Civil engineering is one of the world's oldest professions, no less important today than it was in the time of ancient Egypt. Civil engineers design bridges, buildings, transportation systems, and other critical elements of public infrastructure. They help cities meet the challenges of a new century, and work to make them more livable for the citizens who inhabit them. Being a civil engineer involves a number of professional challenges.
Licensing and Accreditation
There are rigorous standards for licensing of civil engineers. Civil engineers must be licensed by the jurisdiction in which they are working. Typically this requires a degree from an accredited engineering school. Engineers are also often required to log several years of professional experience and to pass a series of exams before they can become fully licensed.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010, "competitive pressures and advancing technology" represent job outlook challenges for civil engineers. Foreign workers may be willing to take the same job for a lower salary. On the other hand, the field is expected to grow, and demand for civil engineers is predicted to remain high.
Civil engineers deal with projects of immense importance to the public. This raises the stakes and represents a kind of professional pressure that is particular to the field. For example, civil engineers must design and oversee the construction of buildings, highways, airports, tunnels, and water supply systems. They must factor in costs, durability, safety concerns, and how such projects will be integrated in and used by the daily lives of citizens. Twenty-first century concerns over environmental factors and terrorism also must play a role in the civil engineer's planning. These projects involve a great deal of technical complexity to make them up to par. Design or execution errors could have significant financial or even human cost.
Civil engineers in the United States must contend with the problem of crumbling infrastructure. Many of the dams, bridges, and roads in the country are aged and in disrepair. Updating them for the 21st century is one of the major challenges facing civil engineers today. Compounding the issue are budgetary restraints faced by national, state, and local jurisdictions. Therefore, some civil engineers must do more with less in an effort to bring the nation's infrastructure up to par.