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Coastal Engineering: An Exciting option for Masters after Civil Engineering

Last Updated on September 19, 2022 by Admin

In this article, we’ll take a look at coastal engineering and what it entails. If you think you might be interested in pursuing a career in a related field, this article is perfect for you to learn more!

When sea levels rise quickly, the coastal environment is negatively impacted. Seawater may cause damaging erosion, flooding, contamination of agricultural soil and water levels, and loss of habitat for birds, plants, and fish as it moves further inland.

We are fortunate that these tragedies have been avoided because of our understanding of coastal engineering designs. Coastal engineering is a complicated topic. The coastlines of oceans, seas, marginal seas, estuaries, and substantial lakes are the focus of coastal engineering. If you are wondering about what are the career options after civil engineering? You could consider coastal engineering as one of the best options for your masters.

What is Coastal Engineering?

The goal of coastal engineering is to address both natural and artificial changes in coastal zones. It is a highly specialized branch of engineering. A thoughtful coastal engineering solution can maximize positive effects while reducing the adverse effects of potential solutions to problematic locations on a coastline.

It can also provide structural and non-structural protection against coastal changes. To properly comprehend the nature and complexity of the issue at hand, coastal engineering includes the application of both physical science and engineering. It necessitates a detailed grasp of the area in question.

The study of natural processes and manmade effects on our beaches, inlets, estuaries, and coastal towns are known as coastal engineering.

The section of civil engineering known as coastal engineering is in charge of organizing, conceptualizing, creating, and maintaining coastline projects. Civil engineering that focuses on planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining coastline infrastructure is known as coastal engineering.

The objectives of these duties include managing coastline erosion, enhancing navigation channels and harbors, safeguarding against flooding brought on by storms, tides, and even seismically driven waves (tsunamis), enhancing coastal recreation, and managing pollution in neighboring marine habitats.

Construction of buildings, transportation, and potential stability of beach sand and other coastal materials are all standard components of coastal engineering. Typically, coastal engineering involves building structures in addition to moving and maybe stabilizing beach sand and other coastal materials.

Check this coastal engineering pdf note to learn more about coastal engineering.

Problems faced in Coastal Engineering

Construction, protection, and maintenance of coastal settlements and harbors, the exploitation of offshore resources, and the preservation of estuarine and coastal environments all require a thorough understanding of engineering.

Even though building coastal and offshore facilities heavily depends on specific site variables, including the local bathymetry, coastal terrain, and offshore wave climate, general engineering expertise is essential. Numerous issues confront coastal engineers who work in the nearshore area, such as:

  • Forecasting long-term coastline modifications brought on by nourishing the beach or the presence of structures
  • Forecasting the forces a marine structure, such as a levee, will encounter throughout its lifetime
  • Prediction of sediment redistribution and morphological change caused by wave-induced pressures and currents
  • Determining the impact of sea level rise on the infrastructure and coastal erosion
  • Determination of storm surge and shallow water directional spectra
  • Selecting the ideal breakwater design, taking into account its composition, form, and orientation
  • Pollution transport and estuarine and harbor hydrodynamics calculations
  • Air bubbles and waves breaking

The demand for coastal research knowledge is significant due to coastline erosion caused by powerful storms and rising sea levels, pollution of estuaries, and the costly expense of building and maintaining navigable channels and harbors.

Phases of Coastal Engineering

A coastal engineer can frequently develop solutions to avoid or lower erosion risk in these locations. To do this, an engineer must comprehend fundamental engineering concepts and the underlying natural factors generating erosion in the first place.

Three steps make up the process of a coastal engineering project.

  1. An engineer must conduct research to comprehend the coastline’s physical system and how the seashore reacts to these factors.
  2. The engineer must also create coastal works that achieve the project’s goals while staying within the parameters of allowable coastal impact.
  3. Third, the engineer is responsible for supervising the building of the coastal works and ensuring proper performance.

Points need to remember while studying the coastal line.

The engineer must exhaustively study the relevant coastline before any work on a coastal engineering project can start comprehending the elements’ dynamics appropriately involved.

Coastal projects are distinctive in that they entail the meeting of air, land, and ocean with frequently changing conditions. To understand how to build the coastal works project, an engineer must examine each element, including the ocean and the beach, and how the beach reacts to different events, such as storms.

The engineer should first investigate the range of tides for the particular geographic area. An engineer can use this knowledge to determine how high the waves will be when they reach the beach.

Similarly, knowledge of current and surge can help predict how water will surge during a storm or how it will build up against the ground. Engineers should then determine the type of silt present and the slope of the beach by looking at the beach itself. These elements must be considered while building a project for coastal works.

Generally speaking, steeper beaches are more likely to have larger sand fragments, while gently sloping beaches are more likely to have smaller sand grains. Engineers must also examine the many forms of natural defense that a coastal area may have.

For certain coasts, particularly those along the Atlantic coast south of Long Island, barrier islands play a significant role in providing physical protection. Theoretically, these islands shield the mainland from waves, but many of them have become so developed that their shores may also require protection.

A barrier beach’s boundary with the mainland is defined by lagoons, which are shallow bodies of water. An inlet connects a lagoon to the sea. These inlets can offer access to the sea for ships and allow storm-eroded beach material to be transported back to sea.

Depending on the situation, some inlets might close while others might open. Engineers will learn from historical data how beaches have responded to weather changes. A response to customary conditions and storm conditions are the two primary dynamic responses of coastlines to the sea.

Under normal circumstances, the beach’s natural defenses, such as sloping nearshore bottoms and the formation of natural protective dunes, typically dissipate the ocean’s wave force. But during storms, the powerful wave energy frequently forces beaches to give up substantial stretches of their coastline.

Land may be permanently lost as a result of this. Storm surges, which allow waves to touch portions of the shore that are ordinarily not exposed to the water, can occur when strong winds produce high, steep waves.

The beach, berm, and occasionally the dunes can then be eroded by these waves, transporting debris to the nearshore bottom, eventually creating an offshore bar. This bar will then break the waves further offshore, protecting the coastline.

It is typical for significant water levels from storm surges to entirely or partially erode a dune within hours of a major storm, such as a hurricane. To create an offshore bar to stop additional erosion, the beach sacrifices a portion of the beach and dune.

The waves may eventually restore the beach that was eroded by a storm. However, if the storm was exceptionally severe or there was substantial erosion, the loss of land might be irreversible.

Longshore transport of sand, or the movement of material both parallel and perpendicular to the shore, is another factor that engineers must consider. It happens due to the breaking waves churning up material and the wave energy and current moving this sediment.

The littoral matter is the silt that flows in this manner. It can differ significantly daily, seasonally, and even hour to hour. Sand can become trapped in lagoons where longshore transit is disrupted in locations with inlets and barrier islands.

One of the critical objectives of a coastal engineering project is shoreline stability. A beach is said to be stable when the long-term rates of sand production and loss are equal.

Before beginning a project, a coastal engineer must consider all factors that may be at play and cause coastline erosion and sand loss. Natural factors include rising sea levels, fluctuating sediment supplies, storm waves, wave, and surge overwash, deflation, longshore sediment transfer, and sorting of beach silt may contribute to this.

Human activity can also contribute to land subsidence, which can happen when subsurface resources are removed, material transportation is interrupted, sediment supply is reduced, wave energy is concentrated on beaches, water levels vary more, natural coastal protection changes or material is removed from the beach.

These elements should be considered when examining a coastline in preparation for a coastal engineering project.

Process for designing the Coastal Works

Following the completion of coastline research, a coastal engineer should consider the kind of coastal works project suitable for the location. Without coastal works, waves and storm surges may harm the beach, beachfront property, and beyond.

While natural features like dunes and beach berms can offer some protection, they can no longer do so when they have been damaged by storms or decreased by man-made development.

Many coastal engineers will go first to quasi-natural defenses like constructing artificial dunes or beach nourishment for shoreline protection.

These techniques can aid in preserving the beach itself, reducing the impact of waves, and regenerating the dune as a barrier against storm surges and waves. In addition, enlarging the beach itself increases its recreational value, another advantage of beach nourishment.

However, these measures are short-term fixes and cannot stop long-term erosion brought on by rising sea levels or a decreasing amount of sediment in the littoral system. Artificial structures must be constructed if a long-term remedy for erosion is required to safeguard coastal developments.

These projects can be divided into two groups:

(1) those that build bulkheads, seawalls, revetments, or breakwaters to block waves from entering harbor areas, and

(2) those that use groynes and jetties to stop the longshore transport of littoral drift.

The first category of buildings is constructed onshore to preserve the upper beach that faces bluffs prone to erosion or backshore development. Seawalls and bulkheads have comparable designs but serve different purposes.

Bulkheads are built mainly to retain soil while resisting waves, whereas seawalls are primarily designed to do both. They can be constructed from steel, wood, gabions, concrete pilings, or debris mounds.

Due to shoreline erosion and flanking, bulkheads do not offer sufficient protection for places exposed to the ocean. To withstand the direct waves, bulkheads must be expanded into a seawall or coupled with other protection methods.

Seawalls can have faces that are straight, curved, stepped, or sloping. Seawalls can be problematic locally because sand can be removed in front of the wall by downward forces, even though they protect the upland. Stone aprons can stop excessive scouring and undermine.

Revetments typically consist of a filter layer covering a graded in situ soil slope and one or more layers of quarry stone or precast concrete armor units.

A revetment serves to safeguard the dune’s current slope face. They act as protection for a more stable dune or embankment but are not retaining structures. Since the sloping face of a revetment can disperse wave energy, it has less of a negative impact on the beach than a vertical bulkhead.

By absorbing the energy of the waves, breakwaters are barriers intended to shield any landform or aquatic region from them.

These buildings are primarily utilized for harbor protection and navigational purposes, and because they are erected offshore, they are more expensive to construct than onshore structures like seawalls. Breakwaters can be constructed in several ways: parallel to the shore, separated from the shore, and segmented.

Typically, rubble-mounded portions with armor stone encasing the under layers and core material are used to construct breakwaters.

Regardless of how they are constructed, they can limit the longshore transfer of sediment, which leads to sand buildup and outright beach erosion.

One solution used by coastal engineers to address this issue was pumping sand from the area where it had piled to the eroding beach.

The second group of buildings is made to stop sediment from being transported along the longshore. Groins are a type of barrier that protrudes into the littoral zone from a backshore.

To alter the movement of sand, groynes are typically built in a sequence along the length of a beach to be protected. The final goal is to either build up sand on the shore or prevent sand loss.

Groins can potentially have a detrimental effect on other beaches since trapped sand won’t be accessible to them; as a result, sand is frequently artificially put to protect other beaches from erosion and damage. Timber, steel, concrete, or quarry stone can be used to build groynes, which can also be classed as high or low, long or short, permeable or impermeable, fixed or adjustable.

At inlets, jetties stabilize the navigation channel’s position, control the movement of sand along the beaches to prevent it from building up in the channel, and protect vessels from the effects of waves.

Jetties are frequently needed at both ends of an entrance to protect a waterway and stop sand transport from the longshore from filling the channel with sand. Several materials, such as wood, steel, concrete, or quarry stone, can be used to construct them.

Jetties, like groynes, can negatively affect down drift beaches by impeding sand’s longshore transit. Some projects call for pumping sand from the jetty to the downdrift beach to reduce erosion of these beaches.

Typically, large-scale, comprehensive projects are the optimum type of design for coastal works projects. Protection for specific properties or smaller projects frequently fails since the nearby shoreline will keep eroding. Partial safeguards might hasten its loss. Coordinated activity over a larger region is more effective, efficient, and cost-effective.

The Importance of Coastal Engineering Projects

To maintain beaches and safeguard real estate and financial investments along seashores, it is essential to save sand through carefully managed coastal engineering projects.

Although beaches are somewhat protected against erosion naturally, storms and man-made constructions can cause beaches to retreat, which increases the risk of damage to structures such as homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

Strategic projects like artificial dunes, seawalls, revetments, breakwaters, jetties, groynes, and bulkheads can be used in coastal engineering to address many of these problems.

These initiatives are challenging. They necessitate a profound comprehension of technical concepts and the science underlying how and why erosion occurs in a specific region. A coastal works project can aid in preventing erosion and defending the beach and properties in a coastal area after rigorous analysis and planning.

Functions and Responsibilities of Coastal Engineering

The following duties and tasks fall within the purview of the coastal engineering department: dredging, erosion prevention, flood control, and artificial harbor construction.

1. Erosion and Coastal Engineering

Although most people reside close to coastlines, erosion is a persistent threat to these valuable properties. Coastal engineering’s primary duties include protecting coasts from erosion and preventing it.

Coastal engineers develop defensive structures to guard against the destruction brought on by storm waves or erosion. Breakwaters, seawalls, groynes, and revetments are a few of the structures coastal engineers have developed to prevent erosion.

2. Flood Control and Coastal Engineering

To protect coastal residential areas from storm floods, coastal engineers design defenses. With properly designed and developed barriers, the harmful effects of adverse weather are lessened, which prevents flooding.

3. Harbors and Coastal Engineering

Where there is no natural harbor, coastal engineers build artificial harbors by erecting breakwaters and other maritime structures, providing a secure haven for vessels. These man-made structures absorb the wave pressure and deflect it away from the boats anchored in the harbor.

4. Dredging Operations and Coastal Engineering

Coastal engineers must carry out dredging activities to maintain a safe path for the entry and exit of boats from waterways and harbors. For the preservation of our coastal environment and the smooth operation of our commercial maritime sector, coastal engineering’s duties and functions are essential.

Kindly check this link for the coastal engineering journal to learn and follow the recent development in coastal engineering.

The coastal engineer job description

Following are some of the duties performed by the Coastal engineers;

  • A Coastal Engineer can work in many different settings, including transportation, water resources, public health, and buildings.
  • They use their expertise to help manage coastal areas and protect people and property from potential damage. This is an excellent option for a master’s after completing Civil Engineering degrees.
  • A coastal engineer is responsible for the planning, designing, and managing of coastal resources and infrastructure.
  • They work closely with other engineers and scientists to create solutions that protect people and property from the effects of floods, storm surges, and erosion.
  • They work with various clients, including municipal governments, private companies, and non-governmental organizations.
  • Coastal engineers may also work on projects that improve water quality or manage shorelines.
  • A coastal engineer is responsible for the safety and well-being of people and property along the coast.
  • They also design and monitor coastal defenses, assess the risks posed by extreme weather events, and advise government officials on how to protect citizens best.

Skills required to become Coastal Engineer

The organization, conceptualization, development, and preservation of coastal infrastructure are all the responsibilities of civil engineering. For the sake of carrying out its duties, the Coastal Engineering Department requires the following abilities:

  • Develop, build, and evaluate man-made systems that can function in marine environments and/or utilize ocean resources.
  • Employ instruments and models to examine how waves, currents, and saltwater affect marine instruments, equipment, and structures.
  • The ability to read computer-generated reports, technical drawings, schematics, and/or blueprints.
  • The creation of testing protocols. Product development and research.
  • The capacity to program computers is crucial…
  • Possessing interpersonal communication skills.
  • The capacity to resolve issues. The capacity to solve difficulties is one of the most crucial abilities an engineer should have.

Kindly check this one of the best coastal engineering courses learns online.

Coastal Engineer Education requirements

  • Coastal engineers typically have a degree in civil engineering or a related field.
  • After completing your undergraduate degree in civil engineering, you may want to consider a career in coastal engineering.
  • A coastal engineer typically combines civil engineering and coastal engineering skills. For example, they may know how to design and build bridges, dams, and harbors.
  • They may also be skilled in the analysis of coastal data. In addition to traditional engineering disciplines, a coastal engineer may also have an MBA or a master’s degree in another field such as business or environmental studies.

Also, kindly check some of the best books on coastal engineering;

coastal engineering book

What includes in the Coastal Engineering Syllabus?

After completing your undergraduate degree in civil engineering or a related field, you may be eligible for a graduate degree in coastal engineering.

If you are interested in a coastal engineering career, you will want to look at the Coastal Engineering Syllabus. Some of the Coastal Engineering Subjects covered in the syllabus are:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Coastal Morphology
  • Coastal Systems Analysis
  • Coastal Ecology
  • Coastal Engineering,
  • Coastal Management
  • Coastal Engineering Design
  • Coastal Engineering Applications
  • Sea Level Rise and Coastal Protection
  • Water Resources Management.
  • Wave action 
  • Coastal Sediment Transport
  • Coastal Flooding
  • Storm Surge, etc.

The field of coastal engineering focuses on designing and managing coastal resources, including ports, harbors, bays, rivers, and estuaries.

In addition to the standard civil engineering curriculum, many coastal engineering programs include courses in environmental science, coastal engineering mathematics, and hydrology. This means that you’ll have a strong foundation in both engineering disciplines and environmental sciences.

Salary details for Coastal Engineer

Check below the recently recorded coastal engineering salary;

Coastal Engineering pays an average salary of $180,281, and salaries range from a low of $157,112 to a high of $206,790.

The average annual ocean engineering salary in India is INR 6.1 lakhs.

The coastal engineering job outlook

There is an increasing demand for coastal engineers due to the growth of coastal cities. This is because coastal cities are growing and becoming more developed, so they need new infrastructure and transportation systems to function correctly.

Coastal engineers are in high demand because of their ability to work with people and their knowledge of maritime resources.

The coastal engineering global job outlook is positive. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the coastal engineering profession will grow by 18% between 2016 and 2026. This growth is due to increased interest in coastal restoration, infrastructure development, and risk management.

Final Thought

After completing your undergraduate degree in civil engineering, you may be wondering what to do next. If you’re interested in coastal engineering, an exciting option offering a unique perspective on land and water, we highly recommend considering a masters program. A masters in coastal engineering will give you the skills and knowledge you need to work as a coastal engineer, contribute to policymaking, or teach at the university level.


What is the Coastal and Ocean engineering?

Coastal engineering is the study of designing and managing coastal environments, which includes managing water and land resources, as well as protecting people, property, and ecosystems from the effects of coastal flooding and storm surges.

Ocean engineering focuses on the management of oceans and their resources, including fisheries and clean water sources.

What is the syllabus of coastal engineering?

The coastal engineering syllabus is very comprehensive and covers a wide range of topics. It includes topics such as coastal morphology, coastal ecology, coastal engineering, and coastal management. In addition, the syllabus includes a number of specializations, such as environmental engineering for coastal zones, water resources engineering for coastal zones, and disaster risk reduction for coastal zones.

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