer teams. You'll go on fieldtrips and you'll work in teams to design and plan simulated construction projects.

The CEM curriculum is informed by practicing industry professionals, so it’s based on building the skills that are relevant in the workforce. 

Can I become a licensed Professional Engineer? 

Yes. The CEM program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Students in ABET accredited engineering programs qualify to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam in their senior year, which is a crucial step toward becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). Only Professional Engineers have the authority to sign and seal engineering plans and offer their services to the public. It is a legal requirement for those who are in charge of the work, regardless of whether they are principals or employees. Moreover, a PE license is a major differentiator in hiring and career advancement and commands a higher salary.

What is the difference between CEM and BC (Building Construction)?

CEM and BC students take some of the same courses and often have similar jobs after graduation. The main difference is that CEM students must be admitted to the College of Engineering and take a series of Civil Engineering courses to better understand structures. This also allows CEM students to take the FE exam during their senior year which allows the students to become Professional Engineers and grants them the ability to design the buildings and evaluate the structures. 

What is the difference between CEM and CEE (Civil Engineering)?

The civil engineering curriculum provides breadth across the civil engineering profession and the opportunity for depth within a student's selected specialty areas of interest. Specialty areas offered within the department include: construction engineering & management, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, land development, civil engineering materials, structural engineering, transportation engineering, and water resources engineering. CEM focuses specifically on Construction Engineering and Management so it provides a more in-depth focus for students who know that they want to focus specifically on construction. While CEM students do take courses in construction engineering & management, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering,civil engineering materials, structural engineering, they don't take courses in land development, transportation, or water resources. 

Will there be jobs when I graduate?

Probably. Our graduates have had 100% job placement within 3 months of graduation (most sign job contracts during the fall semester of their senior year) since 2013. Graduating seniors have multiple full-time job offers. The average starting salary is $66,000. 

What types of jobs are available for CEM graduates?

CEM practitioners work in various construction organizations such as general contractors, construction management firms, specialty contractors, design-builders, consulting engineers, architecture firms, homebuilders, and real estate development firms. CEM graduates are also employed in various capacities representing project owners, suppliers, regulators, lenders, and other stakeholders engaged in creating and maintaining the built environment. Positions include project engineers, project managers, coordinators, estimators, schedulers, safety specialists, business development managers, and many others. Some rise to senior level executive positions, while others own and operate their own firms.

How will I find jobs?

The Myers-Lawson School of Construction holds a Career Fair every fall and spring semester. Over 110 companies attend each semester to recruit CEM students for internships, co-ops, and entry level positions.

Students can also attend the:

Civil Engineering Career Fair

Engineering Expo

Students can also visit the following resources for more internship and career opportunities:

What are recent graduates doing?

A Day in the Life of a Construction Engineering & Management (CEM) Graduate brochure allows you to read about the careers of 7 recent CEM graduates including their job titles, job descriptions, benefits of the CEM degree, and advice for prospective and current CEM students.  

Hear from two recent graduates:

Can I find internships?

We strongly encourage students to complete internships during the summer. This is a great opportunity for students to get hands-on experience related to their major, apply what they are learning in the classroom, and make money.

What are co-ops? 

Co-ops are designed to give students real-world experience in their career during the third and fourth year of their education. Students work with the same company for two semesters back-to-back (including summer), then return for a semester of coursework before returning for another semester of work. This provides in-depth training for students prior to graduation. For more information about co-ops, click here. A co-op experience typically extends a student’s graduation by 1 year. Click here for the modified Checksheet.

How do I get admitted?

There are a number of pathways that students take to the undergraduate CEM Program at Virginia Tech.

To become a CEM student, you must first be admitted to Virginia Tech and to the College of Engineering. Then, you must declare CEM as your major of first choice. The information below provides more detail on admission to the CEM program at Virginia Tech.

High School Students: The best place to start your journey toward becoming a CEM student is with the Virginia Tech Office of Admissions. The Office of Admissions is responsible for admitting students to Virginia Tech and their website contains information to help you decide on which high school classes are required in order to be eligible for admissions into the College of Engineering. After admission into the College of Engineering and satisfactory performance in your 1st year General Engineering courses, you must declare CEM as your major of first choice in order to be eligible for enrollment in the CEM program.

General Engineering StudentsIf you were admitted to the College of Engineering and have had satisfactory performance in your 1st year General Engineering courses, you must declare CEM as your major of first choice in order to be eligible for enrollment in the CEM program.

Engineering Students in other DepartmentsIf you are already enrolled in an academic program in the College of Engineering (e.g. Mechanical, Civil or Industrial Systems Engineering), you must change your major to CEM in order to be eligible for enrollment in the CEM program.

Non-Engineering VT StudentsIf you were admitted into another College or into the Explore Technology and University Studies Program, you must first transfer into the College of Engineering and then fulfill the 1st year General Engineering requirements before you’re able to declare CEM as you major of first choice in order to be eligible for enrollment in the CEM Program. 

External Transfer StudentsIf you are currently enrolled in a community college or another four-year institution, the best place to start your journey toward becoming a CEM student at Virginia Tech is with the Office of Admissions. The Office of Admissions is responsible for admitting students to Virginia Tech and their website contains information to help you decide on which classes are required in order to be eligible for admissions into the College of Engineering. Some of the classes you took at your previous institution may count for credit at Virginia Tech. After admission into the College of Engineering you must declare CEM as your major of first choice in order to be enrolled in the CEM program.

Are there scholarships available?

Yes. The College of Engineering and the MLSoC offer numerous upper-class merit scholarships in amounts varying from $500 to $5000. Most of the CEM scholarship awards are made based on applications you submit to the College of Engineering scholarship program. Thus, all eligible CEM students should submit applications to the College of Engineering each Spring Semester (applications are typically due on/about March 1st). Eligibility is based on the overall GPA at the end of the previous fall semester with rising sophomores needing a 3.4 GPA and rising juniors and seniors needing a 3.0 GPA in order to apply. The scholarship applications will be available on-line in early spring. An announcement will be made on the Listserv informing you when applications will be available and the deadline for submission. 

CEM Students are also eligible to apply for some scholarships offered through the Department of Building Construction. The BC general scholarship application can be found at http://www.bc.vt.edu/scholarships. An announcement will be made using the CEM Listserv when the process opens.

There are several other scholarships available through the school that are not awarded through the joint College/School scholarship process described above. These opportunities also occur during the Spring Semester and will be announced through the CEM Listserv.

Information regarding non-Virginia Tech based scholarships for construction engineering and management students will also be sent out through the CEM Listserv.

Is there a computer requirement for CEM Students?

Yes. You can view the College of Engineering's computer requirement here.

Can I study abroad?

Yes. CEM students can study abroad. CEM offers the course CEM 3074: Global Design & Construction during the spring semester so that students can travel to another country during spring break to work on a design specific for that country. For Spring 2018, students enrolled in CEM 3074 will travel to Belize to work with local youth from Belize City's Gateway Center to rebuild a community basketball court in the Collet area of Belize City and construct a Pavilion Structure for the Gateway Center in partnership with Peacework, a non-profit organization, and Belize's Ministry of Education. 

There are numerous opportunites to study abroad. You can visit the Global Education Office website for more information. Please note, that if you study abroad during a fall or spring semester, it could delay your graduation from the CEM program. 

Are there student organizations that I can be involved with? 

es. Here are some of the programs and clubs offered to students in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction (MLSoC): 

Industry Mentorship Program - Apply to have a member in the industry help you grow as a young professional as you make your transition from college to the workforce.

ASC Competition Teams - Develop a bid proposal for either the heavy civil, concrete, design build or commerical sector on a competitive construction management competition team. Teams compete in the regional competition in the fall semester in Peachtree, Georgia. Teams that advance to the national competition will compete in the spring semester in Reno, Nevada. Students must be selected to participate in the competition teams. Applications are typically available in the spring semester for the upcoming academic year. Contact Dr. Graff for more information.

Building Goodness Foundation - Established in the Fall of 2016 and adopted by the MLSoC. We are a non-profit construction service organization, specializing in large scale mission based projects. Our primary markets are assisting other non-profit organizations by providing construction based support. We pair industry professionals with passionate volunteers to provided struggling non-profits with a new or renovated space. Contact Brayden Bird for more information.

Building Women in Construction (BWIC) - Building Women in Construction is an organization founded by five female students in the Building Construction Department at Virginia Tech. The purpose of this organization is to unite women students studying construction-related disciplines. This organization is not specifically for female members; however, the overall intention is to help provide additional support and resources to help women succeed in this field of study. In the long run, the goal is to become a nationally known organization that offers young women chances to network within their universities, communities, and the industry. Contact BWIC for more information.

Appalachia Service Project - Appalachia Service Project at Virginia Tech (ASP-VT) was created in the fall of 2007 as an opportunity for students, faculty, and community members to join together to repair homes in the Appalachia Mountains. In spring 2015, we also began working on local service projects in the New River Valley. We collect applications throughout Montgomery County and select homes in need of repair, fundraise for the necessary materials, and spend weekends completing projects for these homes! Contact Michael Schnell for more information.