How to Become a Civil Engineer in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for civil engineers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Civil Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Civil engineers help design and construct large structures and infrastructures like roads, water treatment plants and tunnels. Civil engineers design and oversee construction projects, like the building of roads and water supply systems. They map out budgets, survey land, test materials, create blueprints and ensure regulations are met. They also manage repairs and maintenance. Many hold supervisory positions, such as a public works director, and usually specialize in a certain area. Take a look at the following table for an overview of some of the characteristics of this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree in a program accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology)
Education Field of Study Civil engineering or Civil engineering technology
Key Skills Mathematics, organizational ability, decision making, communication
Licensure Required Licensure designation as a Professional Engineer (PE)
Job Growth (2014-2024)8% (as fast as average)*
Median Salary (2015) $82,220*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering is about designing, building and maintaining various types of infrastructure, such as airports, bridges, buildings, tunnels, roads, dams or sewage systems. This field represents one of the oldest types of engineering, and your work may take place in an urban or rural setting. In addition to design and development, civil engineers also manage workers and projects.

Step 1: Research Civil Engineer Career Options and Outlook

Civil engineering is a broad field that consists of numerous specialties, such as construction, water supply, transportation or structural concentrations. You can research each subdivision to see which specialty is the best fit for you and start preparing for it as early as high school. As a civil engineer, you have managerial and administrative tasks that you need to consider, such as construction costs, time constraints, environmental regulations and infrastructure lifespan. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that civil engineering jobs would grow by 8% over the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov).

Step 2: Prepare for a Civil Engineering Education in High School

If you're interested in a civil engineering career, then you can take advanced placement high school courses in physics, biology, chemistry, math and computer science. Having a strong background in math and science can help prepare you for post secondary engineering education. Maintaining strong grades in these subjects may help you get accepted into a college's engineering degree program.

Step 3: Find an ABET-Accredited Civil Engineering Degree Program

As you're searching for engineering degree programs, keep in mind that you can find accredited institutions through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). You can use this organization to search for accredited degree programs in your chosen area. The BLS reported in 2008 that ABET evaluates programs based on teachers, facilities and students as well as industry standards.

Step 4: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering

Your next step is to enroll in an accredited Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree program, which usually takes four years to complete. As a student, you may take coursework in surveying, physics, chemistry, statistics, ethics, mechanics, mathematics and design. Many of these programs allow you to focus on courses relevant to one of the many specialties within civil engineering.

Step 5: Get Licensed as a Professional Engineer.

In order to offer your civil engineering services to the public, you need to earn a Professional Engineer (PE) license. To be eligible for licensure, you need to have a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from an accredited ABET program. You'll typically complete the PE licensure process in two steps.

The first step involves taking the Fundamentals of Engineering exam after graduation. You can then acquire four years of professional experience to be eligible for the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Although state licensing board regulations can vary, successfully completing these exams and experience requirements generally qualifies you to practice as a licensed PE.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related careers include jobs in architecture and construction management. Both are tasked with designing and implementing construction projects, often handling budget, blueprint and permit concerns. A bachelor's degree is normally required to enter these fields.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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