Definition and Nature of Work
Civil engineers specialize in road, bridge, buildings and water supply system design and construction. They supervise and direct construction teams and work with other engineers.
These professionals ensure that every structure built is environmentally compliant and can withstand earthquakes and hurricanes. This is especially true in places where these natural calamities often strike.
Civil engineers work wherever there is a need for expanding new structures or transportation systems and geotechnical engineering. They also hold administrative and supervisory positions.
A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer
Civil engineers work in the oldest engineering discipline. This is among the most popular engineering areas of concentration with more than 262,800 professionals employed in the field as of 2010. They usually work in offices creating designs and structural plans. However, they are also needed to work at constructions sites.
This is especially true for those who handle projects that demand their presence at the site to monitor workers and troubleshoot.
Many civil engineers work abroad for larger construction projects. They may be employed full time for40 hours every week or more. However, they may also work on an as-needed or contractual basis. With this, they tend to work long hours to meet deadlines. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 48 percent of civil engineers work in engineering and architectural firms.
In addition, 13 percent are employed in state governments, and 11 percent work for local governments. About five percent hold positions with non-residential building construction firms and the federal government.
Becoming a Civil Engineer
Aspiring civil engineers should complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related specialty. However, they should make sure that they only enroll in programs that are ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) certified. This is essential in order to qualify to obtain a license. A bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete. It covers courses like engineering mechanics, mathematics, statistics and fluid dynamics.
Civil engineering students may specialize in areas like geotechnical engineering that focuses more on building structures, structural engineering for dams and bridges and transportation engineering for streets, highways and everyday systems.
After completing a bachelor’s degree, civil engineering graduates should take the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination that will grant them the title of Engineer-in-Training or Civil Engineering Intern if they pass. Depending on the state, they may need to pass more exams, undergo training and meet other requirements so that they will be eligible to become a CE Professional.
Civil Engineer Employment and Outlook
As the population grows and the need to expand structures increases, more civil engineers are needed. In fact, the BLS reports that there will be a 19 percent rise in the demand for these professionals from 2010 to 2020. This means an increase from 262,800 to 313,900 jobs. The BLS pointed out that the aging infrastructure is among the main reasons for this growth. They are needed to rebuild dams, roads, levees and bridges.
Population growth will also trigger the rising need for civil engineers because water systems need to be maintained, repaired or expanded. The nation will require more sewage systems that need these professionals to construct them. Additionally, there will be an increasing demand for green building. This means more civil engineers with experience in this area will be very attractive to employers in the near future.
Typical Civil Engineer Salary
According to the BLS, civil engineers earn as much as $77,560 in median annual pay. The bottom ten percent make about $50,560 yearly while the top ten percent earns as much as $119,320.
The federal government employs the largest number of civil engineers in the country and is the highest paying employer. These jobs pay an annual median wage of $89,450. This is followed by local governments at $80,250. Architectural and engineering firms, non-residential building construction companies and state governments pay civil engineers as much as $76,620, $76,120 and $74,300 respectively.
Civil engineers who obtained further training and education have the option to teach and participate in developing engineering courses. They may also work as consultants at bigger firms. Highly qualified civil engineers can manage big plants and oversee facility design and construction to make sure they obtain environmental, construction and operating permits.
There are many programs both online and on campus that offer continuing education for civil engineers. These allow people to study and work at the same time. According to the America Society of Engineers (ASCE). Completing these programs will lead engineers to higher paying positions and more challenging tasks.
Is this career the right one for you?
According to the ASCE, it is best that aspiring civil engineers take different courses to find out what captures their interest. They may also complete internship programs in order to get some practical experience. Professionals in the field suggests that future civil engineers develop solid written and oral communication skills.