Advice on Getting a Civil Engineering Job

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Comments (16)

GTL23 in Miami, Florida

34 months ago

I guess keep your head up, The FE is weird, companies ask for it, but all my interviews have never asked me about it, but almost all asked me if i was getting my masters. I did not pass the FE, after scoring 75% in some areas and it was below average.

I would get a degree in electrical engineering, all my friends have jobs, as for civil friends, only 3 out of 50, and all three knew somebody.

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girgism in Orangeburg, South Carolina

34 months ago

I understand. Out of all my friends who got jobs, they either knew someone, were able to stay with the company they interned for, or were at the very top of the class with a lot of experience, but mainly the first two. Outside of that, most of my friends don't have civil jobs. I really only know one person and he has been trying to help me get a job with the DOT.

I've already settled on the idea of Master's degree, though. I'm going to go the non-degree route and try my best to get A's and hopefully the University will accept me, I just need to figure out how to pay for it.

As for another degree, I think it would be easier for me to get a mechanical degree since a few of the basic classes are the same for civils and mechanicals (statics, dynamics, strength of materials, etc). Either that or get a degree that is useful for civil engineering, like mining or geology, but like I said, I've settled on the idea of a Master's.

About the FE, I have never been asked about during interviews, just that it is required on the job listing. One of my friends got a job because of someone he knew with the DOT and he didn't pass the FE.

I'm still going to try the free internship idea because it doesn't hurt, but when I wrote this I wasn't aware of all the options I had and was trying to research for more, which what all I have said is all I have found.

Like you said, keep your head up. I don't know if you have had trouble with finding a job, but I hope what I've found is helpful to you.

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Kevin in Kansas City, Missouri

30 months ago

Quit wile you're still ahead. Change your major or emphasis, and do whatever you can to get out of civil engineering. This field is sadly in the middle of a bust. There are no jobs to be found anywhere. Electrical, mechanical, petroleum, chemical engineers, etc. are getting hired left and right at the moment, and at much higher salaries than any civil engineer can expect to see, even after 5+ years of experience. It's truly a reflection on supply and demand. Unfortunately there is an overabudnance of un/underemployed civil engineers in the market right now. Because nobody is building anything, or planning to build anything for years to come (since everyone is broke), there isn't any need for civil engineers. Hence why so many of them are witout jobs, or are working in jobs that aren't within the normal ranger of what would be considered a civil engineer. One of my meighbors used to be a civil engineer, but has since switched careers because he couldn't find any work over the past few years. But another neighbor is an electrical engineer, who happens to make a nice six figure salary. He's never been out of work before. That comparison just between my two neighbors is probably what you'll see across the entire country right now. If you can get out of civil engineering, do so immediately. Otherwise you might spend the rest of your life regretting your decision.

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girgism

30 months ago

I graduated in May 2011, so it's too late to change majors. I did find a job that is sort of civil engineering and I'm treating it as the internship I never had. It's field tech work and if I choose to stay, then I'll eventually start doing civil engineering work. Though, I do hope to find work elsewhere after a year or so here.

Thanks for all the feedback.

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Agent Dale Cooper in Blacksburg, Virginia

27 months ago

I can understand your concerns. I just earned my second degree in civil engineering. I applied to roughly 30 job postings over a 3 month period leading up to Spring graduation. I had two interviews and was offered a job as a consulting site engineer in a relatively weak local market for development. I do have work experience in a non-related field which seemed to distinguish me from slightly younger civil engineering graduates (because I have proven work experience).

Obtaining some kind of CE work experience is a great idea. Just get a google map list of the local civil engineering firms (and contractors) in your area, find a point of contact for the office, and send en email with resume and cover letter telling them that you want to work as an intern for $10-15/hour, as much as they need you. Free labor is unacceptable and not good for anyone, especially in engineering. This would be the deal of a lifetime for one of the firms if they enough work in the pipeline. You would be ridiculously cheap overhead. They can give you some training, you get a little income to stay afloat, and perhaps they can give you recommendations as your pursue finding a job.

The commercial development market is pretty strong in D.C. right now, but I'm not sure of other areas. It's relatively easy to see that it's feast or famine in the CE industry. Right now, the downturn in the market has been extended longer than usual due to the severity of the mortgage crisis. Banks are not issuing credit to developers because they were on extra bad behavior during the last boom and have become super risk averse; we all suffer as a result.

Development should pick up slowly over the next few years. Population keeps rising, the demand for rent goes up, but so does the price of rent. As rents become too high, people will consider buying again. In 1-3 years, there should be a market correction and the supply of work should be ample. Best of luck!

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carl in Los Angeles, California

27 months ago

Kevin in Kansas City, Missouri said: Quit wile you're still ahead. Change your major or emphasis, and do whatever you can to get out of civil engineering . This field is sadly in the middle of a bust. There are no jobs to be found anywhere. Electrical , mechanical, petroleum, chemical engineers, etc. are getting hired left and right at the moment, and at much higher salaries than any civil engineer can expect to see, even after 5+ years of experience. It's truly a reflection on supply and demand. Unfortunately there is an overabudnance of un/underemployed civil engineers in the market right now. Because nobody is building anything, or planning to build anything for years to come (since everyone is broke), there isn't any need for civil engineers. Hence why so many of them are witout jobs, or are working in jobs that aren't within the normal ranger of what would be considered a civil engineer . One of my meighbors used to be a civil engineer, but has since switched careers because he couldn't find any work over the past few years. But another neighbor is an electrical engineer , who happens to make a nice six figure salary. He's never been out of work before. That comparison just between my two neighbors is probably what you'll see across the entire country right now. If you can get out of civil engineering , do so immediately. Otherwise you might spend the rest of your life regretting your decision.

Please email me dorianf3@gmail.com i have a few things to ask you regarding this issue

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El Plebe Rosaliado in Los Angeles, California

27 months ago

Civil engineering is dead. I blame it on the juice

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Fred in Los Angeles, California

21 months ago

There are a lot of openings around on paper and internet, but I am not sure what these employers are looking for, a golden goose, cheap labor, someone with business contacts?! Who knows.

For example, try URS corporation, a big company. It is a shame. I didn't have luck with them or any other company even with my few years of experience. Don't be afraid of applying everywhere though for a few months even other parts of the world. You might find more rewarding work out side of USA. When times were good was because businesses were artificially inflated and no one could see the forest for the trees. A public sector I used to work for, contracted seismic retrofit of their building to a foreign company a few years back. What does that tell you about cheap labor or what will happen if people will run out of money or want to spend less?

I also agree that you may have to change your major to something else: Technology or health care.

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Monte888 in Shawnee, Kansas

20 months ago

I am an older student and have gone back to get my second bachelor's in civil engineering. I will graduate in May. I have a good GPA, work experience (non-related), and am involved in school organizations as an officer. I have yet to hear back from any of the big companies to which I've submitted my resume. I've probably submitted near 100 resumes and have received three rejections and the rest non-responses.

The entire reason I went back and chose civil over computer science or chemical engineering is that the job news was constantly touting the need for civil engineers into the next decade. I thought that jobs would be plentiful. Now I am discovering this is sadly not the case. It is too late for me to change my major, although I desperately wish I could.

Funny thing is, I still read the career-forecasting articles, and they are still saying civil engineering is going to grow faster than average into the year 2020. What gives?

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girgism in Raleigh, North Carolina

20 months ago

I'd like to follow up on my current situation as this post continues to get responses. As I mentioned in one of my replies, I did get a job in consulting, working as a field technician. It wasn't the greatest job in the world (far from it, but I'm not getting into that). It was at least something that I felt was resume worthy.

After almost a year of working at that job, I finally land one that actually that utilizes my education and in the field I want. Again, it's not the greatest job, the pay isn't what my other engineer friends are making, but it's definitely step in the right direction, and I'm pretty happy with it. I'll be able to get the experience I want.

Don't give up, guys, even if you have start with some of the worst jobs, like I did. Obviously, I'm still towards the bottom, but things are definitely looking up. Good luck, everyone, and thanks for your thoughts, opinions, and advice.

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Keith in Kansas City, Missouri

20 months ago

Are there really any jobs available for civil engineers? All these news articles keep touting civil engineering as the next best thing through 2020, but the job pickings are still slim to none. This industry hit an absolute bottom in 2008/2009, but it doesn't seem to have improved much since then. Job postings aren't much better than they were 2-3 years ago, and we're supposed to be in a recovery now. So what's still holding this industry back? Where are all the yearly engineering graduates finding jobs, or all the older and more experienced civil engineers that were laid off during the recession? And who is actually hiring entry to mid level engineers? It seems like the majority of job postings are for exceptionally experienced people out there whom almost certainly have jobs because of the ridiciously high credentials required that are listed on every opening. Does this mean most civil engineering companies are simply trying to steal workers away from their competition, since they clearly don't want to train any potential candidates? I know quite a few software, electrical, petroleum, and mechanical engineers, and they all seem to be doing very well at the moment. But I can't say the same thing about anyone in civil engineering. When does anyone on here truly believe that this industry will return to full health? Just based on the comments here, and looking at job advertisements nationally, civil engineering would still appear in the duldrums. What are everyone else's thoughts?

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dabeastro in Sacramento, California

18 months ago

I think Keith in KCMO has hit it on the head. I would add that a great number of the most experienced guys seem to have delayed retirement after having their savings go bust. I think that is likely true in a number of industries. I have a great job as a new civil, except there is no advancement in sight. I would also add the civil engineering seems to be an industry in which they keep the old guys around for their experience. This is contrary to how many of the other engineering disciplines work, where they are shown the door once their knowledge is too dated to be relevant. Finally, I would note that it appears the economy might have a micro bubble going at the moment. However, I think it may be short lived as we work through the next several years of poor economic realities. Things like quantitative easing and government subsidies will need to end and the effects run through before a true recovery takes place. When that happens, the civils who stuck it out should be doing really well....until the next bust!

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WaterResourcesEngineer wannabe in Bedford, Texas

17 months ago

This is a sweeping generalization of a post with a discouraging tone. There ARE jobs out there, just not as many as there were 5 years ago. There will ALWAYS be some demand for civil engineers because even if no new public infrastructure is being built, someone has to maintain the existing infrastructure that every human being needs to live in today's world. Not only that, but there are large branches of civil engineering that don't depend directly on new construction. Flood plain management, reservoir management, inspections, water treatment, etc, etc.

Just yesterday, I made a decision to STOP applying for jobs solely ONLINE, and focus my energy on ACTIVELY VISITING physical company offices. In one afternoon, I had an on-the-spot interview for 30 minutes with an engineering manager who wants to get me hired. He said it is a breath of fresh air to have someone make the effort to come visit in this digital age. Compare this to the single, unfruitful interview I landed with 40 tedious online applications.
Here is the bottom line: Do what research you need to do online to get a feel for which companies you might want to work for and which ones seem to be hiring. Then get out there and hit 'em with a smiling face and a professional, yet persistent attitude. Do not waste more than a day getting the life sucked out of you in front of the computer screen. It's a false sense of reassurance that you are "doing what you can" to land a job. Go above and beyond your comfort zone.

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CivilEngineer1 in Matawan, New Jersey

15 months ago

WaterResourcesEngineer wannabe in Bedford, Texas said: Just yesterday, I made a decision to STOP applying for jobs solely ONLINE, and focus my energy on ACTIVELY VISITING physical company offices. In one afternoon, I had an on-the-spot interview for 30 minutes with an engineering manager who wants to get me hired. He said it is a breath of fresh air to have someone make the effort to come visit in this digital age. Compare this to the single, unfruitful interview I landed with 40 tedious online applications.
Here is the bottom line: Do what research you need to do online to get a feel for which companies you might want to work for and which ones seem to be hiring. Then get out there and hit 'em with a smiling face and a professional, yet persistent attitude. Do not waste more than a day getting the life sucked out of you in front of the computer screen. It's a false sense of reassurance that you are "doing what you can" to land a job. Go above and beyond your comfort zone.

You are on the right track, applying online is a mental accomplishment, but often doesn't give good results for the time put in. It's boxing - you want the best pound for pound boxer, just like you want the best job search technique per hour of work, not just the one that checks the most boxes. Though instead of walking into places, for civil engineering I would suggest calling companies.

It has the same principle of walking in since not many people do it, but it is less awkward and invasive for the company. (Some are off-put by a guy walking in because they are so busy) In civil engineering it is harder to find small companies to call since they don't have a big storefront or a ton of advertisement. These resources will give you lists of civil engineering companies to call where you live:

1. www.hoovers.com
2. www.jobunlocker.com
3. www.referenceusa.com

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TANWIR in Scarborough, Ontario

2 months ago

girgism said: I graduated in May 2011, so it's too late to change majors. I did find a job that is sort of civil engineering and I'm treating it as the internship I never had. It's field tech work and if I choose to stay, then I'll eventually start doing civil engineering work. Though, I do hope to find work elsewhere after a year or so here.

Thanks for all the feedback.

HOW DID YOU FIND THIS JOB EVEN FOR FIELD TECH THEY ASK FOR EXPERIENCE, I AM READY TO DO UNPAID INTERNSHIP TO GET EXPERIENCE,GRADUATED IN CIVIL ENGINEERING 2014

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Joel in Las Cruces, New Mexico

2 months ago

GTL23 in Miami, Florida said: I guess keep your head up, The FE is weird, companies ask for it, but all my interviews have never asked me about it, but almost all asked me if i was getting my masters. I did not pass the FE, after scoring 75% in some areas and it was below average.

I would get a degree in electrical engineering , all my friends have jobs, as for civil friends, only 3 out of 50, and all three knew somebody.

If you really want to start working as a civil engineer and skip all that BS internship stuff, Come to Texas/New Mexico Area, I came from California after graduating there and not be able to find a decent job (only a couple "internships" that are designed to keep you as cheap labor for a long long time". I found my first real job here in NM and stuff gets build from scratch here, not like in Los Angeles where everything is pretty much patch up projects.

When I was in California I was ready to do a second bachelor, I wanted to go into mechanical engineering because most of my mechanical engineer friends got jobs right away, even the not so smart ones. When I went back to Cal state they told me they were no longer accepting second bachelors because of the state budget, and that they might not put it back indefinitely (and that's for all Cal states)

Here you can go back and do as many bachelors as you like. will be going back soon

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