If a construction project involves a large bridge, highway, building or hydroelectric dam, you can bet a civil engineer was involved in creating its structure. Civil engineers play a key role in making sure construction of large objects, particularly those involving cement, are built to specifications and safety standards. However, being such an engineer makes your career vulnerable to certain industry issues.
Because civil engineer work in inherently involved in large structure projects, such employees are dependent upon an economy spending money on such ventures. If government or private investment slows down on projects, then there is less demand for such professional help. In some cases, civil engineers have to work overseas in developing countries to obtain work at lucrative pay levels, because that's where the work is located. For example, very good engineering positions existed in the Middle East beginning in 2002, but much of it was due to war and its aftermath.
Because a significant number of projects are government-funded or government-run, civil engineers must work under increased scrutiny of reviewers and auditors overseeing government spending. This type of review can increase job stress, as an engineer has to regularly explain his thinking and decision-making under criticism of a regulatory third party. A recent example of such review has been seen on projects federally funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Civil engineers must graduate through a rigorous educational program to receive their educational degrees and certification. U.S. firms will not hire engineers without proof of minimum education and testing. Many states also require licensing and regulatory examination before a civil engineer can begin working on a project in that territory. This entire development process can take a number of years and can be costly in terms of tuition.
Civil engineers earn less that other engineering classifications in the U.S., at approximately $83,000 annually. For example, petroleum engineers ($128,000) and chemical engineers ($94,500) both earn more than civil engineers, generally speaking.