Civil engineers design the infrastructure that is crucial to society, including buildings, roads, tunnels, bridges, and water treatment facilities. Because of the critical role that civil engineers play in building the structures that are fundamental to civilization, their services are highly valued by employers. Students interested in improving the infrastructure that citizens depend upon and leaving their mark on society should consider a career in civil engineering.
Civil Engineering Courses
Civil engineers must have a strong foundation in science and mathematics in order to design, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects. Throughout their studies, civil engineering students draw from this foundation to identify, analyze, and solve problems that apply to engineering. Students will also gain an understanding in the legal, regulatory, and ethical considerations that will impact their decisions.
Courses that a civil engineering student will take include:
- Basic Hydrology
- Calculus I and II
- Differential Equations
- Infrastructure and Transportation
- Probability and Statistics
- Structural Analysis
Concentrations allow civil engineering students to focus on specific challenges in engineering. Sub-fields that engineering students may focus on include:
- Earthquake Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Hydraulic Engineering
- Structural Engineering
- Transportation Engineering
By choosing a specialty, civil engineers can focus on the skills required design and maintain specific types of infrastructure.
Accreditation and Licensing
Students should take note of accreditation and licensing standards before selecting an engineering program. At some point in their career a student may wish to become licensed as a professional engineer (PE), which opens up more career opportunities. A PE license is awarded after gaining several years of experience and passing the fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam.
However, students can expedite the process of obtaining their PE license by enrolling in a program that is approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABEC). In many states, students must be enrolled in an ABEC-approved program to qualify to take the FE exams during their final year of study.
Civil Engineering Careers
According to the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, the median salary of civil engineering majors in $78K, and top earners receive a salary of over $100K. Civil engineering graduates are most likely to work as engineers or work in management. The top industries that attract civil engineering majors include architectural services, construction, and public administration.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights the following civil engineering careers with potential for growth:
- Civil Engineers
Civil engineers are hired by firms and government agencies to supervise the construction and maintenance of roads, buildings, airports, dams, water treatment facilities, and other types of infrastructure. A four-year degree in civil engineering is required for entry-level positions. Openings for civil engineers are expected to increase by 19 percent.
- Construction Managers
Median Pay: $86K
Construction managers oversee the construction process of buildings and infrastructure, ensuring that a project meets its budget and deadline. Civil engineers often move into project management after gaining several years of on-the-job experience. Openings for construction managers are expected to increase by 17 percent.
- Urban and Regional Planners
Median Pay: $63K
Regional planners determine how public land will be used to accommodate growing populations in towns, cities, and counties. To become a regional planner, a civil engineer must complete a master’s degree in planning from an accredited program. However, a civil engineer’s education and experience provides an excellent foundation. Urban and regional planner positions are expected to grow by 16 percent.
As our infrastructure needs expand, the demand for civil engineers is expected to grow. A civil engineering degree will prepare students to enter a rewarding engineering discipline that has a broad range of applications.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Civil Engineers.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Construction Managers.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Urban and Regional Planners.
Georgetown Public Policy Institute. (2011). The Economic Value of College Majors – Engineering.