How To Become A Civil Engineer

We can safely and confidently use man-made structures like buildings and roads for many years thanks to the hard work of civil engineers. From construction to repair to environmental responsibility and natural disaster recovery, civil engineers are involved in ensuring the safety of all concerned and the quality and integrity of these infrastructures. The security of the public and smooth flow of transportation systems are highly dependent on the results produced by civil engineers. As the construction industry grows and more highways and bridges are built, more civil engineers are needed. The job itself can be demanding but those willing to take up the challenge will gain financial rewards and personal fulfillment.

If you’re interested in a career in civil engineering, you need to be aware of the duties, educational requirements, and competencies and qualities needed, as well as the salary expectations and future career outlook.

What are the responsibilities of a civil engineer?

Civil engineers usually work as experts in any of the following sectors:

– Structural

A specialty in structural engineering comprises of making certain of the stability and sturdiness of edifices like buildings and bridges through planning and evaluation.


Civil engineers who work in construction are in charge of supervising workers and ensuring that the construction is proceeding as scheduled and adhering to the structure’s design and other requirements.

– Transportation

Transportation systems whether smaller-scale like roads or larger-scale such as harbors, train systems and airports are carefully planned and sustained by civil engineers. They also oversee any necessary repair work.

– Geotechnical

Experts in geotechnical engineering focus on establishing and maintaining a structure’s firm foundations. They study the relationship between buildings or tunnels and the ground to plan for and achieve strength and reliability for these structures.

Regardless of specialty, a civil engineer is generally responsible for the following tasks:

– Evaluate plans, reports, maps and other information to design and prepare for developmental projects
– Visit construction sites to examine ongoing work and check on compliance to safety procedures
– Take into account several factors such as expenses, laws, and environmental effects when scrutinizing and planning a project
– Gather and produce required data and submit applications for building permits to the appropriate authorities to check that the project has conformed to all the standards
– Conduct soil tests to discover and gauge the possible strength and capability of foundations
– Assess construction materials for quality and suitability
– Produce estimates for possible expenses including materials, machinery and manpower
– Utilize computer programs in designing infrastructures and transport systems in accordance with government guidelines
– Arrange and put forth public reports on plans, property details and environmental studies
– Oversee and supervise any maintenance or replacement work on structures and facilities

What kind of work environment can a civil engineer expect?

A civil engineer’s work location varies depending on his current task. When he’s designing and planning, he’ll work from the office. If he’s involved in construction, he’ll be working mostly at project sites, managing daily operations and resolving any issues. Several civil engineers also work for the government and are in charge of public infrastructure. When needed, civil engineers can be sent to other locations to supervise different projects. As for work schedule, civil engineers are expected to work full-time. Oftentimes, when a deadline needs to be met, a problem needs to be solved or the work to be done is particularly meticulous, civil engineers may put in longer hours.

What are the important skills and characteristics for a civil engineer?

For a civil engineer to become successful, he must have a number of essential qualities. First, a civil engineer needs to be skilled in making major decisions. He will often have to negotiate between two conflicting interests, such as quality versus cost, or the viability of specific ideas. Other engineers and professionals consult with civil engineers in order to finalize their plans, so a good civil engineer must be able to make sound decisions. Since civil engineers will be managing workers and technicians, he must also display excellent leadership skills. Math skills are also crucial in helping a civil engineer analyze and create designs. He will likely be directing several projects at the same time, so he must be able to manage time and resources well aside from organizing all the documents and paperwork necessary for each project. Problems can be encountered anytime during the construction process or afterwards when repairs are needed. A competent civil engineer must come up with solutions and ways to make the process and structure more efficient and safe. He should also be able to pay attention to detail to see that each task is done correctly and ensure the quality and stability of the structure. Most important of all, a civil engineer needs to display character and integrity as he will be trusted with the construction of infrastructures the public regularly use.

What type of education, knowledge and training should a civil engineer acquire?

A career in civil engineering needs preparation beginning in high school. Students who wish to become civil engineers should aim to excel in math and science subjects which will be the bulk of their topics in their college education. A Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree program which takes about four to five years is usually required to become a full-fledged civil engineer. Students may also opt to work as Civil Engineer assistants or technicians by earning an Associate’s degree in Civil Engineering Technology. Civil engineer assistants are limited, however, to conducting research, performing testing and using software programs to produce drawings. The schools that offer these degree programs should be certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

The first part of a civil engineer’s college education will consist mostly of general engineering principles and skills while the latter half of their college education will focus on their chosen specialty as well as real world application of their skills and problem solving. Students learn through a mix of classroom lectures and fieldwork. Part of their curriculum will also likely include CAD or Computer-Aided Design, a software program used to create plans instead of using freehand drawing or manual drafting. Laboratory testing is also an integral part of their coursework. This is where aspiring civil engineers study and analyze different soils and building materials.

Students can expect to develop an extensive knowledge of certain topics. They will use engineering and technology to create efficient and structurally sound designs. Aside from that, they will learn more about building materials and the methods, tools and machinery used in constructing and repairing various infrastructures. This will be supplemented with knowledge of design, its different techniques and how to create plans and models. Computer science specifically CAD is especially useful for quickly and correctly drafting plans and visualizing models. To solve problems quickly and correctly, civil engineers must master advanced mathematical concepts such as algebra, calculus and statistics. Physics is also highly important as civil engineers need to know how to predict the effects and interaction of different materials and processes. Since civil engineers are expected to manage other staff, they need to be trained as well in administrative processes, leadership and business management. Civil engineers should also be well-versed in government regulations, laws, procedures and documents as related to infrastructures, building, construction and transportation.

Do civil engineers need a license?

Civil engineers do not need to have a license to start working. However, if they wish to offer their services to the public, or if they would like to eventually apply for higher leadership positions in any company or organization, getting a license is a must. As with other engineering graduates, civil engineer graduates must take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES). Once they pass this exam, they have to gain at least four years’ training and experience mentored by a licensed engineer, before they can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, also administered by the NCEES.

How can a civil engineer advance in his career?

Apart from becoming licensed, professional civil engineers can improve their qualifications by taking advanced studies, such as a Master’s degree. Engineering managers supervise other engineers and are entrusted with larger-scale projects. Engineers with a master’s degree may also teach at a university or hold consultant positions.

What is the current job outlook for civil engineers?

As of 2014, there are about 280,000 civil engineers employed in different fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A growth of eight percent is anticipated among job opportunities for civil engineers from the year 2014 to 2024 which translates to roughly 106,000 jobs. This growth rate is considered average as compared to other careers.

How much is the annual salary for civil engineers?

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (year 2014) shows that the average salary for civil engineers annually is around $82,000. Civil engineers especially at the entry level may earn about $52,000 while more experienced and more qualified engineers can earn around $128,000. The industries that employed the most number of civil engineers are the federal, local and state government, engineering services and nonresidential construction. The states of California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas employed the most number of civil engineers. Alaska, California, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington, D.C. meanwhile are the top paying states for civil engineers.

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