Civil Engineering Career
Civil Engineers perform engineering duties in planning, designing, and overseeing construction and maintenance of building structures, and facilities, such as roads, railroads, airports, bridges, harbors, channels, dams, irrigation projects, pipelines, power plants, water and sewage systems, and waste disposal units.
Common Work Tasks
- Design and supervise the construction of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems
- Analyze survey reports, maps, drawings, blueprints, aerial photography, and other topographical or geologic data to plan projects
- Plan and design transportation or hydraulic systems and structures, following construction and government standards, using design software and drawing tools
- Compute load and grade requirements, water flow rates, and material stress factors to determine design specifications
- Inspect project sites to monitor progress and ensure conformance to design specifications and safety or sanitation standards
- Direct or participate in surveying to lay out installations and establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
- Estimate quantities and cost of materials, equipment, or labor to determine project feasibility
- Prepare or present public reports on topics such as bid proposals, deeds, environmental impact statements, or property and right-of-way descriptions
- Test soils and materials to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations, concrete, asphalt, or steel
- Provide technical advice regarding design, construction, or program modifications and structural repairs to industrial and managerial personnel
Other Job Titles
Civil Engineers are also known by other titles, including:
- Mechanical Engineers
- Environmental Engineers
- Industrial Engineers
- Electrical Engineers
Education, Training, and Experience
Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College graduates with a degree in a natural science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand.
Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. General courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, are also often required.
Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering jobs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.
Certification and Licensure
All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers (PE). This licensure generally requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, 4 years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination. Recent graduates can start the licensing process by taking the examination in two stages. The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this examination commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Several States have imposed mandatory continuing education requirements for re-licensure. Most States recognize licensure from other States, provided that the manner in which the initial license was obtained meets or exceeds their own licensure requirements. Many civil, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineers are licensed PEs. Independent of licensure, various certification programs are offered by professional organizations to demonstrate competency in specific fields of engineering.
Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.
The median annual salary for a civil engineer is $71,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $109,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $546,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of civil engineers are:
- Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $76,540
- State Government - $67,880
- Local Government - $74,030
- Nonresidential Building Construction - $73,460
- Federal Executive Branch - $83,180
- 2006-2016 Employment growth: 18%
- Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 46,000
- Employment 2006 : 256,000
- Employment 2016: 302,000