Civil engineering is a rewarding and challenging career that offers many benefits. Civil engineers design, build, and maintain the infrastructure that supports our daily lives—including roads, bridges, buildings, and water systems—and make a tangible impact on society.
One of the main benefits of a career in civil engineering is the diversity of work. Civil engineers can work on various projects, from designing and building new infrastructure to maintaining and upgrading existing structures. This variety keeps the work exciting and allows for career growth and development.
Another benefit of civil engineering is the potential for career advancement. Civil engineers can move from entry-level positions to management roles like a project manager or department head. Also, a lot of civil engineers go on to become licensed professionals, which can open up even more opportunities for advancement.
Civil engineering is a field that is in high demand, with continued projected job growth. There will be plenty of job opportunities for civil engineers in the future, making it a stable and secure career choice.
It’s also a field that requires a combination of technical skills and creativity. Engineers have to be able to design and plan projects, but they also have to think critically and solve problems. Successful engineers have a combination of technical expertise and creativity, making it a challenging and stimulating career to have.
Civil engineers play a crucial role in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, like climate change, urbanization, and natural disasters. They can help create more sustainable infrastructure and build resilient communities.
How Much Does a Civil Engineer Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for civil engineers is around $88,050. The top 10% of civil engineers earn more than $133,250, and only the bottom 10% earn less than $60,550 per year.
Starting salaries for entry-level civil engineers with a bachelor’s degree can range from $60,000 to $150,000 per year, depending on the employer and location. For example, the average entry-level salary for a civil engineer in New York City is $155,177. For civil engineers in Buffalo, New York, the average entry-level salary is $62,416.
The salary of a civil engineer can vary depending on several factors, including their level of education, their experience, the location at which they’re working, and their area of specialization. On average, civil engineers can expect to earn a competitive salary in the field.
With experience and career advancement, civil engineers who move up the career ladder can earn significantly more than that. A civil engineer with six to nine years of experience can expect an average salary of around $77,020 per year, while a senior civil engineer with 10 or more years of experience can earn an average salary of approximately $102,060 per year.
Civil engineers with professional licenses like a Professional Engineer (PE) license often earn higher salaries than those without licenses. Those who have licenses open themselves up to better career possibilities like becoming an independent consultant.
Location, as highlighted above, also plays a major role in determining the salary of a civil engineer. Engineers working in the western and the northeastern parts of the U.S. tend to earn the highest salaries, while those working in the south and midwest tend to make slightly less. The location also affects the cost of living, which plays a role in determining the overall salary.
Specialization also plays a role in determining the salary of a civil engineer. Engineers who focus on a specific area, such as structural, facilities, or material engineering, can earn higher wages than those who work in a general capacity.
How Many Different Specialties Are There Within Civil Engineering?
The specific areas of focus within civil engineering can vary widely, and there are many different specialties within the field. Transportation, structural, environmental, geotechnical, coastal, and water management engineering are the most common types. In this section, we’ll go over a brief description of each specialty to build an understanding of the different areas in which civil engineers can excel.
One of the most common specialties in civil engineering is transportation engineering. This specialty focuses on designing and constructing transportation systems, including roads, bridges, airports, and mass transit systems. Transportation engineers work to improve the efficiency and safety of transportation systems while also considering environmental impacts and community needs.
This specialty focuses on the design and analysis of the structural components of buildings and other structures. Structural engineers work to ensure that buildings and other structures can withstand the natural forces they’ll be subjected to. These forces involve naturally occurring events like high winds, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
Civil engineers who specialize in environmental matters focus on designing solutions to environmental problems and protecting human health. They work on tasks related to water and air pollution control, waste management, and environmental impact assessments.
The subspecialty of geotechnical engineering focuses on studying soil and rock to design foundations, slopes, dams, and other structures. These engineers also work on issues like landslides, sinkholes, and soil liquefaction.
Coastal engineering is another popular specialty within the civil engineering world. It deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of coastal structures such as seawalls, breakwaters, and beach nourishment.
Water Resources Engineering
Water resources engineering is crucial to maintaining the natural habitats of the Earth. It deals with managing water resources, including designing and constructing dams, canals, and other water-control structures.
The Best Civil Engineering Specialties
Other civil engineering specialties include construction engineering, earthquake engineering, materials engineering, and surveying. Civil engineering is a diverse field that is involved in many different specialties, each with a unique focus and varied applications. Civil engineers have the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of interest and gain the necessary expertise to excel in that area, making it a challenging and stimulating field.
The specialty that you choose depends on your areas of interest and the way you envision your day-to-day life as a civil engineer. Some specialties involve more on-site tasks, and others are more prone to creating options for consulting careers and other personal development opportunities. There are also pay differences between these subfields.
For example, structural engineering is often the highest-paid field for civil engineers to go into. Also up there are geotechnical engineering and environmental engineering. But within each field, there may be more or fewer opportunities for advancement. Civil engineers who reach a project management level in their field will likely get paid more overall.
How Do I Become a Civil Engineer?
To become a civil engineer, you’ll typically have to complete at least a few of the following steps:
- Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering or a related field. This typically takes four years and includes mathematics, physics, and engineering principles coursework.
- Get relevant work experience through internships or co-op programs. Some universities offer these opportunities to students, allowing them to apply their knowledge in real-world settings and learn valuable experience in the field.
- Pass your exams. The first exam you take will often be the Engineer In Training (EIT) exam, which gives you the ability to start gaining job experience and working toward further certification. It’s also called the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. This is the first step in becoming a licensed professional engineer (PE). The FE exam is typically taken by recent college graduates and covers basic engineering principles.
- Obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license. Once you have passed the FE exam and have gained several years of work experience, you can take the PE exam. This test is designed to make sure that engineers have the necessary knowledge and skills to practice engineering safely and competently.
- Constantly learn and stay updated with the latest technologies and trends in the field of civil engineering. Civil engineering is always evolving, and new technologies are being continuously developed, so staying current with the latest advancements in the field is essential. Continuing your post-college education can also help you gain additional certifications and licensures that can boost your resume.
- Consider getting a graduate degree; this will help you to specialize in a particular field and increase your chances of finding your desired job. Typically, you’ll be able to get a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in a subspecialty field that you’re interested in. Often, these degrees involve a research component. Getting a doctoral degree (in this case, a Ph.D.), is generally not necessary unless you’d like to teach civil engineering in an academic setting.
- Constantly grow your network. Networking is a great way to learn about job openings and stay informed about the latest developments in the field. Joining a professional organization such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) or the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) is an excellent way to meet other professionals.
To recap, becoming a civil engineer requires earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering or a related field, gaining relevant work experience, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, obtaining a Professional Engineering license, and continuing to learn and stay current with the latest advancements in the field.
Graduate degrees and networking can also contribute substantially to success in the field (and getting a higher-paying job).
Civil engineering is a rewarding and challenging career that offers a lot of benefits. Engineers design, build, and maintain the infrastructure that supports our daily lives, including roads, bridges, buildings, and water systems and make a tangible impact on society.
The benefits of a career in civil engineering include a diversity of work, the potential for career advancement, high demand for jobs, the ability to combine technical and creative skills, and the chance to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. And let’s not forget that civil engineering offers a competitive salary even in entry-level positions. It only grows with experience and time in the field.
If you have an interest in engineering, civil engineering may just be the field for you. It offers plenty of benefits no matter what motivates you. Whether you want a competitive salary, a high-impact career, or a chance to put your creative and technical skills to work, civil engineering offers all of that. There are many examples of what civil engineering looks like in the real world that can provide more information about whether it’s the right career for you.