Civil Development Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Civil engineers earn a mean annual wage of approximately $87,000. Is it worth the education and training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a civil engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Civil Engineer

Civil engineers design and supervise substantial building projects, like the erection of airports, buildings, roads, dams, tunnels, bridges, sewage treatment systems and water supply structures. Weigh the pros and cons before diving into this career.

PROS of a Career as a Civil Engineer
Steady job growth (expected employment increase of 20% from 2012-2022)*
Lofty earning potential (the highest-paid made $128,000 or more as of 2014)*
Several areas of specialization from which to choose*
Room for advancement with a graduate degree*

CONS of a Career as a Civil Engineer
Must be licensed to sell services directly to the public*
Requires a specialized bachelor's degree*
Year of supervised training required for licensing*
Often work extended hours to meet deadlines*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a civil engineer, you'll analyze maps, blueprints and other data to plan construction projects, taking into consideration the government regulations, construction costs and any environmental hazards. You might test building materials and the soil of construction sites to ensure structures will be safe. In this job, you may use software to design your building plan, calculate cost estimates and present pertinent data to the public. These professionals often oversee entire projects or departments, including civil engineering technologists and technicians.

Due to the complexity of the profession, civil engineers often specialize in a specific aspect of engineering. Geotechnical engineers, for example, focus specifically on the earth's surface and how structural foundations can be safely erected on soil, rocks and other elements. They may also design tunnels, retaining walls and other formations. You could also specialize in structural or transportation engineering. As a civil engineer, you will generally work full-time and mostly in an office setting; however, you'll likely work longer hours when deadlines are approaching, and you'll have to visit construction sites frequently to ensure projects are running smoothly.

Career Prospects and Salary

Most civil engineers are employed by architectural and engineering firms as well as governments at the local, state and federal levels. The BLS reports that jobs for civil engineers were projected to increase by 20% from 2012-2022. These professionals will be needed to maintain aging infrastructures, like water and sewage systems. Even in times of economic turmoil, these professionals will be in demand to keep such essential structures working.

The BLS reported that the mean salary for civil engineers was about $87,000 as of May 2014. The bottom ten percent of civil engineer earned $53,000 or less per year, while the top ten percent earned about $128,000 or more per year. The highest-paying industry was oil and gas extraction, which offered a mean salary of nearly $127,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

For a career as a civil engineer, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from a program approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). These 4-year programs often cover math and engineering topics like fluid dynamics, engineering mechanics and statistics. You can expect to learn through both in-class and laboratory instruction. You may also earn your degree in a specialty of civil engineering, such as structural, transportation or geotechnical engineering.

Licensure Requirements

All states require that you be licensed if you want to provide engineering services directly to the public. In order to earn a license and become a professional engineer (PE), you'll need to complete an accredited engineering program and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. You must serve as an Engineer-in-Training or Civil Engineering Intern for a state-mandated period of time. You'll then have to pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to become licensed.

Skills

Along with a strong grasp of structural development processes, this career requires you to be able to solve complex problems and make fast decisions under pressure. Since you'll often oversee projects and engineering teams, you'll need strong leadership and project management skills. Communication skills, both written and verbal, are also essential, because you'll collaborate with a wide variety of construction and engineering professionals on a daily basis.

Real Job Postings

Education, licensure and experience are employers' main qualifications when looking for civil engineers to hire. Employers tend to prefer applicants who have experience in specific types of civil engineering, like water management or land development. Read the following excerpts taken from real job listings in April 2012 to find out what employers were seeking:

  • An engineering firm in Texas advertised for a full-time civil engineer with at least five years of experience in water, wastewater and public works. This employer also required a bachelor's degree, a valid Texas PE License and excellent skills in written communications, organization and time management.
  • A small company in California was looking for a full-time civil engineer with 5-10 years of experience in roadway planning and site civil work, like drainage, grading, storm water and utilities. This company required a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or the equivalent and preferred registration as a civil engineer.
  • An engineering firm in Minnesota advertised for a full-time civil engineer with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and either experience from an internship or 1-3 years experience in a civil engineering position concerning land development design. To apply, you must have your EIT certification and the ability to become a certified PE.

How to Stand Out in Your Field

There are several ways that you can make sure your resume is noticed. You might join professional organizations, like the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which offers career resources like a job board and leadership training courses. The ASCE also offers continuing education programs, completion of which may be required to maintain licensure, depending on your state.

Earn Advanced Education

You can get an edge in the field by earning a master's degree in civil engineering. In fact, the BLS reports that about 20% of civil engineers hold master's degrees. Additionally, the ASCE reveals that, in the future, becoming a licensed civil engineer may require a master's degree or an additional 30 credits beyond the bachelor's degree level. A master's degree in civil engineering may also qualify you for a management position, such as public works director or senior project manager.

Other Career Paths

Architect

If you want a career that's more focused on building design, consider a career in architecture. An architect designs buildings and other public and private structures. They take into consideration a client's requirements as well as zoning laws, building codes, and material costs, and then they draw up plans used for the construction of the structure. A bachelor's degree is required for entry-level positions, but professional degrees in architecture take five years to complete. All states require architects to be licensed and go through a training period prior to applying for licensure. According to the BLS, architects earned a mean salary of about $79,000 as of May 2011.

Civil Engineering Technician

If you want a civil engineering career with fewer education and licensing requirements, becoming a technician may be right for you. Civil engineering technicians assist engineers in a variety of tasks, such as designing and planning, estimating costs and inspecting sites to make sure that work is going according to plans. The career usually entails an associate's degree in engineering technology. This hands-on degree program prepares you for design and production work instead of jobs that require more scientific or theoretical knowledge. You do not licensure, but you will work under the direction of a licensed engineer. According to the BLS, civil engineering technicians earned a mean salary of approximately $48,000 as of 2011.

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