Civil Engineer: Job Description, Duties, Salary, and Other Requirements

FT Contributor
Two civil engineers in hardhats overlook a city while one holds plans in his hands.

Ever wonder who figured out how to build the world’s largest and most gravity-defying buildings, bridges, and structures? Civil engineers are responsible for measuring, designing, and creating plans for these buildings, structures, and roads. With intricate planning, analysis, troubleshooting, and well-thought out execution, civil engineers develop designs for structures that are functional and efficient for all of society for years to come.

If you’re not sure whether a career as a civil engineer is right for you, it’s important to review the specifics of this role, including the education requirements, job outlook, median salary, and duties.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Civil engineers work on architectural projects and focus on safety, ensuring these projects will be functionally and structurally sound. A civil engineer may assist with many types of structures, including bridges, roads, dams, airports, tunnels, and water sewage systems.

More specifically, civil engineers may be assigned the following duties for their projects:

  • Analyzing plans, maps, and surveys to help design projects.
  • Organizing and submitting permit applications to federal and local agencies.
  • Calculating the costs of construction.
  • Bringing important issues, such as environmental hazards or government regulations, to the attention of the project managers.
  • Providing cost estimates for materials, labor, and equipment.
  • Helping to establish project locations, reference points, and elevations.
  • Assisting in the repair, replacement, and maintenance of public infrastructures.
  • Designing transportation systems, hydraulic systems, or structures according to government standards.
  • Analyzing soil testing results to ensure the ground is acceptable for building.

Civil engineers may also be responsible for presenting their project findings, such as property descriptions or bids, to the public if they’re working on public works projects. They must work closely with construction and project managers to ensure construction sites are safe and project details are communicated properly amongst all entities.

Average Civil Engineer Salary

Although civil engineering is not one of the highest-paying engineering jobs in the industry, workers in these roles are still compensated well. The salary you’ll earn depends on your education, training, years of experience, and the field you enter.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a civil engineer in May 2018 was $86,640. The highest paying civil engineering jobs can be found in the federal and local government sectors. To enter the civil engineering field, you’ll need secondary education; a high-paying engineering job is helpful when you’re paying off student loans.

Getting a Civil Engineering Education, Licenses, Certifications, and Training

To become a civil engineer, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, civil engineering technology, or another specialty within the field. Secondary education is expensive but student loans will help pay for your schooling. It’s important to understand what student loans can be used for since you may incur costs not related to your education while attending school.

You can also complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify for financial aid. When you obtain grants or scholarships, you may not have the same freedom with the money you receive as you do for student loans which can sometimes pay for rent or other expenses.

If you plan to get a civil engineering job in the public service sector, you’ll need to earn your Professional Engineering (PE) license. To earn your license, you must work for at least four years under a licensed engineer and pass two exams. You may also be required to receive continuing education to satisfy your state’s requirements for license renewal. In many cases, you’ll only be considered for promotion to a senior position if you have your PE license and a graduate degree in civil engineering.

Civil Engineering Job Outlook

The job outlook for civil engineers is positive, with a projected 6% growth from 2018 to 2028. This growth is about the same as most other occupations and can be attributed to the constant need for repairs and maintenance to current infrastructures.

As our population grows worldwide, civil engineers are needed to assist in redesigning and updating water sewer systems to eliminate leaks and ensure all components are structurally sound. A larger population also demands better transportation solutions, so civil engineers are hired to assist in redesigning and widening roads to allow traffic to flow more freely.

Renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, also need the assistance and creativity of civil engineers. These growing industries require civil engineers to assist in the planning and construction of structures that serve as reliable energy sources for the public.

Should I Become a Civil Engineer?

In addition to education, licensure, and training, you’ll also need to possess specific qualities to be successful as a civil engineer. These workers have a passion for organization, planning, and detail-oriented work. Since most civil engineers must work together with a team of professionals, you’ll need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills. Analytical and research skills are also important, since you’re tasked with understanding the ever-changing government guidelines and building codes.

A career in civil engineering isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to ensure you understand the duties and skills you need to be successful in this position. As a civil engineer, you’ll put your analytical and planning skills to the test to create and update some of the most important structures used by public and private entities.

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