Civil engineers design and supervise construction of buildings and infrastructure ranging from skyscrapers and schools to roads and water mains. A civil engineer needs strong analytical skills, attention to detail and the ability to apply scientific principles to real-world problems. Because civil engineers are often supervisors of large construction projects, they also have to manage and work well with others.
To become a civil engineer, you need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. An ABET-accredited degree is usually required for licensing as a civil engineer. To prepare for college work, high school students should take courses in physics, chemistry and biology, along with classes in computer science and mathematics. Communications skills are also important, so don’t neglect English and writing courses.
Programs in civil engineering combine course work with extensive laboratory and field activities. As a prospective civil engineer, you must take courses in mathematics, physics and statistics. Engineering classes cover topics such as principles of design and analysis, engineering systems and fluid dynamics. Some civil engineers continue their training by earning a master’s degree to improve their chances of advancing into management positions.
All states require civil engineers to be licensed. Once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, the first step to earning your license is to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination, which is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. You’ll need to work about four years under the supervision of licensed civil engineers. Once you’ve met the requirements, you will be eligible to take the Principles and Practices of Engineering Examination for civil engineers. A civil engineers license is required to sell your services as a civil engineer and to work as a construction project manager or supervisor.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for civil engineers will grow by 19 percent from 2010 to 2020. The increasing demand for civil engineers is because of population growth and the need to repair and maintain aging infrastructure across the nation. As of 2010, the median salary for civil engineers was $77,560. The highest-paid 10 percent of civil engineers made more than $119,320 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent earned annual salaries less than $50,560.