Success Stories by Civil Engineers

Our entire public world is touched by the tireless and creative work of civil engineers. If you have dreams of joining their ranks, read on to discover inspiration and helpful information.
Nader Mowlaee
A civil engineer examines a structural map.Explora_2005/iStock

Civil engineers are integral for helping to create roads, build bridges and maintain transportation and structural infrastructures that we all depend on in the cities and towns around the world. So, it comes as no surprise that civil engineers continue to stay in demand in the job market, regardless of where in the work they are. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11-percent growth in demand for civil engineers between 2016 and 2026. This is much higher than the average growth rate in other engineering disciplines.

But if you want to carve out your own path of success as a civil engineer, it's worth drawing inspiration from the civil engineering professionals who have created their own successful career paths. Here are some of the most successful civil engineers and their stories of success.


What Do Civil Engineers Do?

From high-rise building infrastructure projects to designing bridges, civil engineers take on a wide variety of tasks. As a civil engineer, your duties may include designing software to map out hydraulic systems, preparing estimates for project expenses or submitting permit applications to the city officials for upcoming projects to ensure your organization is in compliance with local, state, and federal laws. Civil engineers typically can expect to be responsible for reporting, planning, estimating, managing projects and tasks, and completing administrative work. The exact tasks you can expect to accomplish as a civil engineer will depend on the company you work for, and your particular position or role on a given project.

What Skills Do Civil Engineers Need?

Civil engineers require various skills that can help them with analyzing, planning and designing different projects and infrastructures. Some of the key skills civil engineers need for success include analytic, leadership, problem-solving, decision-making and organizational skills. Communication skills and the ability to partner and collaborate is important to have as you can expect to work with teams and various stakeholders during any project. Having a skill set that can complement the responsibilities you can expect to have on the job helps improve your chances for success in your career.

What Career Options are Available in Civil Engineering?

Some of the most successful civil engineers specialize in transportation, geotechnical engineering, construction, and structural engineering. Each specialization requires different tasks. For instance, a structural engineer may provide recommendations for design specifications of tunnels, bridges and other structures to design-build firms or architects. As a structural engineer, you may also have to calculate the load of snow or other elements that a building structure can bear or be in charge of inspecting structures during a construction project. On the other hand, your line of work may involve estimating the constraints of a tunnel or other structure your company plans to build on soil or rock if you specialize as a geotechnical engineer.

How Do Civil Engineers Carve a Path for Success?

If you want to carve out your own path of success as a civil engineer, then it's worth drawing inspiration from the professionals who have created their own fruitful career paths. Most thriving civil engineers get a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from an ABET-accredited school and often get licenses for senior positions. However, there are several paths you can take to develop the engineering career you desire. Here are some inspiring stories from successful civil engineers:

  • Jon Magnusson. Jon Magnusson's road to success called for combining what he learned in school with real-world experiences. He studied engineering at the University of Washington and spent college summers chipping at concrete, cleaning tools, and shooting surveying lines to ensure building safety at his first on-site engineering job. Magnusson began his career in structural engineering working on large stadiums and other projects. He worked his way up to become the vice president of the company and later became the CEO when he was only 34-years-old. He renamed the company Magnusson Klemencic Associates and has since led several projects worth a total of over $73 billion. Magnusson earned several rewards thanks to his efforts, including Structural Engineer of the Year and the Designer Lifetime Achievement award. With over 25 years of experience with running the company, Magnusson has learned that finding good mentors and a focus on learning how to improve your organization rather than just advancing your career helps lead to a rewarding career path and ultimate success.

  • Nora Stanton Blatch Barney. As the first female inductee and junior member to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Nora Staton Blatch Barney made history. She's America's first female civil engineer and one of the first in the country to earn a civil engineering degree. She worked as a draftswoman on the first aqueduct and reservoir for New York and was a pioneer for women's suffrage during a time when women were not recognized for their work in STEM careers. She was finally recognized as a Fellow for the ASCE almost a century after applying for fellow status.
  • Angelina Jay. Angelina Jay started out studying aerospace engineering but soon switched paths to develop a successful civil engineering career. Jay earned her Ph.D. in civil engineering from the Northeastern University and works for an engineering consulting firm in New York as an associate. She works with several departments as the company provides services in the field of forensic structural engineering, and she often takes on various duties, including site inspections. Part of her path to success called for relying on her relationships with the connections she built at Northeastern University.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to start your career as a civil engineer or specialize later down the road as a structural engineer, it is important to have an idea of how to accomplish your goals. By using the success stories of the varied and great civil engineers listed here as inspiration, you can have more insight into what it takes to have a successful civil engineering career on your own terms.

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