This career is expected to grow 19 percent through 2020.
Spurred by general population growth and the related need to improve the nation’s infrastructure, more civil engineers will be needed to design and construct or expand transportation, water supply, and pollution control systems and buildings and building complexes. They also will be needed to repair or replace existing roads, bridges and other public structures.
Salary & Wages
In 2010, civil engineers earned an average salary of $77,560. The lowest 10 percent earned $50,560, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $119,320.
What is a Civil Engineer?
Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems. They must consider many factors in the design process, from the construction costs and expected lifetime of a project to government regulations and potential environmental hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
Civil engineering, considered one of the oldest engineering disciplines, encompasses many specialties. The major ones are structural, water resources, construction, environmental, transportation and geo-technical engineering.
Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions, from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others may work in design, construction, research and teaching.
Education & Degree Path
To become a civil engineer, you will need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or surveying, an allied career area.
About 1,830 programs at colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in engineering accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Most programs are four years; sometimes students need five years to complete a four-year curriculum.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers (PE). This licensure generally requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, four years of relevant work experience and successful completion of a state examination.
Entering the Field:
Some enter civil engineering by earning an associate degree in surveying, one specialty area that is performed by civil engineers. Advancement in this field usually requires a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering but occasionally a college graduate with a degree in a natural science or mathematics may qualify for civil engineering tasks and associated careers.
There are a number of allied career areas—such as wastewater treatment, geo-spatial surveying, construction, environmental science, and geographic information systems (GIS)—where certificates or bachelor’s degrees can qualify you to work as part of an engineering team or inside an engineering firm without earning a formal ABET-accredited engineering degree.
Anyone with managerial experience might take an advanced certificate or master’s degree in technology management to re-focus their career for work with engineers or inside an engineering development firm. Construction management degrees are popular among those who want to work on the “practical” side of engineering or in the field overseeing large commercial and residential developments.
Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers in civil engineering, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-12 Edition, Civil Engineers.