Civil engineering is one of the oldest of the engineering professions. Civil engineers are responsible for designing and overseeing the construction of infrastructure systems, highways, bridges, dams, water supply and sewage systems, airports, tunnels, and other projects. As current infrastructure needs replacement, there will be increasing demand for civil engineers. Areas of specialty may include environmental, highway systems, architectural, structural, marine, and geo-technical. Requiring at least a bachelor degree, civil engineers are well paid, with average salaries of above $70,000.
Civil engineering professionals are usually based in metropolitan centers, near the hubs of government, industry, and commerce. Job projects frequently involve travel and field work. Using the principles of civil engineering, they must take into accounts such variables as the materials involved in construction of the projects and local conditions including earthquakes, hurricanes, and climate and geologic variables.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics from May 2009, the median salary for civil engineers is $76,590 or $36.82 per hour. In the lower 10th percentile, the annual salary is $49,620 and below, and in the top 10th percentile it is above $118,320.*
Salary is based on education level with a bachelor degree being the minimum requirement. A 2009 survey indicated that an average entry-level position for a civil engineer with a bachelor degree is $52,000. Having a master degree or doctorate will increase the beginning salary. As experience is gained in the position, promotions to supervisory levels will have accompanying increases in salaries.*
Salaries vary depending on the agency or company that the civil engineer is employed by. According to the BLS, the highest annual mean salaries are in the oil and gas extraction industries and other pipeline transportation industries with mean salaries at $107,430. The natural gas pipeline transportation industry has a mean salary of $96,690. Civil engineers working for state governments average $75,870, while federal positions average $88,040. Regional salaries vary with the District of Columbia, California, Texas, New Jersey, and Louisiana having the highest mean wages.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
A minimum of a bachelor degree is required for entry-level civil engineering positions. Engineering programs at four year colleges require a strong basis in mathematics and science. Physics, geology, engineering science, and chemistry, along with supporting mathematics emphasizing geometry, statistics, trigonometry, and calculus are part of the core curriculum. The real-world application of the sciences and math will be used to solve specific problems related to commerce, industry, and infrastructure.
In addition to science and math, a strong emphasis on written and oral communication and technical writing is required. Engineers generally work on a team, deal with clients, and the public, requiring excellence in interpersonal communication skills, technical reports, and project presentation. Computer abilities are essential, with familiarity in drafting and schematics necessary. Consideration should be given to whether the graduate will immediately enter the workforce or continue in post-graduate studies.
As many as one-third of civil engineering graduates continue their education in a master’s program. The American Society of Civil Engineers encourages graduates to obtain a master’s degree to improve chances for career advancement. Master degree work may lead to a focus in a specific area of engineering. Environmental and pollution control, urban design, geo-technical, water delivery systems, transportation, or management are all areas of concentration that are available. A master or doctorate degree leads to significantly higher entry-level pay and quicker advancement.
Job Description and Outlook
Civil engineering is expected to continue in high demand as aging infrastructure is replaced and new systems of energy production and distribution are planned. The US Recovery and Reinvestment Act earmarked funds for infrastructure replacement projects all requiring oversight and planning by civil engineers. Development and distribution of new energy sources, increased demand on municipal water and sewage systems, and technical advances in mining, and a growing population all put increased demands on civil engineers. The BLS predicts that jobs in civil engineering will increase at a faster rate than average through 2018.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
There are currently over 250,000 civil engineers in the United States with approximately half employed by architectural and engineering firms that design construction projects. Federal, state, and local governments employ approximately one-third of the civil engineers. The construction industry, energy, mining, and other businesses employ the remainder. Around 15,000 civil engineers run their own consulting firms.
Duties of the civil engineer depend on the position. Many spend the majority of time in technical and computerized planning and design. Others are in management positions overseeing onsite construction projects. This career may require travel to project sites, working outside and in harsh conditions.
Individual states have licensing procedures for professional engineers. Although each state differs in their requirements, generally, a graduate degree from an accredited four-year university and a written examination, Fundamentals of Engineering, qualify for Engineer-In-Training (EIT) certification. Additional requirements of time spent in engineering experience and the Principles and Practice in Engineering exam complete the professional engineering (PE) certification.
Specific additional certifications can be acquired based on area of specialization. The American Society of Civil Engineers offers many certifications in specialized construction areas. The American Academy of Water Resources Engineers offers a certification for engineers working in water system infrastructure. The Academy of Geo-Professionals certification is for geo-technical engineers who work with deep foundations and subsurface engineering of various types.
Professional associations for civil engineers include the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Academy of Water Resource Engineers (AAWRE), the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE), and the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE).
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