Career Development

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Find out what a civil engineer does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a civil engineer.

Civil engineers design, plan and manage the construction of our world. They are responsible for everything from roads and bridges to water treatment plants and power plants. They use their knowledge of science, mathematics and engineering to analyze problems, design solutions and oversee projects to ensure they meet all safety standards.

Civil engineers are often involved in a number of different projects at any given time. This may include everything from working on individual homes or buildings to managing entire construction projects for cities or counties.

Civil Engineer Job Duties

Civil engineers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Designing public works projects, such as highways, bridges, dams, and sewer systems, according to government regulations
  • Preparing detailed plans and estimates of costs for construction projects
  • Monitoring construction projects to ensure that they meet safety standards and deadlines
  • Conducting studies to determine the environmental impact of proposed projects, such as the effect of fumes from a chemical plant on nearby residents
  • Preparing designs and drawings of building structures, including walls, floors, roofs, staircases, and railings, using computer modeling software
  • Assessing existing structures to identify structural problems and designing solutions, such as reinforcing beams with steel plates
  • Reviewing blueprints to ensure that designs meet technical specifications and standards for construction materials
  • Conducting surveys, inspections, and tests to collect information about site conditions and materials
  • Preparing reports, memos, and presentations about findings and recommendations to colleagues and clients

Civil Engineer Salary & Outlook

Civil engineers’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, type of employer and geographic location. Those with a master’s degree or Ph.D. often earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. Civil engineers working for the federal government often earn more than those working for state or local governments. Civil engineers in the Northeast U.S. often earn more than those in other parts of the country.

  • Median Annual Salary: $85,000 ($40.87/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $127,000 ($61.06/hour)

The employment of civil engineers is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Civil engineers will be needed to design and oversee construction projects related to roads, bridges, and buildings. In addition, demand for civil engineering services is expected to come from growth in private-sector industries, such as telecommunications and power generation, that require large amounts of infrastructure.

Related: In-Depth Civil Engineer Salary Guide

Civil Engineer Job Requirements

A civil engineer typically needs to have the following:

Education: Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, civil engineering technology or a related field. Degree programs typically include coursework in mathematics, engineering, science, business, management and design.

Training & Experience: Much of the training for this role happens through formal education, but there are other ways to gain experience as well. Internships are a great way to gain experience and learn more about the industry. Many students complete internships during their senior year of college and find them to be a great way to network and find employment after graduation.

Certifications & Licenses: All states in the U.S. require engineers to be licensed to practice. The requirements to become licensed vary from state to state, so you will need to check the requirements in your state.

Civil Engineer Skills

Civil engineers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Technical skills are the ability to use software, equipment and tools to complete tasks. This includes knowledge of computer programs, software and equipment used in the field of civil engineering. It also includes the ability to use and read technical drawings and plans.

Communication skills: As a civil engineer, you may be required to communicate with clients, contractors and other engineers. Effective communication skills can help you convey information clearly and answer questions. You can also use communication skills to collaborate with others on projects.

Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving skills are important for civil engineers because they often have to find solutions to unexpected challenges. For example, if a project requires a certain type of soil that isn’t available, a civil engineer might find a solution by using a different type of soil.

Computational skills: Computational skills are the ability to use and understand complex mathematical formulas and equations. Computational skills are important for civil engineers as they often need to perform complex calculations to complete their work.

Decision-making skills: Civil engineers make many decisions throughout the course of their work, including which projects to take on, how to prioritize their time and how to approach a problem. Effective decision-making skills can help civil engineers make the best choices for their projects and their careers.

Civil Engineer Work Environment

Civil engineers work in a variety of settings, including offices, factories, construction sites, and laboratories. They may be exposed to noise, dust, and dangerous equipment. They may also be required to work in all types of weather conditions, including inclement weather, extreme heat, and cold. Some civil engineers travel to other countries to work on construction projects. They may also be required to work overtime to meet deadlines.

Civil Engineer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how civil engineers work. Civil engineers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Long-Term Projects Will Become More Popular

As the world becomes more and more populated, the need for long-term civil engineering projects will continue to grow. These projects can include anything from new roads and bridges to water treatment plants and public transportation systems.

Civil engineers who are able to successfully complete long-term projects will be in high demand, as they will be able to provide a valuable service that is in high demand. In order to be successful, civil engineers will need to be able to manage their time effectively and stay organized throughout the duration of the project.

Water Quality Will Become a Concern for Civil Engineers

Water quality is becoming an increasingly important issue for civil engineers. As the world’s population continues to grow, the demand for clean water will also increase. This means that civil engineers will need to focus on water quality and find ways to improve it.

Civil engineers can utilize this trend by developing new methods for treating and cleaning water. They can also work to create systems that are more efficient and that use less energy. This will help to ensure that everyone has access to clean water, regardless of where they live.

The Need for Bridge and Tunnel Inspectors

As the world becomes increasingly connected, the need for bridge and tunnel inspectors will continue to grow. These professionals are needed to ensure the safety of the public by inspecting these structures for any potential problems.

Civil engineers who are skilled in bridge and tunnel inspection can find a lot of success in this field. They will be able to find work in a variety of settings, such as government agencies, construction companies, and engineering firms.

More Work on Underground Construction

As the world’s population continues to grow, the need for more underground infrastructure will also continue to grow. This means that civil engineers will have more opportunities to work on underground construction projects, which can be both challenging and rewarding.

Civil engineers who are able to work on underground construction projects will be in high demand, as they will have the skills and experience necessary to get the job done properly.

The Use of Drone Technology

The use of drone technology is becoming increasingly popular in the civil engineering field. This technology can be used to survey land, inspect bridges and other structures, and even help with the construction process.

As drones become more popular, civil engineers will need to learn how to use this technology in order to stay competitive. Those who are able to utilize drone technology will be able to complete projects more quickly and efficiently, which can lead to more successful careers.

The Proliferation of Self-Driving Cars

As self-driving cars become more popular, the role of civil engineers will change.

Civil engineers will need to develop new skills in order to design and build the infrastructure necessary for autonomous vehicles. This will include designing roads that can accommodate both regular and self-driving cars, as well as creating systems that can communicate with cars to ensure safe navigation.

How to Become a Civil Engineer

Civil engineers have many opportunities to specialize in their field. Some may choose to focus on transportation, land development, structural engineering, or water resources. Others may decide to become experts in a particular material, such as concrete, steel, or asphalt.

No matter what area of civil engineering you choose to specialize in, it’s important to keep up with the latest technologies and developments. Attending conferences and workshops, subscribing to journals and trade magazines, and networking with other professionals are all great ways to stay current.

It’s also important to be well-rounded and understand the basics of all aspects of civil engineering. This will allow you to work more effectively with other team members and better understand the challenges your team is facing.

Related: How to Write a Civil Engineer Resume

Advancement Prospects

There are many ways to advance in the field of civil engineering. One of the best is to get further education, which can lead to positions in research, teaching, or management. For example, a civil engineer with a master’s degree in engineering may become a department head or a project manager. A civil engineer with a PhD may become a college professor or a research scientist.

Another way to advance in this field is to become a licensed professional engineer (PE). In most states, licensure requires passing two exams, one covering general engineering principles and one covering specific areas of civil engineering. PEs can supervise the work of other engineers and offer their services to the public.

Still another way to advance in this field is to become involved in professional organizations. Many civil engineering organizations offer opportunities for networking, continuing education, and leadership.

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