Sections

Civil Engineer Career Guide

Are you responsible, creative and organized? Do you have a passion for designing and building things? Do you want to make this a career?

If the answers YES, then look no further… we think you may thrive as a civil engineer!

Civil engineers design large construction projects and develop infrastructures. They are responsible for overseeing and managing the design process. They must also supervise the project whilst it is being constructed and ensure it is maintained after.

To become a civil engineer you will need a bachelor’s degree. Degrees in civil engineering, in one of its specialties or in civil engineering technology are suitable. To obtain a professional engineer license (PE) these programs must be accredited by the ABET.

Civil engineers are the unsung heroes of the engineering world. Yet this jack-of-all-trades discipline is an incremental part of creating everything from tall skyscrapers and complex stadiums to bridges, railways and tunnels. As a civil engineer, your work influences where people work, relax, learn and live. You will be a part of helping society to become more advanced by adapting the infrastructure to meet challenges brought on by new technologies, population growth and climate change

Tekla Campus

Civil Engineer Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Civil Engineer Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Civil Engineer field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33872 Project Manager Female 41 $60,000 raleigh, NC 01/01/2010
33742 Project Manager Male 42 $55,000 New York, NY 01/01/2010
33495 Packaging Systems Engineer Female 36 $113,000 parker, CO 01/01/2010
33178 Graduate Engineer Female 23 $52,000 Irving, TX 01/01/2010
32967 Drafter Male 25 $28,000 Springfield, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What an civil engineer actually does

Civil engineers are responsible for designing large construction projects and developing infrastructures. They are responsible for overseeing and managing the design process, for supervising the project whilst it is being constructed and for the maintenance after. Civil engineers may work on buildings, roads, bridges and/or dams. They may design systems that deliver water to residential and commercial buildings, as well as the systems that remove sewage and wastes.

Civil engineers can work for the state or federal government, or they can work in the private sector. Civil engineers who work for the government may do many of the same tasks as professionals in the private sector in terms of design and planning; however, they may also be in charge of conducting inspections to ensure compliance with code requirements. Regardless of who the work for, their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Analyzing surveys and data to plan projects
  • Identifying potential environmental hazards, conducting a risk analysis, and applying for permits if needed
  • Providing cost estimates for materials, equipment or labor 
  • Using software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with the industry and government standards
  • Overseeing surveying operations to establish building locations, site layouts, reference points, grades and elevations to guide construction 
  • Managing the repair, maintenance and replacement of public and private infrastructure

Why they are needed

Civil engineers create the world around us and play an integral part in society. Without them, there would be no roads, offices, airports or dams. From the very beginning of a project, to the final stages and the maintenance after, civil engineers are needed every step of the way. They supervise projects to ensure they are not only cost efficient, but also environmentally friendly.

Pros and cons of a career as a civil engineer:

Pros:

  • Civil engineers who are skilled and qualified often get to enjoy decent pay packages
  • As civil engineers are needed to oversee many construction projects, there are lots of jobs available
  • There is a lot of variety, as civil engineers can work on a number of different projects (e.g., buildings, bridges or roads). They can also work for the government or for the private sector
  • There is high job satisfaction because civil engineers design things that impact the lives of many people
  • It is a well respected and highly regarded profession
  • There are lots of opportunities for progression and advancement
  • Each day is different as civil engineers will work on a number of different projects

Cons:

  • Civil engineers may work on testing and challenging projects with deadlines to meet. Therefore, they may find themselves working long hours
  • Civil engineers will need a degree and further training, meaning it is not accessible to everyone
  • Civil engineers have a lot of responsibility as they plan huge construction projects. Therefore, they are under a lot of pressure to get it right
  • The demand for civil engineers is subject to the ups and downs of the economy

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of civil engineers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is slower than the average for all occupations. As infrastructure ages and becomes outdated, there will be a demand for civil engineers over the coming years to rebuild, repair and upgrade bridges, roads, levels dams, airports, building and other structures.

With the growing population will also come a demand for civil engineers. As the population gets larger, there will be an increased demand for new water systems and to maintain existing water systems. Similarly, more waste treatment plans will be needed to help clean the nations waterways – which requires the work of civil engineers. Civil engineers will also be needed to oversee renewable-energy projects, such as wind farms and solar arrays.

Like with many careers, civil engineers who have post graduate training will have the best employment opportunities. This is expected to become even more predominant in coming years.

Career paths

Generally, civil engineers will need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, in one of its specialties, or in civil engineering technology. Whilst studying, aspiring civil engineers will learn math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics, depending on the specialty. Courses tend to include a mix of traditional classroom learning, work in laboratories, and fieldwork. Programs may include cooperative programs, also known as co-ops, in which students gain work experience while pursuing a degree.

To progress further in their career (e.g., to become managers), civil engineers will need further education of their bachelor’s degree, a PE license and relevant work experience.

Example Job Titles for Civil Engineer

Below is a list of common job titles in the Civil Engineer field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for civil engineer was $87,060 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $144,560. The top paying industry was the federal government, with a median annual salary of $95,380. This is followed by the local government ($93,380), engineering services ($87,710), the state government ($82,030) and nonresidential building construction ($76,340).

Autonomy and Flexibility

Generally speaking, civil engineers will have high autonomy. They are a senior member in a construction project and therefore have control over decisions regarding design and finance. This level of autonomy only gets higher throughout a civil engineers career, as they can gather more experience and get more responsibility.

Flexibility may be slightly lower as civil engineers will have many strict project deadlines to work towards. This means that they may have little control over how they plan their day and what meetings to attend.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be a civil engineer, based on average annual salary and number of job opportunities, are:

  • Alaska, where the average annual salary is $85,194
  • California, where the average annual salary is $91,840
  • Nevada, where the average annual salary is $79,406
  • Texas, where the average annual salary is $75,122
  • New Hampshire, where the average annual salary is $74,713

The worst states, according to Zippia are Kansas, Montana, Alabama, Wyoming and Arkansas.

Work environment

The largest employers of civil engineers in the United States was engineering services, which hired 49% of all civil engineers in 2019. 12% of civil engineers were employed by the sate government, 10% work for the local government, 6% were employed by nonresidential building construction and 3% work for the federal government.

Civil engineers will work in a variety of locations and conditions. At the early stages of a project, when working on the design, civil engineers may work in offices. However, when the project is commencing civil engineers may spend a lot of time onsite monitoring operations or solving onsite problems. In some cases, civil engineers may have many projects on at once and will therefore have to travel to different locations.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Civil Engineer careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Civil Engineer career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Civil Engineer.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

There has been no scientific exploration into exactly what personality types will make a successful civil engineer. However, the Myers Briggs personality type of INTJ, or otherwise known as ‘the inspector’, is likely to be a successful civil engineer. This is because these types of people are responsible, reserved, organized and productive. They have a strong focus on detail and doing things correctly and have the ability to make a schedule and stick to it, which are key skills for successful civil engineer.

Accomplishment and mastery

The sense of achievement and skill mastery when a civil engineer lands their first job is likely to be high. From the get go, civil engineers will have a lot of responsibility and will need feel like they are putting their skills into practice. What is more, is that civil engineers will continue to feel accomplished each time they successfully design a project to be safe, environmentally friendly and cost efficient.

Meaning and contribution

The work of a civil engineer has the potential to be incredibly meaningful. As civil engineers are responsible for designing many of the things we need (e.g., bridge, buildings, dams) their work contributes greatly to society. As a whole, it is likely that civil engineers will feel a great sense of meaning and contribution.

Life fit

Most civil engineers will work normal full time hours, which offers a great life fit. However, many civil engineers will work additional hours to monitor the progress on a project, to ensure that designs meet requirements and to guarantee that deadlines are met. 

Who will thrive in this career?

There are many qualities that a civil engineer needs in order to thrive. Such qualities include:

  • Being environmentally minded, as civil engineers must design environmentally friendly projects
  • Creativity, as there is a lot of design in civil engineering
  • Organization, as there is a lot of planning that goes into designing buildings, dams and/or roads
  • The ability to communicate with others, as civil engineers will spend much of their time liaising  with architects, clients, construction workers and other engineers

Who will struggle in this career?

You may struggle as a civil engineer if you are not naturally creative. Those who can’t pay attention to details may struggle as a civil engineer. However, those who also cannot envision the big picture may struggle as a civil engineer.

Those who prefer to not communicate with others throughout their working day will struggle with the constant need to communicate and confer with others. Finally, those who are not looking for a career that requires a degree will not qualify to become a civil engineer.

Requirements

Skills and talents

Civil engineers will learn many of the skills they need during their education and studying. However, they must also have skills such as:

  • Creativity, as engineers are responsible for designing the construction projects and must make them unique and exciting
  • Visulization skills, as civil engineers must be able to look at the big picture and envision how a project will look once completed
  • Communication skills, as civil engineers will work with lots of different people – from construction workers to architects to town planners
  • Organizational skills, as civil engineers may work on more than one project at a time. They  will need to keep on top of paperwork, contracts and meetings
  • Technical skills,  as civil engineers must use complexed software to design buildings

Education

Civil engineers will either need: a) a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering; b) a bachelors degree in one of its specialties; or c) a bachelors degree in civil engineering technology.

In all of the above courses, aspiring civil engineers will learn math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics. Each course tends to include a mix of traditional classroom learning, work in laboratories, and fieldwork. Programs may include cooperative programs (also known as co-ops) in which students gain work experience while pursuing a degree.

Certifications

Civil engineers can earn the professional engineer (PE) license. In order to earn this, civil engineers must complete a degree from a program accredited by ABET. In many states, a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology also meets the academic requirement for obtaining a license.

How to Become

Summary

Civil engineers design large construction projects and develop infrastructures. They are responsible for overseeing and managing the design process, for supervising the project whilst it is being constructed and for the maintenance after. Civil engineers may work on buildings, roads, bridges and/or dams. They may design systems that deliver water to residential and commercial buildings, as well as the systems that remove sewage and wastes.

Immediate action

If becoming a civil engineer appeals to you, then we recommend taking a look at colleges near you that offer accredited civil engineering degrees. To have the best chance of getting accepted onto one of these degree programs, we advise having lots of extra-curricular activities (e.g., sports teams, art classes).

Education and learning

Civil engineers will either need: a) a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering; b) a bachelors degree in one of its specialties; or c) a bachelors degree in civil engineering technology. To obtain a professional engineer license (PE) these programs must be accredited by the ABET.

Skill development

Civil engineers will learn many of their skills through their education. Once they graduate, they can take further training in order to give them more career progression opportunities. Throughout their career, civil engineers will advance and develop their skills.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Civil Engineer careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33872 Project Manager Female 41 $60,000 raleigh, NC 01/01/2010
33742 Project Manager Male 42 $55,000 New York, NY 01/01/2010
33495 Packaging Systems Engineer Female 36 $113,000 parker, CO 01/01/2010
33178 Graduate Engineer Female 23 $52,000 Irving, TX 01/01/2010
32967 Drafter Male 25 $28,000 Springfield, NY 01/01/2010

Resources