Civil Engineers

This article acts as an extensive career guide that elaborates on the career path of civil engineer, the job outlook, salaries, qualifications required and much more.

Updated by Rakshitha.N on 30th September 2020

What do they do: Civil engineers are professionals who plan, design, build, construct, research, and maintain infrastructures, buildings, projects, and systems which include roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and other structures. 

Working environment: civil engineers usually work indoors as well as outdoors such as the worksite. The job also includes traveling to the destination to complete projects before the deadline. Also, work with coworkers and teams.

How to become: to become a civil engineer, one must earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or other related majors. To advance your career, you can pursue further degree levels. Based on the state requirements, you must earn a license to serve for public and work in government sectors. 

Salary offered: the median salary offered to civil engineers in 2020 yearly is about  $69,970 and cab ranges anywhere between $64,055 and $78,985.

Career Outlook: The job growth of Civil engineers as per the projections of BLS is about 6 percent over the period of 2018 to 2028. The demand never goes down as the structures constructed keep aging and maintenance is required appropriately for safety purposes. 

Similar careers: Meeting the qualification to become a civil engineer not only gives you eligibility to choose civil engineering jobs but also related careers with similar theories. 

Top Civil Engineering Jobs

Engineering Project Managers:

The engineering project manager is skilled in directing. Planning, organizing, leading, and strategizing the project. Also monitoring the progress of the project at each phase to complete it within budget and deadline. Becoming a project manager is rewarding and the education requirement is a civil engineering diploma or degree, landing on this profession yields about $56,250 – $149,729 yearly based on your potential. 

Senior Civil Engineer:

A senior civil engineer is responsible for designing, planning, and managing construction projects which are usually state infrastructures such as roads, tunnels, highways, and others. You require a minimum of bachelor’s degree or civil engineering diploma and can earn about $62,000 – $135,732 on a yearly basis. 

Engineering Managers:

Engineering managers direct, control, manage, plan, organize, and evaluate the function of the engineering projects to ensure completion. You require a civil engineering diploma or a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering to enter this profession. Also, the earnings offered are as high as about $95,000 – $125,000 annually.

What do Civil Engineers Do?

Civil engineers are skilled in designing, planning, overseeing, building, managing, operating, maintaining, and supervising the projects, buildings, megastructures and infrastructure which include rags, dams, bridges and many other systems. Also, most civil engineers work towards rebuilding, planning, constructing, researching and educating in their respective fields. Their roles and responsibilities are,

  • Evaluate the data obtained from maps, surveys, theories, and plans created previously to come up with innovation and new plans. 

  • Analyze the cost factors, government regulation, risk factors, environmental concerns to plan better at the planning stages.

  • Detail about the building materials to be used, soil samples with knowledge on composition and structure, their effects on the environment and to ensure that the materials used are not hazardous and do to exceed the maximum requirements. 

  • Preparing the cost sheet of the expenses on labor, material, equipment and others to complete the project within the budget.

  • Use of various design software and tools to understand the structuring and creating innovative concepts through effective designs under the government and environment concerns. 

  • Understanding the state, local and federal regulations put forward by the authorities to submit the permits for starting the project as per legal procedures. 

  • Overseeing the maintenance, repair and replacement of infrastructure to ensure safety.

Civil engineers always analyze all the aspects concerned with the construction which include legal, environmental, geological factors to come up with the effective design. Currently, civil engineers are working on projects with the implementation of renewable energy sources which is going to be the future trend. 

Working Conditions of Civil Engineers

Civil engineers work in a number of conditions and locations which include indoors as well as the project site. While designing, planning and testing tasks are conducted in offices whereas the operation, supervision and overseeing the construction is done on the location of the project. 

The profession involves traveling to various locations in order to complete the project within deadlines. The working environment includes,

  • Working in offices interacting and coordinating with various departments to plan.

  • Work for coworkers in team or as an individual being self-employed.

  • Communicate with engineers, clerks, coworkers and clients to run the functions smoothly.

  • Wear protective coats, safety shoes, hard hats and take safety measures while working at the construction site.

  • Travel to various locations and countries to work at the project site.

  • The work schedule is pre-set to 40 hours a week and most engineers work overtime to meet deadlines. 

With over more than 326,800 civil engineers, on the whole, the employers that hire the most are,

  • Engineering services: 49%

  • The state government, excluding education and hospitals:11%

  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals:10%

  • Nonresidential building construction: 6%

  • Federal government, excluding postal service: 3%

How to Become a Civil Engineer?

To become a civil engineer, one must earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a relevant major from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).  Students can also choose to pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering to earn higher positions. Once after completing education, you must aim at gaining experience by participating in civil engineering projects and obtaining the Professional engineering- PE license to work in the public sectors. 

Educational requirements for Civil Engineers

The minimum education requirement to become a civil engineer is to earn a bachelor’s degree and then can take up advanced degree level to gain higher positions. It takes about 4 years or more to become a civil engineer however, it can increase as you decide to pursue higher education. 

Taking close look at the important education requirements are,

Beginning from high school, you must have strong knowledge in mathematics, physics, statistics, natural sciences and computer knowledge.

Next, you must consider a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or other major which is accredited by ABET. The program is complete in 4 years and offers core work such as Fluid mechanics, structural dynamics and design, material engineering and others. In addition to this, students are given opportunities to use the CAD software in laboratory courses as an essential core requirement. 

Prospective students can also choose a master's degree which takes 2 years and offers course work on structural engineering, risk assessment, advanced principles of civil engineering, structural steel analysis, solid and hazardous waste management and others. 

Civil engineering Majors and Specialisation

The majors chosen to become civil engineers are civil engineering or other related concepts such as thermodynamics, structural analysis, statistics, and engineering mechanics and systems. Also understanding the core courses such as properties of materials, CAD software to solve the problems better. 

Specializations; civil engineering is categorized based education, experience and certification on specializations obtained. The various specializations are listed as follows,

  • Construction engineers: They are engineers who are specialized in overseeing the construction projects to ensure they are meeting the safety, according to plan within the budget under the specified time. 

  • Environmental engineers: under this specialization, you learn about how to approach the environmental problem and put forward an effective green solution to protect the environment.

  • Geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineers: The main focus of this specialization is to choose and test the building material to form a strong foundation.

  • Hydraulic or water resources engineers: Under this, engineers plan and design the water flow, sewage system with the combination of scientific approach and principle.

  • Structural engineers: knowledge on structural engineering helps in analyzing the design and structure of the project which require long term strength such as bridges, dams, buildings.   

  • Transportation engineers: This includes planning, designing, inspecting, and maintaining the transportation systems which also include large construction projects such as airports, roads, posts which are major parts of public infrastructure. 

Licenses and Certifications for Civil Engineers

After meeting the education requirements, you have two paths. One being landing on an entry-level job where the license isn't necessary, another is gaining the Professional Engineering (PE) license. The PE license gives you the authority to land on high positions and also work in government sectors to work on public projects. Steps you follow to earn the PE license is,

  • Earn a degree accredited by the ABET with a suitable major

  • Clear the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam 

  • Gain work experience for a minimum of 4 years 

  • Clear the Professional Engineering (PE) exam and start working

  • Continue specified credits of education to keep the license active

The FE exam is the initial step where you can attempt after earning a bachelor’s degree. After gaining the passing score, you are designated as engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs) where you can work as interns under the supervision of experienced professionals. You must gain experience for 4 years at training programs, part-time job, entry-level job and other sources of gaining experience.

After this you must clear the Principles and Practice of Engineering based on the state requirement and earn the Professional Engineering (PE) license. 

Certification: Voluntary certification helps you advance your skills and demonstrate your knowledge in that specialization.  Certification for civil engineers is offered by the American Society of Civil Engineers in specializations such as coastal engineering, geotechnical engineering, ports engineering, water resources engineering, building security, sustainability, and other fields.

Stand Out Skills for Civil Engineers

Skills required for a civil engineer includes both technical and interpersonal skills. To advance your career, implementing leadership and communication skills are necessary. Hence here are few skill sets listed to help you stand out among the rest,

Problem-solving skills: As civil engineers mainly deal with planning, designing and innovating they must inspect for the areas which have scope for improvement and also where better solutions can be provided for the existing problems. 

Decision-Making skills: the decisions taken by the civil engineers must be feasible and must be effective in all perspectives. Hence civil engineers must plan well, analyze the situation and combine the technical knowledge and own experience to decide what is the best. 

Leadership skills: working with coworkers, laborers, and as a team is common in this profession. Hence with good administrative and leadership skills, you can lead and instruct the worker to achieve your views. Also coordinating with various other departments requires leadership skills to achieve success. 

Technical skills: you also require high academic knowledge on calculus, trigonometry, mathematics designing software and other technical knowledge to work efficiently. 

Communication: Communication is a key, as civil engineers must explain to their clients, coworker, colleagues about the ideologies and solution, this requires clarity and confidence. Also Recording and reporting the data of results collected, writing skills also play an important role.  

Top University Programs for Civil Engineers

  • University of California, Berkeley

  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  • Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Stanford University

  • University of Texas, Austin

  • Purdue University, West Lafayette

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Civil Engineers Salary

The median salaries offered to civil engineers on a yearly basis in 2020 is about $69,970 and usually ranges between $64,055 and $78,985. The salaries offered often vary depending on your education, potentials, certifications, key skills and the amount of experience. The salaries offered can be better analysed by evaluating certain criteria.

The median salaries offered based on the percentile of civil engineers hired are,

  • 10th percentile: $58,670

  • 25th percentile: $64,055

  • 50th percentile (median): $69,970

  • 75th percentile: $78,985

  • 90th percentile: $87,193

The industries at which the civil engineers are employed and their median salaries are detailed below,

  • Federal government, excluding postal service: $95,380 

  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals: $93,380

  • Engineering services: $87,710

  • State government, excluding education and hospitals: $82,030

  • Nonresidential building construction: $76,340

The average salary you will be paid by the amount of experience gained is detailed as follows,

  • Entry-level: $60,389

  • Early Career(>1 years): $57,528

  • Mid Career (5-9 years): $74,236

  • Experienced (10-19 years): $86,092

  • Late career (20< years): $97,552. 

Civil engineers can increase their earning potentials by increasing their marketability by gaining better knowledge and skills to work efficiently. The work schedule usually lasts for 40 hours per week however civil engineers end up dedicating extra hours to meet deadlines and earn better. 

Job Growth of Civil Engineers

The job outlook of civil engineers is estimated to have a rapid increase and have an average growth of about 6 percent during the period of 2018 to 2028 as projected by the Bureau of Labor statistics. 

The job opportunities for civil engineers in 2018 was about 326,800 and is determined to increase to about 347,300 by the end of 2028. Hence we can infer that there will be more than 20,500 additional jobs created towards the end of 2028 to meet the demands. 

The increasing demand is due to the growing need for megastructures, construction projects, building huge infrastructures such as roads, water treatment systems, bridges, buildings, tunnels and others. Another factor is the aging infrastructure which requires maintenance and rebuilding of existing systems.

Also creating systems that work on renewable sources of energy and overseeing the construction projects with smart systems including wind farms and solar arrays to generate free energy involves the roles of civil engineers. Utilizing green technology and improving the infrastructure is the next trend where civil engineers face a challenging and rewarding career to come up with innovations. 

Related Careers for Civil Engineers

With the degree earned to become a civil engineer, candidates can also change their paths and choose other alternative professions based on their interest just by choosing another career concentration or specialization. 

Architect

Median salary: $113,924

Architects are artistic professionals who design and create drawings for the building's architecture with proper planning and to utilize the space effectively. They also oversee the construction of the structure hence they require necessary skills related to civil engineering. 

Construction manager

Median salary: $112,049

Construction managers are managerial professionals who look after the construction site by managing the laborers, clients, contractors to complete the project. Becoming a construction manager involves simple steps such as gaining education similar to ibil engineers and then specialize in related fields or get certified to land on this job.

Mechanical engineer

Median salary: $92,800

Mechanical engineers are professionals who combine the scientific and mathematical principles to design and develop machines, engines or other devices. Their tasks also include building, overhaul, testing and maintaining the machines. To become a mechanical engineer, one requires a bachelor’s degree and many more simple steps to follow. 

Environmental engineers

Median salary: $125,533

Environmental engineers are skilled in investigating, analyzing, reviewing the factors that impact the environment. Also they design and plan projects to converse water, air, forest and environmental systems. Some projects include recycling, waste disposal, sewage treatment, afforestation, air pollution control.

Civil engineering technician

Median salary: $50,534

Civil engineering technicians work more on the technical side rather than the management side where they help the civil engineers plan and design the buildings, roads, highways, tunnels and other projects.