Career Development

How To Become a Civil Engineer (With Salary and FAQs)

September 8, 2021

Civil engineering is a field of engineering that manages the design, construction and maintenance of a geographical area's public works and infrastructure. The professionals who work in this field are required to gain specialized education and practical training to develop the skills to be effective on the job. With proper education and relevant experience, you can build a successful career as a civil engineer. In this article, we discuss various aspects of civil engineering and how to become a civil engineer.

What does a civil engineer do?

Civil engineers work alongside architects and city planners to build and develop a well-equipped city. They are responsible for building and maintaining infrastructure projects like buildings, roads, bridges and so on. The job of a civil engineer may include the following duties:

  • Planning and strategizing various aspects of a project
  • Creating graphical presentations of civil structures using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Inspection of project sites to monitor the progress of work per the design specifications and safety norms
  • Participating in surveying the construction site of the upcoming projects
  • Estimating the cost of equipment and labor for project feasibility and making suggestions to better fit within budget limitations
  • Ensuring compliance with environmental regulations at every step of a project
  • Completing and filing project paperwork to ensure that all the involved parties fulfill their obligations and also meet the specific deadlines
  • Creating strong proposals that can convince a client or agency about a particular project

Read more: Learn About Being a Civil Engineer

Average salary for civil engineers

Civil engineer salaries can vary depending on years of experience, level of education and the organization that they work for. Their geographical location may also impact potential earnings.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $81,816 per year
  • Salaries range from $29,000 to $159,000 per year

How to become a civil engineer

To become a civil engineer, there are certain education, training and certifications requirements including:

  1. Earn a relevant bachelor's degree
  2. Gain practical experience
  3. Earn professional certifications
  4. Consider completing higher-level degrees

1. Earn a relevant bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree in civil engineering is typically the minimum educational requirement for a civil engineer position. This program includes a variety of topics such as mathematics, engineering and architectural design. There are different specializations for the students to choose from such as geotechnical, structural and transportation engineering. The students learn through various mediums that include class lectures, internships and fieldwork.

At the end of the program, the engineering graduates have to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. The engineers who pass this exam are called engineer-interns (EIs) or engineers-in-training (EITs).

Related: College Degrees With the Highest Starting Salaries

2. Gain practical experience

These professionals often need to apply their classwork and theory to practical projects. Many complete required internships while earning their bachelor's degree. Others may also complete cooperative education programs or apprenticeships to gain more experience under a supervising civil engineer. EITs can also apply for an entry-level job or advance into a full-time professional role from their internship. In addition, professional organizations like the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) update their job boards regularly.

3. Earn professional certifications

Certifications allow civil engineers to move to refine their skills, demonstrate their industry expertise, pursue more leadership roles and even increase their earning potential. Other certifications are required for necessary licensure.

Some common certifications include:

  • Principles and practice of engineering: After gaining work experience, EIs can take a knowledge exam to acquire full licensure and get certified as a professional engineer who works on projects for the public.
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification (LEED): The LEED certification can help civil engineers present their in-depth knowledge of the environmental impacts of engineering. This certification ensures they are capable of complying with all federal, state and local standards.

4. Consider completing higher-level degrees

To further their career, a civil engineer may pursue a master's or doctoral degree in civil engineering or another relevant engineering field. Those seeking managerial roles in an organization can pursue a master's degree. Someone interested in teaching at the collegiate level or working in consulting roles can pursue a doctoral-level degree.

Related: The 10 Best Master's Degrees for Finding a Job

FAQs about becoming a civil engineer

Here are some commonly asked questions about becoming a civil engineer to help you learn more about pursuing this career:

What skills are required for civil engineers?

A civil engineer should have certain skills that help them to be effective on a variety of projects. Here is a list of a few skills that successful civil engineers possess:

  • Decision-making skills: Civil engineers oversee projects of various scales. They have to make decisions during the development of a project like determining the feasibility of the project with respect to the cost and safety standards. A successful engineer should be able to make the right decisions by using best practices and applying their knowledge and experience.
  • Problem-solving skills: Civil engineers are responsible for planning, designing and implementing various operations and need to find efficient solutions for the problems that they may encounter. They must be able to analyze a project or element and anticipate all issues and create viable solutions.
  • Organizational skills: Good organizational skills are vital for a civil engineer. A civil engineer has to monitor the progress of the project and have to manage the team which includes other technicians and laborers. They may also have to work on several projects simultaneously.
  • Leadership skills: Civil engineers may lead or consult a team of fellow engineers, technicians, surveyors, planners and laborers in implementing the project work.
  • Math skills: Civil engineers also need to have a thorough understanding of calculus, trigonometry and other architecture or construction-related math required while working on a project

What is the work environment like for civil engineers?

Civil engineers can work in different kinds of locations and environments. depending on their employment type. Civil engineers work in both the public and private sectors, such as corporations, public service and government and nonprofits. Many spend most of their time in an office working on designing and planning. While overseeing a project, civil engineers may also have to work outside at the construction sites, supervising and guiding teams. They may also have to frequently relocate to different locations depending on the requirement of the project.

Civil engineers typically work full-time but sometimes they might need to work more than 40 hours a week to ensure that the deadlines for the projects are met.

What professional organizations can civil engineers join?

Joining a professional organization can help civil engineers continue their education and training, network with industry professionals and learn new industry techniques and technologies. Here are a few professional organizations that civil engineers can join:

  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE): This organization aims to present civil engineers as global leaders that help in building a better society. They also provide valuable education, certification and career information to civil engineers.
  • Earthquake Engineers Research Institute (EERI)**:** EERI is a nonprofit society of professionals such as civil engineers, architects, geoscientists, social scientists and public officials. They are dedicated to reducing the effects of earthquakes on buildings and infrastructures.
  • United States Society of Dams (USSD)**:** This organization is dedicated to the improvement of dams to ensure adequate water supply around the country.
  • American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)**:** ASEE is a nonprofit organization that is committed to facilitating the growth of education in the field of engineering.

What careers are similar to civil engineer?

If you're interested in the duties and skills for civil engineers, consider these roles as well:

National Average Salary: $58,144 per year

Primary Duties: Civil engineering technicians assist professional engineers in their work such as inspection of project sites and other duties.

National Average Salary: $70,289 per year

Primary Duties: Liaising with civil engineers, they help in the measurement of the defined areas for the project that could be used for mapmaking and designing.

National Average Salary: $77,333 per year

Primary Duties: Construction managers oversee the progress of construction projects along with civil engineers and architects.

Read more: Learn About Being a Construction Manager

National Average Salary: $107,344 per year

Primary Duties: Architects produce designs using various software and technologies that could be utilized for building the infrastructures.


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