The 4 Qualifications for Civil Engineering Explained

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 2, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Civil engineers design, build and maintain various elements of infrastructure. Regardless of our current work experience and qualifications, knowing the required qualifications for civil engineering roles can help you decide if you want to pursue this career. Knowing what it takes to become a civil engineer can be a useful piece of information, and you can get it by researching the subject. In this article, we discuss what a civil engineer is, what they do and list the main qualifications for the role.

What is a civil engineer?

A civil engineer is a professional who creates, designs, constructs, supervises and maintains various infrastructure projects and systems for both public and private sectors. Some of the most common projects of this kind are roads, airports, bridges, dams, tunnels and water supply and sewage systems. They're usually involved in all aspects and phases of a major project, from gathering the required documentation to performing regular maintenance operations after completion.

Given the complexity of their projects, civil engineers usually specialize in one of these areas:

  • Construction engineers: They manage and supervise construction projects, making sure everything takes place according to plan, within budget, on time and while following safety standards.

  • Structural engineers: They create structural designs for major projects, such as bridges and dams, to make sure they're durable.

  • Geotechnical engineers: They specialize in analyzing how foundations for major structures interact with the soil and rocks around them, ensuring their solidity.

  • Transportation engineers: They work on designing, building and maintaining various infrastructure systems, like roads and highways and also design larger infrastructure projects, such as airports and harbors.

Related: What Is Civil Engineering? Definition and Steps To Become a Civil Engineer

What does a civil engineer do?

Some of the most common activities that civil engineers regularly perform are:

  • Analyzing all available information, like plans, survey reports and maps, with the purpose of planning and designing feasible projects

  • Assessing any potential challenges to a project, such as costs, regulations and environmental hazards

  • Making sure that all aspects of a project fully comply with local, state and federal regulations

  • Analyzing the soil to determine its suitability for supporting a large building foundation

  • Determining the most appropriate materials to use on various construction projects

  • Calculating a project's economic feasibility by preparing cost estimates for elements like materials, labor and equipment

  • Using computer software to plan and design various major infrastructure systems in line with current safety and quality standards

  • Maintaining, repairing and replacing various elements of existing infrastructure

Related: How To Become an Army Civil Engineer

4 qualifications for civil engineering

The four main qualifications you need to become a civil engineer are:

1. Education

The first step toward a civil engineering career is earning a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or civil engineering technology. The subjects that are likely to be important in your career are mathematics, statistics, fluid dynamics and engineering mechanics and systems. Most courses comprise classic classroom training, laboratory work and fieldwork.

Although a bachelor's degree is technically enough for a career as a civil engineer, those who wish to pursue leadership and management roles can improve the chances of standing out from their competitors by also earning a master's degree. It can also give you the chance to specialize in one particular area of civil engineering. If you wish to pursue postsecondary-level civil engineer teaching roles or high-level consulting roles, earning a doctorate can improve your chances.

Related: 50 Civil Engineering Interview Questions

2. Work experience

Most civil engineer educational programs include a civil engineering internship that helps students understand some of the practical aspects of the role and allows them to practice what they learned in class. Most internships happen in either the junior or the senior year of study. Receiving advice and mentorship from experienced civil engineers can not only help you develop your civil engineering skills but also help you stand out from the competition when looking for jobs in the field.

3. Certification

Although it's not required for entry-level roles, if you wish to be eligible for advanced roles as a civil engineer, you need to earn licensure for the state in which you want to operate. Earning a Professional Engineering license gives you the authority to supervise other engineers, approve plans and take responsibility for projects. The main requirements for earning a Professional Engineer license are:

  • Earning a degree from an accredited engineering program

  • Getting a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam you take after graduation

  • Have at least four years of relevant work experience in entry-level roles under the supervision of a licensed engineer

  • Get a passing score on your Professional Engineering exam

Although most states have their own licensure procedures, most states recognize certifications from other states as long as they're at least as strict as their own. Some states also require continuing education from civil engineers.

Please note that the license mentioned in this article is not affiliated with Indeed.

Related: What Skills Does a Civil Engineer Need?

4. Skills

The most important skills to acquire for successfully working as a civil engineer are:

  • Math skills: Engineering involves various aspects of mathematics, such as trigonometry and calculus, which you use for analyses, designs and troubleshooting.

  • Leadership skills: As a licensed civil engineer, you take full responsibility for your projects, meaning that you have to efficiently collaborate with all parties involved to make the project a success.

  • Decision-making skills: When designing, building and maintaining a major structure, there are many important decisions that civil engineers must either take regarding technical aspects, financial costs, safety concerns and other major elements of such a project.

  • Organizational skills: because civil engineers design plans and other documents for infrastructure projects that other professionals then follow, being able to organize everyone in a way that ensures their compliance with your plans is an important aspect of the role.

  • Communication skills: As a civil engineer, being able to speak clearly and to properly communicate through writing is usually highly important, as you constantly have to communicate with various parties, like builders, project stakeholders and local authorities.

  • Problem-solving skills: Given the complexity of civil engineering designs, various challenges are likely to occur while building them and, as a civil engineer, your role is to find ways to overcome them.

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