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Civil Engineer


How to Become a Civil Engineer
Civil Engineer Job Description
Skills or Qualities Needed to Become a Civil Engineer
Civil Engineer Salaries
Influential Professional Civil Engineers
Leading Organizations for Civil Engineers
Top Cities for Civil Engineering Jobs?
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Civil Engineer

For an entry level position, an engineering undergraduate degree is usually required. Sometimes, an applicant with a natural sciences or mathematics degree may get an entry level job, but that is not nearly as common. The curriculum for engineers at colleges and universities tends to be a highly regimented one with requirements not only for what courses must be taken, but what sequence they must be taken in and in specific combinations. The curriculum emphasis is on math, the specific engineer field and other hard sciences. Students often take an extra year to complete their degrees due to the rigor of the programs, and like other engineering programs, there are always a few areas that pose consistent and high levels of difficulty for students.

A Civil engineering students' curriculum would focus on larger metropolitan systems, and my include more emphasis on human geography and materials science.

Although a person could become a part of a civil engineering firm or work for the government and be considered a civil engineer in general, the formal engineering designation is Professional Engineer (PE), which means that one is licensed by a particular state to offer their services directly to the public. In other words, the role of an engineer is broad, but the title of "engineer" is specific. To become a PE, there are a number of requirements, including graduating with an undergraduate degree from a specially program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), four years of experience, and an exam. There are two stages of becoming a PE, each categorized by passing exams. Upon completion of the first exam, (Fundamentals of Engineering), the PE candidate is called an "engineer in training" or "engineer intern". The second exam (Principles and Practice of Engineering) is usually only able to be taken after some years of work experience. Site licensing varies and some states require continuing education while others do not. Independent from state and other governmental regulators, there are other professional organizations that offer certification in special areas of engineering, like civil engineering.

What does a Civil Engineer do?

Although the tile of "engineer" can seem to be quite technical and specific, there are many areas of engineering; some of these areas are very different and some of them overlap quite a bit.

Civil engineering holds a place of honor among the other engineering disciplines as being one of the oldest areas of distinction. It has several subdivisions, including environmental engineering, water resources engineering, structural engineering, and transportation engineering.

Typically, civil engineers focus on building and maintaining the things and systems that make civilized life possible, like waste management, bridges, transportation networks, dams, and the environment. As is obvious, each of these foci require a slightly different emphasis on formal education, but the general areas of knowledge for a civil engineer are related to 1) the materials it takes to make a bridge, dam, transportation network, etc. (metals, polymers, ceramics), 2) the way to construct and maintain these structures (structural, architectural engineering) and 3) how these structures and systems affect (usually negatively) the environment humans are living in. Civil engineers differ from architects, because their focus is broader than focusing on how to design and maintain a building or structure. Civil engineering is about the bigger picture of human habitation and populations.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Civil Engineer?

Engineers must, of course, be able to complete all the necessary educational and professional requirements to become engineers at all. This indicates an intelligence type that is analytical, detail oriented and inquisitive. Creativity is also a necessary trait as it feeds into creative problem solving. Interpersonal skills are also highly necessary, as civil engineers almost always work with teams and other departments. Project managements skills are also an absolute must, as there are usually a multitude of moving parts (phases, teams, disciplines) to any one project. Language - spoken and written - are also necessary due to not only the teaming aspect of a civil engineer's job but also because of the necessity to communicate findings, present recommendations, etc. in written form.

How much does a Civil Engineer make?

As of May 2007, the range of annual wages for a civil engineer ranged from $46,000 to $109,000+. The largest numbers of civil engineers were employed by engineering firms and various governmental entities (federal, state, local). Industry jobs, vs. government jobs, tended to pay higher.


Who are some influential professionals in this field?

A good way to find out who is leading the profession of civil engineering is to look up who comprise the board, management and advisory board to each of the below professional organizations. The American Society of Civil Engineers also publishes an annual registry of professionals in this field.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

American Society of Civil Engineers - leading US professional organization for civil engineers

Chi Epsilon - undergraduate civil engineering honor society

ABET - Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Oversees accreditation of college and university engineering programs.

National Society of Professional Engineers - Primary national professional organization for PEs across all disciplines.

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying - national organization composed of licensing boards from all US states and territories.

For a lists of state boards, visit the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying's website.

What are the top cities for Civil Engineering jobs?

The state of Washington has the highest concentration of civil engineering jobs by far, but the District of Columbia and New Jersey represented the states where the top salaries are found. The Seattle/Olympia area seems to employ an unusually high number of jobs, most likely due to the presence of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Houston also seemed to be a city of high concentration, probably due to some leading companies involved in the energy industry with facilities there.

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