Geotechnics is the civil engineering specialty which deals with rock, soil and any part of a structure that is placed underground. It is the work of these civil engineers and scientists which makes many amazing civil engineering structures possible.

For many construction projects, geotechnical specialists are the first civil engineering professionals to become involved. Before any design work is done they assess the ground where the work is to be done, so that they can determine the underlying geology.

There are a number of sub-disciplines within geotechnics with a large overlap between the disciplines.

Geotechnical engineers are specialist civil engineers who analyse, plan and construct foundations and support structures. These professionals use engineering principles and applications to ensure a structure's stability against earthquakes, mud slides and other natural events. Geotechnical engineers often work in offices; they also conduct site visits and field work.  The principal objective of the geotechnical engineer is the protection of life and property against damage caused by various geological conditions by careful design of underground or ground supporting structures.

Engineering geologists are specialist earth scientists who apply the geological sciences to engineering study for the purpose of assuring that the geological factors regarding the location, design, construction, operation and maintenance of engineering works are recognized and accounted for. Engineering geologists provide geological and geotechnical recommendations, analysis, and design associated with human development and various types of structures. The principal objective of the engineering geologist is the protection of life and property against damage caused by various geological conditions by careful investigation and characterisation of the ground.

To become a geotechnical engineer or engineering geologist most people will require either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering, geology or geotechnics.  Although possible to enter this career through experience this route can take many years or even decades.

Suitable courses are available at the Universities of Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato.