Civil engineering is the most prevalent and perhaps, oldest engineering profession. From the Greek Acropolis to the Roman aqueducts, man has long sought to create enthralling structures. Even relatively modern structures like the Panama Canal, Empire State Building, and the Channel tunnel highlight the marvelous feats made possible by civil engineering.
In today’s world, civil engineers design and oversee the building and maintenance of tunnels, bridges, buildings, roads, water supply systems, and many other infrastructures. The demand for highly-qualified civil engineers has been on the rise for two main reasons. First, as older infrastructure gets out of phase, they need to be renovated or replaced. Second, the global population has been increasing exponentially. As a result, new infrastructures are needed to accommodate this tremendous growth.
For individuals that want to get into this profession and create structures that will help humanity, this post explores the steps you need to take to become a civil engineer.
Research the Field
The first step is to determine if the field is the right fit for you. This means knowing if you have the necessary skills, and also determining the field you’ll love to specialize in.
Civil engineers use science, math, nature’s forces, and materials to advance humanity. Therefore, at the very least, you must be maths and science-oriented. Furthermore, you must be able to effectively work in a team as complex projects often mean you have to work with others. Other skills you need include decision-making, problem-solving, and effective communication.
Common fields in civil engineering include construction, environments, geotechnical, hydraulic, structural, and transportation engineering.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering (4 years)
A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering is the base level of education required before you can begin working in the field. Civil engineering undergraduate programs expose students to a variety of core concepts in math, engineering, fluid dynamics, statistics, and architectural design. Aside from classwork, students also undergo internships or co-ops, as well as onsite fieldwork.
Earn a Master’s Degree (Recommended; 1 to 2 years)
In the past few years, employers are beginning to prefer civil engineers with a master’s degree. Unsurprisingly, one in five civil engineers has a master’s degree. Having a master’s degree makes it easier to secure employment, earn more, and quickly climb the corporate ladder.
A master’s degree in civil engineering often offers specialty tracks. This enables you to gain high-level knowledge in the particular area you wish to work professionally. Common specialty tracks include:
- Structural engineering and geomechanics
- Environment and engineering sciences
- Sustainable design and construction
- Atmosphere and energy
- Environment fluid mechanics and hydrology
Get Professional Experience (1 to 4 years)
Before you can become a credentialed civil engineer, most states and national licensing boards require a bachelor’s (or master’s) degree, also with varying levels of experience. Civil engineering is a practical field, so the hands-on experience is crucial. Internships and apprenticeships roles that teach business and government regulations, communication skills, and risk assessment, are ideal.
Before starting any of these roles, most states require you to attain an “Engineer in Training” (EIT) status. Therefore, you first need to take the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. This status confirms that you’ve mastered the fundamental skills and principles in the field. This requirement is for most engineering professionals, include civil engineers.
Get Professional Credentials
EIT is just the start of the credentialing you’ll need to secure. Some of the common licensures you can pursue are:
Civil Engineering Licensure by State
Before assuming formal titles like a structural engineer, general engineering contractor, and erosion specialist, most states require that you obtain a license. The requirement for this license varies from state to state, so you have to check with your state’s board of licensing to know what’s required of you.
Licensed Professional Engineer (PE)
As a civil engineer, it’s advisable you become a licensed professional engineer (PE). Employers tend to prefer candidates that are PEs because it speaks to having advanced knowledge and a broader experience. Furthermore, some tasks can only be carried out by PEs. By being a PE, you also get to earn more and advance your career at a faster rate.
ASCE Board Certification
Aside from being a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, you can seek out specialized certifications they offer. Here are some of the available specializations:
- Ocean engineering
- Coastal engineering
- Geotechnical engineering
- Water resource engineering
- Navigation engineering
- Ports engineering
Career Outlook For Civil Engineers
In terms of income prospects, civil engineering is attractive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for civil engineers was $87,060 in May 2019. The lowest 10% earned less than $55,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $144,560.
Earnings widely vary based on education, certification, and experience level. The company you’re working in, as well as your position, will also determine how much you make.
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