Careers

Learn About Being a Construction Engineer

What does a construction engineer do?

A construction engineer is a civil engineer who oversees the design and implementation of large building projects. They also assist in maintaining infrastructure systems, such as roads, dams, water supply systems and buildings. They work with a team of fellow engineers and construction crews to organize and complete projects. Other responsibilities could include: 

  • Developing construction project budgets
  • Gathering resources, including employees, tools, machines and physical materials
  • Operating machinery and using tools 
  • Using computer software to plan and design projects
  • Overseeing progress and safety on construction sites

Average salary

Construction engineers are typically full-time employees, though some may work on a contractual basis. Their salary may depend on the size, type and geographical location of the organization for which they work. Experience can also affect salary expectations for a construction engineer.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $80,636 per year
  • Some salaries range from $28,000 to $160,000 per year.

Construction engineer requirements

Construction engineers need to meet certain educational and licensing requirements to practice. Additionally, they should have extensive training and a specialized skill set to excel in their roles: 

Education

Construction engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree to obtain entry-level positions. A Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Engineering or Engineering is best, as they typically include coursework that prepares a student for a career in construction engineering. Those who wish to specialize in a specific type of construction engineering or work in an upper-level position should get a master’s degree. During education, students take coursework in engineering, physics, mathematics and other STEM-related classes.

Training

Aspiring construction engineers should undergo internships while still in school. Many engineering schools require students to complete internships as part of the program. During an internship, students can gain practical experience in the engineering field of their choice. Internships could last anywhere from four weeks to three months, and most students complete them over their summer breaks or immediately following graduation.

Construction engineers typically begin as entry-level engineers or assistant project engineers. In these roles, they learn to create purchase requisitions, process change orders, prepare monthly budget reports and participate in meetings. They also assist in the design and implementation of engineering projects.

Certifications

Construction engineers need the following licenses:

Engineer in Training

An EIT is a designation for engineering students who have recently graduated. To earn an EIT, applicants need to submit proof of graduating from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology Inc. and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination. This exam lasts six hours, and individuals need to take it at an approved testing site. An EIT allows engineers to practice while they prepare for their Professional Engineer licensure requirements.

Professional Engineer license

A PE allows a construction engineer to practice as an individual without supervision. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but most require engineers to have three to four years of experience under the guidance of a licensed professional. They also need to pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam, which lasts eight hours. Engineers need to renew this credential based on their state’s guidelines. 

Skills

Construction engineers can excel in their roles with the following skills:

Computer skills

Construction engineers use computer-aided drafting software to create a variety of blueprints. Knowing these programs is essential in developing and executing plans. They may also use computers to track project progress and monitor time. 

Communication

This skill involves both written and verbal communication. Construction engineers work with a variety of professionals while in an office setting and on-site. They should be able to communicate plans effectively with all team members and write clear instructions for projects. They may also use their written communication skills to draft email correspondence. 

Project management

These professionals often create objectives, develop steps, collect resources and monitor progress. Excellent project management skills help execute each part of the construction process. Project management skills can also help them complete projects on time and within the budget. 

Problem-solving

When developing plans for construction projects, these engineers might encounter issues relating to budget, size, location or resources. They use problem-solving regularly to ensure they can finish a project with ease. They may also face challenges while the project is in progress, so problem-solving can aid them in removing obstacles for team members to continue working. 

Construction engineer work environment

Many construction engineers split their work time between an office and the actual construction site. Office time may involve filling out safety forms, filing important paperwork and revising blueprints. On-site time may include monitoring operations, offering input during the process and resource allocation. Construction engineers can expect the following from their work environment:

  • Sitting in an office environment while working on a computer
  • Standing or walking at a construction site
  • Wearing protective apparel, such as boots and hard hats
  • Communicating with a variety of construction and engineering professionals
  • Operating equipment or using tools occasionally

Most construction engineers work for government agencies or private engineering firms. They typically work full time, though some may operate part-time or on a contractual basis. Their hours are usually regular business hours, though they may work overtime to meet deadlines.

How to become a construction engineer

Follow these steps to become a construction engineer:

1. Earn a degree

You can earn either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in an engineering field. If you want to apply for management roles faster or specialize in a specific field, you should earn a master’s degree. Consider completing internships to begin gaining practical engineering experience. 

2. Obtain your EIT

You need an EIT to enter the construction engineering field. The EIT exam lasts six hours and covers topics that you learned during your education.

3. Gain experience

You can gain experience in entry-level engineering roles to prepare to practice on your own. You need at least three years of experience with a licensed engineer before applying for a PE. 

4. Apply for a PE

A PE allows you to be a construction engineer who can offer your services to the public. You need to pass an eight-hour exam and submit proof of your experience. Each state has its own standards, so you may need to meet additional requirements. You also need to renew your PE licensure depending on your state’s guidelines. 

Construction engineer job description example

Private firm seeking a construction engineer to fill a singular role. We need a dedicated individual willing to work with construction and engineering team members to finish projects, specifically in infrastructure projects. The construction engineer will complete a variety of responsibilities for multiple projects, sometimes at the same time. Duties include: 

  • Developing project plans
  • Monitoring construction progress
  • Reporting progress to stakeholders
  • Collecting resources, including materials and labor
  • Tracking weekly reports

The successful candidate will have five years of experience, excellent communication skills and problem-solving abilities. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum, but a master’s degree is preferred. Experience with CAD software is required. The successful candidate will be team-oriented and can work with a variety of professionals. Regular business hours with occasional overtime required.

Related careers

If you’re interested in this path, consider the following careers related to construction engineering: