Duties and responsibilities
A transportation engineer is a civil engineer who is responsible for planning, designing, operating (yep, you guess it)… transportation systems. They may be responsible for the systems we use everyday, such as streets and highways. Or, they may plan and design larger projects such as airports, ship ports, mass transit systems and harbours. Their key tasks include:
- Simulating transport problems using computer models and working out solutions
- Analysing and interpreting data gathered from transport studies
- Forecasting the impact of new developments
- Looking at schemes to manage traffic
- Studying accident ‘black spots’ to design road safety improvements
- Writing reports for funding bids and planning authorities
- Acting as an expert witness during public enquiries
Transportation engineers will need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from an ABET-accredited program. To obtain licensure, transportation engineers will need to pass several exams, participate in internships and obtain work experience. Many transportation engineers will go on to achieve a masters degree as this will allow them to enter high paying management positions.
Skills and relevant work experience
Transportation engineers will start their career as an engineer in training and will have to pass more exams in order to become a structural engineer. This on-the-job training teaches them many of the skills they need. However, transportation engineers will also need skills such as:
- Problem-solving skills, as transportation engineers will need to analyze traffic problems and find solutions
- Organizational skills, as transportation engineers will need to ensure they keep on top of things so that projects can be delivered on time
- Leadership skills, as transportation engineers will need to manage projects and direct other people (e.g., architects, construction workers)
- Negotiation skills, as transportation engineers will need to negotiate plans and contracts with the relevant authorities
- Communication skills, (both written and verbal) as transportation engineers must share their ideas with clients, architects, construction workers and all other professionals involved in the process. They must also keep reports up to date
- Analytical skills, as transportation engineers must be able to analyze facts and figures before making judgements
- Computer skills, as transportation engineers will have to use various softwares to design structurally sound and durable projects
Transportation engineers are likely to work full time hours (40 hours per week). They may have to travel to different projects, which can mean that they may work over this 40 hours.
According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for a transportation engineer in the United States is $58,539. The lowest 10% earned less than $48,985 and the highest 10% earned over $68,269.
By obtaining a masters degree, transportation engineers will have lots more opportunities. Although they are fairly senior members of projects, transportation engineers may progress to move into project management, consultancy, research and lecturing.