What You'll Do
By Jennifer Wegerer
Civil engineering professionals design, construct and maintain society's infrastructure—buildings, bridges, roads, airports, dams, water supplies and environmental systems. With the intricacy involved in creating and updating infrastructure designs and projects, civil engineers must take into account not only construction costs but project completion time, government regulations and potential environmental hazards, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
One of the oldest engineering disciplines, civil engineering plays a central role in communicating infrastructure ideas and solutions to local, state and federal government. And they make a strong effort to inform the public as well. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes booklets and other resources to educate communities and clarify issues surrounding the latest infrastructure topics.
Possessing a deep and abiding interest in the civil infrastructure, civil engineers often build careers at construction companies, government agencies and private consulting firms. But they are not restricted to these organizations. In fact, aerospace, oil, automotive, power and pharmaceutical industries employ their fair share of civil engineers.
A key factor in the growing demand for civil engineers? An expanding U.S. population. With more people comes an increased demand for improved infrastructure, expanded water supplies, greater pollution control and other upgrades essential to a thriving population.
The Future of Civil Engineering
When it comes to rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure, civil engineers are voices to trust, and they take their responsibility seriously. The ASCE tracks government relations topics for which the civil engineering community has suggested policies and provided testimony. Regarding federal regulations that surround public safety and environmental consciousness, civil engineers have been involved in an extensive list of issues:
- Plans for natural resource conservation and suggestions for disseminating related emergency funding under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
- Recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration on national tunnel inspection standards and procedures.
- Support and research regarding top-priority economic and environmental policies.
Schools & Degrees
Civil engineers belong to one of the most interdisciplinary engineering fields. As such, civil engineering majors can expect their college programs to encompass course work in in-depth civil engineering topics as well as computer science, applied mathematics, economics, chemistry and business management.
Colleges and universities across the U.S. offer bachelor's, master's and PhD programs in civil engineering and civil engineering technology. As the BLS indicates, civil engineering falls among the top three specialties in which students earn engineering degrees in the U.S. While a bachelor's serves as a good foundation for most entry-level jobs, the ASCE recommends that civil engineers aspiring to higher-level positions or roles as educators attain an advanced degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for civil engineers is $82,050. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.