All You Need to Know About Your Career as a Civil Engineer

Civil engineers form an integral and important feature in every community. If enough of the facts below sparked your interest, you may have found your dream job.
Interesting Engineering

Do you want to inspire respect in others? All you need is mention a qualification in civil engineering. It’s a job description that refers to intelligence, importance and professionalism.

Is this what you want to be associated with? To help you make your final career decision, read these guidelines. It’s an exciting, but challenging, position. Is it the career for you?

Civil Engineering Defined

What will your days consist of when you get that first job?


Civil engineers are planners and designers, or they do research in the field. Your job can be in the public or private sector, where you’ll focus on designing and maintaining constructions such as buildings or even water supplies. You’ll find better ways of building these and supervise the projects. Or perhaps you want to educate others on engineering or do consulting work? Those are job opportunities too. Where is your specialty?

A Civil Engineer’s To Do List

Let’s break it down. During projects, your responsibilities will revolve around the following activities.

The Engineer’s Responsibilities:


Can you use your skills to look into the future? A civil engineer’s training prepares him to analyze and predict possible long term effects of construction. During the planning phase maps, reports, soil tests, product tests and more must be analyzed. This implicates features such as the strength of foundations which is vital to safe and successful building projects.

Does the plan align with legal regulations and what does the risk analysis tell you to change? The best options, resources and tools must be found.


All your data is used to construct long-term plans and design practical milestones to ensure success. Luckily we’re in the 21st century where design software helps you get it right. Even something as intricate as a hydraulic system can be designed and your software will help you meet industry standards & regulations.


There’s an accounting aspect to the work too. Estimating costs—building, labor, resources and more—helps determine budgets, but also feasibility of projects.


A civil engineer’s work impacts many people and the environment. Therefore reporting to the public on these matters is vital.


After all your research is done you must still get permission to go ahead. You’ll sign and submit paperwork to authorities to get permits before work can begin.


No engineer ever works alone and seldom in privacy. The work is complex. You need to partner with other professionals to ensure the right outcome. 


You need organizational skills for this job too. You may be expected to supervise a work site or manage a repair process on an existing building. With this skill, you can even fill the role of city manager where safety on all the city’s work sites will be a huge focus.

Unique Applications

Are you interested in something unique? What about investing your skills to improve the world? Renewable energy is a buzz word at the moment and it’s civil engineers who lead the way with large-scale projects with photovoltaic or solar energy components. They ensure projects align with governments’ expectations. Do you consider the logistics necessary to put up a wind turbine? Civil engineers need to construct roadbeds to handle the trucks. 

You can see the job description of a civil engineer is diverse, interesting and you’re sure to find a niche that matches your particular interests.

Specialized Fields a Civil Engineer Can Enter

To match your career with what you’re passionate about, you can specialize in one of these fields:

Construction Engineers

During any construction project, someone must take responsibility for planning, site safety, the quality of temporary structures, communicating with the team and managing time & budgets. All these aspects are handled by civil engineers. 

Geotechnical Engineers

If you’re interested in how a construction—whether it’s a road, tunnel or building—interacts with what’s below, Geotechnical Engineering is your calling. They check foundations, plan features such as retaining walls and test soil & rock beneath structures. 

Structural Engineers 

Each structure’s sturdiness is vital for success. A structural engineer will plan and test this part of each building or construction to ensure long-term durability.

Transportation Engineers 

Ever thought who decides where a street should be or how an airport or harbor should work? Civil engineers play huge roles in constructing, as well as maintaining them. 

With the variety of areas civil engineers function in, their responsibilities may overlap with other professionals’. In terms of job description, it often resembles that of an environmental engineer.

Now that you know what you’re going to do, let’s look at the environment you’ll function in.

What Work Environment can You Expect?

You can imagine the demand for trained civil engineers is huge. They play an important role in any community. You can fill one of the 303,500 jobs available in one of these sectors:

-Engineering services employ 48% of civil engineers

-Governments employ 25%. This excludes education, health, and postal services.

-Nonresidential building construction requires 6% of these engineers

Where Will You Work?

Reading the descriptions of work above, you can imagine civil engineers spend a lot of time on work sites. While there, they use the following as workstations:

-Jobsite trailers



However, much of the planning and government-oriented activities happen in offices. You may even get the opportunity to travel and help with an international project if it requires your skillset.

How Much Will You Work?

Let’s be honest. Civil engineers work long hours. Your participation will be needed—often after hours—to ensure a project sticks to its deadline. It will always be full-time employment and 30% of civil engineers exceed a 40 hour work week.

Still up for the challenge? This is how you get there.

The Path to Becoming a Civil Engineer

Education is paramount. You can’t get this position without the qualifications:

-A bachelor’s degree to be employed

-Licenses if you want a senior role

Get the Degree

This is not a degree where you sit in a classroom all day. A civil engineering bachelor’s degree will have you paging through textbooks, doing analysis in laboratories and then you’ll be off to a location for fieldwork.

This is a job you need to be practically prepared for. Luckily the industry provides co-op programs where students can gain practical experience in the field.

And what is the knowledge you’ll apply? Get ready to be challenged by subjects such as:



-Fluid dynamics



But it’s not only the technical knowledge you need. An engineering manager is a coveted role but you need personal skills (see below), a PE (Professional Engineer) license and proof that you’re experienced enough to handle it. Will you?

Hone Your Personal Skills

How engineering jobs are done is as important as what is done. If you acquire some personal skills relevant to this field, you’ll excel above your peers. Can you balance all these skills in your daily routine?

Can You Make Decisions?

You will have the responsibility of making financial, safety and practical decisions. Other professionals will consult with you and use your advice as guidance. In your decision making, you’ll use experience, best practices and technical knowledge as your guides. Learn to trust yourself and your skills.

Can You Lead? 

You must lead a team of professionals in reaching a common goal. This includes planners, technicians, and surveyors. Do you have the authority to guide them and the courage to take responsibility for the outcome? 

Know Your Math

You must love mathematics in this position. You’ll use these to plan and analyze on a daily basis:



-Advanced math topics

Can You Organize?

An entire job site’s functioning may be your responsibility. Can you keep track of what’s required, contact necessary role players, do documentation to keep work flowing and evaluate outcomes continuously? You may have to handle these responsibilities for multiple sites at the same time. Time management and resource allocation are essential. 

Do Problems Daunt or Inspire You?

You must realize by now a civil engineer’s work is riddled with possible challenges. And it’s your task to guide the project through these obstacles. You do this during research and planning & it continues throughout construction. You must handle sudden complications as well as identify and prevent problems even before they happen. 

Power of the Pen

Your knowledge will occasionally be required on paper. Your team, officials or citizens will need reports or an email on the progress that affects them. You must state it in a way anyone can comprehend.

Do You Like Public Speaking?

Not all your reports will be on paper. Occasionally you must address audiences to provide feedback or represent the company or project. Can you communicate your technical and scientific knowledge in a way an ordinary man can understand? 

What Certifications Do You Need?

You can enjoy the work of a civil engineer on various career levels. 

Entry Level

For entry level positions where you’re under supervision of employers, you only need a degree and don’t have to obtain licenses yet.

Licensed Engineers

You can develop your career, your responsibilities, and experience by becoming a PE or Licensed Engineer. The benefit of this is the independence you gain. But be prepared for the duties as leader of a group.

Your Responsibilities:

-Oversee your team’s work

-Approve project plans

-Approve projects

-Communicate and offer certain services to the public

The Requirements:

-ABET accredited degree.

-Pass FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam. This is done in two stages. After the first exam, you’re known as an EIT (Engineer in Training). The second—Principles and Practice of Engineering—can only be taken when enough experience is gained.

-4 years of experience working with a licensed engineer.

-Pass PE exam

What if you move states? States issue their own licenses, but some recognize other states’. Prepare yourself for more education, because it may be required.

You can look forward to these licenses, given by the American Society of Civil Engineers:

-Coastal engineering

-Geotechnical engineering

-Ports engineering

-Water resources engineering

-Building security


Which one will you value the most?

How Can You Prepare for this Career?

If you’re still unsure if this is the career path to take, engineering summer camps are ideal to learn more. In addition, with a clear picture of what to expect, you can plan your high school coursework to align with your future studies. 

Climb the Engineering Ladder

What are your future prospects? Why not aim to become a project manager or get a senior position in design or maintenance? Remember these senior and management positions require experience and a PE license. Be prepared for the hard work ahead.

Let’s Talk Salary

Your salary will be determined by the sector you decide to work in. While the median annual salary for this position is $83,540, civil engineers working in federal government can earn up to $15,000 more than their peers in nonresidential building construction. 

Where would you like to work?

What Does the Future Hold?

If you’re looking for a wise long-term plan, being a civil engineer could be it. Because they’re needed for both construction and maintenance, employment of civil engineers may grow up to 11% in the decade leading up to 2026.

A growing population requires more housing, transport options, utility infrastructures and maintenance of all these systems. Cities can’t do without these engineers, as they need to manage the projects and ensure the public & environment are always taken into account.

And groundbreaking projects need them too. The new focus is on renewable energy and civil engineers oversee wind farms & solar installations.

How to Improve Your Prospects

You know you’ll have many peers vying for the job you want. Get one step ahead of the rest by:

-Enrolling in co-op programs and browse for other opportunities to get experience

-Keeping informed about the field’s developments and requirements. New standards—the Body of Knowledge—may cause a graduate education to become more important in terms of securing positions

Are There Other Positions You’ll Enjoy?

Perhaps you love some of what’s described here, but you know it’s not a perfect match. Then one of these related positions is what you’re really after. You’ll work with them if you become a civil engineer, or you can switch your focus and become one of them:

Architect: Planning and design of structures

Civil engineering technician: Assist civil engineers in various tasks

Construction manager: Manage construction from planning to completion

Environmental engineer: Find solutions to environmental challenges by combining knowledge of engineering, biology and chemistry, such as more effective recycling options

Landscape architect: Plan and create outdoor areas

Mechanical engineer: Plan and build mechanical devices such as tools and more effective machines for industries

Surveyor: Determine where a property’s boundary is and provide data other professionals—such as engineers—need about the surface of the earth

Urban or regional planner: Optimize urban areas by ensuring land is used optimally and there are ways to accommodate the growing population

Civil engineers form an integral and important feature in every community. You’ll get satisfaction from using your skills and helping humanity. If enough of these facts sparked your interest, you may have found your dream job.