Civil Engineering Jobs

Civil engineering uses mathematics, scientific and physical principles to create structures. It is considered the most well-known of the specialties within engineering. Civil engineers have been around for hundreds of years designing much of the infrastructure that we use every day, such as buildings, roads, tunnels, bridges, airports, dams and irrigation and water supply systems. Civil engineering was created to help differentiate between military and non-military engineering. Civil engineering consists of many subtopics, such as construction, structural, transportation, water resources and geotechnical engineering. It is used at many levels, from the government to international companies to homeowners.

As part of the design process, civil engineers must consider many factors, such as cost, government regulations, safety hazards and project lifespan. They must also determine how a project will impact the people around it, as well as the environment. Many of those in the civil engineering field have a specialty, since the field is so broad.

A career in civil engineering requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. This may take up to five years to complete, since engineering is such a broad academic area. In addition to the fundamental classes in math and science, students in a civil engineering degree program can expect to take classes in stability of structures, engineering design, mechanics of solids, structural dynamics, probability, reliability and risk, steel and concrete design, composite materials, transportation system design, transportation planning and traffic flow. Many schools offer a combined bachelor's/master's degree program that can take about the same amount of time, but it is very rigorous and requires extreme discipline and motivation to complete it on time. Even if it takes an extra year or two to obtain a master's degree, it will be worth it in terms of increased job opportunities and salaries. More often, schools are offering online civil engineering degree programs. Because most engineering courses are computer-based, it can be easy to learn online from the comfort of your own home. Online degree programs offer flexibility for those who work full-time or have other obligations. They are also deemed just as credible by employers as traditional degree programs.

Civil engineering has many possible career paths. There is not one typical career in the field. Many recent graduates start out with very little responsibility. They may work as assistants to the seasoned engineers. As they gain experience and prove their value, they are given more tasks with higher levels of difficulty. Some may monitor construction in the field, be in charge of design or perform analysis. Those with more experience often manage more complex projects or manage the work of others. Many civil engineers move on to supervisory or management positions. Some may eventually work on their own as a consultant, and some even teach after many years on the job.

Those who work for the public need to be licensed and certified. Most of those in the civil engineering field are licensed. This requires graduation from a civil engineering program at an accredited school, four years of work experience and a passing score on a state test. Those fresh out of college can take the test in two phases. The Fundamentals of Engineering test can be taken right after graduation. After they gain experience, they then take the Principles and Practice of Engineering test. After the license is obtained, it can only be renewed by taking continuing education classes. Continuing education, even after a degree is obtained, is essential, since civil engineering focuses on emerging technologies. Certification is not always required, but it is helpful. It demonstrates that you are dedicated to civil engineering and uphold the highest standards of ethics and morals. It also makes you more valuable to employers and highly respected by peers.

There are about 280,000 civil engineers in the United States, the most of any type of engineer. This number is expected to increase to nearly 346,000 civil engineers by 2018. Civil engineering salaries vary greatly. Those right out college have an average starting salary of slightly more than $52,000, while the top earners can expect to make $115,000 or more. This can vary depending on location, experience and industry.

Civil engineering is projected to have a growth of 24 percent in the next decade, one of the highest growth rates of all the specialties in engineering. This increase will be due to a growing population, which will spur demand for more engineers to improve and create new roadways, create new water supplies and repair or replace broken bridges and buildings. However, because many civil engineering jobs are in the construction industry, and construction is heavily affected by the economy, job outlook will vary by location and at times, may even decrease due to a lack of construction.

Engineering Job Opportunities

If you enjoy math and science and enjoying building and creating new things, you may be qualified for a career in engineering. There are more than 20 specialties within engineering and even with growth varying by specialty, there is an abundant supply of engineering jobs available overall. One huge advantage that attracts many students to the engineering field is that engineering jobs have the highest starting salaries of all college graduates.

There are more than 1.5 million engineers employed in the United States, with most of these (nearly 280,000) being civil engineers. As a general rule, most engineering jobs can be found in large cities and metropolitan areas, since these are where there are large populations. However, specific job location can vary by the industry. For example, in petroleum engineering the jobs are found where the oil and gas reserves are, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, California, Alaska and various Middle East countries. For aerospace engineering, California is the hub for most jobs. Location will often depend on the specialty.

One of the unique aspects of engineering jobs is that they are very diverse. Because engineering consists of so many subtopics and disciplines, it is never boring. Engineers design virtually everything on our planet, from buildings to stadiums to roller coasters. They also tackle the world's biggest problems, such as poverty, lack of clean drinking water, pollution, global warming and diseases. You may work inside or outside. Many engineering jobs allow you to travel to various locations to meet new people and work on new and exciting projects. Some engineers work mostly on a computer creating new designs and simulations. Some may work primarily outside supervising construction or testing plants, soil or new equipment. Some may even work in outer space, underwater or on oil rigs half a world away. The possibilities are endless.

Engineering jobs require a strong foundation in math and science. Most of the work now is done using computers, so you must be comfortable using technology. You must have excellent communication, analytical and problem-solving skills. You will be asked to analyze problems within a company and find creative ways to solve the problems.

Salaries for engineering jobs can vary widely by location and specialty. California and Maryland tend the have the highest salaries overall; however, wages in Alaska or North Dakota can be some of the highest, depending on the specialty. Engineering jobs, however, can be found in every state, in large cities and small towns alike. Many engineers often move around the country to work on different projects, so it is very likely that you will have to travel or move at some point in your engineering career. You can expect a starting wage in the engineering field of at least $50,000, with an average at around $80,000 to $90,000 for many specialties. Some of the highest earners can expect six-figure salaries. The highest earnings are for petroleum engineering jobs, with the average salary in North Dakota at more than $206,000. There are also many opportunities in the engineering field for bonuses and promotions. Some go on to become supervisors or managers, with some even becoming CEOs for large well-known companies.

The growth of engineering jobs in the next decade is expected to average about 11 percent overall, with growth varying by specialty within engineering. For example, biomedical engineering is expected to grow by a whopping 72 percent in the next decade, while chemical engineering jobs are actually expected to decline by 2 percent. Most jobs will be concentrated in the engineering, consulting, and research and development areas. Engineers are also often in high demand in state, federal and local government agencies. Many companies will rely on the skills and knowledge of engineers to increase efficiency and output, as well as design and maintain new technologies. However, since engineering can be done in any country and with engineers in foreign countries willing to work for cheaper wages, this may slightly decrease the availability of engineering jobs in the United States. In addition, when there are government cutbacks or economic downturns, engineers tend to be laid off in large numbers.

Those in engineering jobs need to protect themselves from economic instability and make themselves as valuable to employers as possible. This includes certifications, advanced degrees and continuing education. Being up-to-date on the latest technology is essential in order to work for many companies because the bulk of your job will be to solve technological problems. Although most engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree, taking an extra year or so to obtain a master's degree is in your best interest. It will pay off later and give you an advantage in terms of promotions, bonuses and increased salaries.

Civil Engineer Salary

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Learn About Civil Engineering Jobs from a Civil Engineer Professional

Last Updated: 06/08/2014

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