Entry Requirements & Skills Needed for a Civil Engineer

Explore the education requirements you'll need to begin a career in civil engineering. Get to know the skills you'll need and learn about their day-to-day work to see if this is the right profession for you. Schools offering Civil Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Civil engineers are responsible for designing and maintaining infrastructure projects in both the public and the private sector. These projects range from designing roads, bridges, and airports to building water supply and waste treatment systems. In the table below, you'll find the education requirements, salary, projected job growth, and essential skills of a civil engineer.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Civil engineering
Licensure Not required for entry-level positions; advanced positions require a Professional Engineering (PE) license
Required Skills Math, reading and writing, organizational, decision-making, and problem-solving skills
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 11% (faster than average)*
Median Income (2017) $84,770*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

The term 'civil engineer' is a broad one, and consists of several specializations within the profession, such as construction, geotechnical, structural, and transportation engineers. Each specialization focuses on its own variety of projects for both the public and private sector. However, all civil engineers face similar day-to-day tasks. They are responsible for analyzing long-range plans for areas of prospective building sites, preparing cost estimates for materials and labor, submitting permit applications to necessary agencies for approval, developing blueprints for projects using software design programs, and overseeing all surveying and building operations. Civil engineers are also responsible for communicating each project's structural and economic feasibility to necessary local, state, and federal agencies.

What Are the Education Requirements of a Civil Engineer?

An entry-level civil engineer must earn a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or one of its specialties. The completed program must be accredited by ABET (formerly known as the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology). The 4-year degree includes core academic coursework in math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics. These courses are structured to provide students with a mix of traditional classroom learning, fieldwork, and applied work in laboratories. Several programs also include co-ops, which allow students to gain relevant work experience while simultaneously pursuing their degree.

What Type of Certifications or Licensure Is Required?

While entry-level positions do not require certification to become a civil engineer, civil engineers may need Professional Engineering (PE) license in order to gain leadership or more advanced roles. In order to obtain a PE license, a civil engineer must have a bachelor's degree, four years of work experience under a supervised licensed engineer, and achieve passing scores on both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and the Professional Engineering (PE) exams. Many states also require that Professional Engineers continue their education in order to keep their licenses valid. A PE license allows a professional civil engineer to oversee the work done by other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public.

Civil engineers can also become certified in field specializations, such as coastal, port, geotechnical or sustainable engineering through the American Society of Civil Engineers.

What Skills Are Essential For This Type of Work?

The role of a civil engineer is a multifaceted one. Math and physics skills are fundamental, allowing a civil engineer to design, analyze, and troubleshoot structures to ensure they are built safely and properly. Civil engineers are tasked with determining the most effective ways of implementing a design as well, in regards to both financial costs and safety concerns. Thus, a civil engineer must use their best decision-making skills that come from their knowledge of best practice technicality and their own previous experience.

While the design and construction side of civil engineering are math focused, civil engineers must also excel in their written and verbal communication skills. They are responsible for drafting effective and coherent proposals for government agencies and private institutions. They must be able to communicate difficult concepts in a manner that is easy to understand for a wide audience. Communication is also essential when working alongside architects, landscape architects, and regional planners throughout a project's entirety. Overseeing such a wide variety of tasks means that civil engineers must also be well organized.

How Much Do Civil Engineers Make?

As of May 2017, civil engineers earned a median salary of $84,770, per the BLS. The projected job growth for civil engineers between 2016 and 2026 is 11%. Civil engineers are likely to be tasked with rebuilding, repairing, and upgrading older infrastructure across the US. The growing population also contributes to an increased need for civil engineers, as more people will require new water systems. The shift towards renewable energy projects will also result in work for civil engineers relating to wind farms and solar arrays.

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