Civil Engineering Master's Degree: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a civil engineer. Learn about education requirements, licensing, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Civil Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers design, create and renew large-scale structures such as dams, bridges, roads and water supply systems. They usually specialize in a particular area, such as structural or geotechnical engineering. They must factor in cost, risk analysis and government regulations when developing designs, and ensure all necessary permits and licenses are obtained. Soil testing must be supervised to make certain that foundations are safe. Materials should also be tested. Civil engineers are also responsible for the maintenance and repair of their structures. Civil engineers can earn a master's degree to facilitate an advance to project management. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Civil engineering with specialty such as: construction, water & coastal, computing systems, geotechnology, geoenvironmental
Key Skills Engineering design, project management, technical problem-solving, budgeting
Licensure Required License required for engineers who work directly with the public
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%*
Median Salary (2015) $82,220*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will a Master's Program in Civil Engineering Teach Me?

In a Master of Civil Engineering (MCE) program, your focus will be on learning to design, construct and oversee the building of some of the community's major structures, such as tunnels, irrigation systems, roadways and waste management systems. Six main areas--transportation, water resources, structure and mechanics, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering and construction--will either be incorporated into the program or be offered as a concentration. Your courses will be aimed more toward the building and structural analysis of your chosen concentration.

Many MCE programs are offered both online and on campus. Subjects that may be brought up during your study include project management, construction law, air quality, wastewater systems design, structural systems, hydrology, infrastructure management, transportation systems planning and seismic measuring.

Do I Need Licensure?

Currently all 50 states require civil engineers who work in public sectors to be licensed. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) produces and offers the Fundamentals of Engineering (F.E.) and the Professional Engineer (P.E.) exams that are required by each state's licensing board ( Civil engineers typically take the F.E. exam during undergraduate study, and the P.E. exam after completing your degree and working under a licensed engineer for four years.

What Is the Salary for Civil Engineers?

Civil engineers made an median salary of $82,220 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Some of the highest average salaries for civil engineers were in the oil and gas extraction industry, though those industries employed relatively few civil engineers. On average, civil engineers in Texas, Alaska and California earned higher salaries than other states.

Are There Other Positions I Could Apply for?

Civil engineers specialize and can work in water purification, agriculture, hydraulics, resource management and systems analysis. Once you have received your MCE you can consider jobs with private companies, government agencies, military agencies and sustainability (green) industries.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include architects, construction managers and environmental engineers. Architects draft plans for various structures. Construction managers oversee the budget, schedule and execution of construction projects. Environmental engineers develop solution strategies to combat issues like waste disposal and pollution. All of these fields require a bachelor's degree for entry.

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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