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Civil Engineers Job Description, Video Overview and Salary Outlook

Civil engineers plan and oversee the construction of roads, buildings, tunnels, bridges, dams and other critical infrastructure.



By Julia Mann
Posted 2011



Considered one of the oldest engineering disciplines, civil engineering incorporates a variety of specialties, including structural, water resources, construction, transportation and geotechnical engineering. They typically consider a variety of factors in the design process, from construction costs and government regulations to potential environmental hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Civil engineers may hold supervisory or administrative positions. Others may teach, design, research or work in construction. This classification of engineers includes architectural, structural, traffic, ocean, and geo-technical engineers.

Civil Engineers Job Summary

  • Most civil engineers have earned a four-year bachelor’s degree.
  • Duties include managing and directing staff members and the construction, operations or maintenance activities at project site.
  • Tools used in this occupation include compasses, distance meters, scales, levels and theodolites.

Work Environment for Civil Engineers

Most engineers work in laboratories, plants or office buildings. Some work on construction sites, oil and gas exploration sites and production sites, where they oversee operations or resolve problems. Some engineers also travel to domestic or international plants or worksites.

Many engineers work a standard 40-hour week; however, deadlines or design standards may require engineers to work longer hours.

Education, Training and Licensing

Civil engineers usually enter the occupation with a bachelor’s degree, but some research positions may require a master's degree in engineering. Civil engineers typically need several years of work experience or on-the-job training before assuming a position of responsibility. It is important for civil engineers to enroll in continuing education to keep pace with rapidly changing technology.

In addition to an engineering degree, civil engineers must have knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services. They are expected to have knowledge in design tools, techniques and principles involved in production of precision blueprints, technical plans, drawings and models.

Other skills include knowledge of physical principles, laws, relevant equipment, procedures, policies and strategies to promote effective state, local or national security operations for the protection of people, property, data and institutions.

Civil engineers must have numerous skills including critical thinking, mathematics, decision making, operations analysis, active listening and time management.

Civil Engineers Employment Figures, Job Projections and Earnings Outlook

Civil engineers held 259,320 jobs in May 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Positions in this category include civil engineer, project manager, structural engineer, project engineer, city engineer, civil engineering manager, railroad design consultant, design engineer and research hydraulic engineer.

The BLS expects employment in this field to grow 24% through 2018, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

BLS reports indicate that the median annual wage for salaried civil engineers was $76,590 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $60,650 and $96,800. While the lowest 10% had an annual income at or below $49,620, the top 10% earned upwards of $118,329 per year.

View all engineering career paths

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