What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Civil engineering is one of the oldest disciplines in the field of engineering and offers a broad range of design and building opportunities. Read on to learn about civil engineers and how their work affects the nation's infrastructure. Schools offering Civil Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Defined

Many people think of civil engineers as science and math whizzes, but this career also entails imagination and strong problem-solving skills. As a civil engineer, you'll design a variety of facilities and structures, such as bridges, roads, tunnels, dams, and sewer systems. During the design process, you'll take into consideration building costs, government regulations, geographic limitations, and a multitude of other factors.

In addition to designing structures, you may also oversee construction projects. Civil engineers work closely with other construction professionals, such as architects and contractors, to ensure the project is progressing properly. You might survey the site, test ground conditions, and make certain construction materials are maintained. Civil engineers also come up with solutions for weather and geological dilemmas. After construction is complete, you might be responsible for inspecting, repairing, and maintaining structures.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Entry-level Education Bachelor's degree in civil engineering
Licensure Must gain work experience and pass Fundamentals of Engineering exam, as well as other exams, to become licensed
Work Environment Office settings and constructions sites
Similar Occupations Architects, civil engineering technicians, construction managers, environmental engineers, landscape architects, mechanical engineers, surveyors, urban and regional planners

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Civil engineers may choose to specialize in one aspect of the field, such as materials, coastal, transportation, or environmental engineering. Those who specialize in transportation, for example, may focus on designing roads, planning traffic light systems, or making street changes that reduce traffic. They must consider the needs of communities when designing and building new roads, which can involve researching population and travel trends.

Others may specialize in structural development, designing buildings and other erected structures. For example, you might take part in the planning and construction of new concert stadium that offers fewer obstructed-view seats. You could create a sports arena where night games are lit entirely by stored solar energy. You may even have a hand in the design of roller coasters or water park rides.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the employment of civil engineers is expected to grow 11% from 2016-2026. Along with increased population, this job growth will be an effect of greater efforts to improve U.S. infrastructure. There will be an increased number of opportunities to design and repair street and water systems, buildings, and pollution management networks. Civil engineers who stay up to date with innovations in science, like nanotechnology and alternative energy, will experience the best employment and promotion opportunities. The BLS reported in May 2018 that the median salary earned by civil engineers was $86,640 a year.

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