How to Become a

Civil Engineer

The complete career guide to be a Civil Engineer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $87,940
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 8.4%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

Civil engineers develop plans for major public projects, such as the building of roadways, bridges, dams, buildings, and water delivery systems. They take many factors into account when forming plans for projects, including potential structural integrity, types of materials to be used, and likely traffic patterns.

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What is a Civil Engineer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in civil engineer roles:

  • Develop plans for major construction and infrastructure projects: buildings, bridges, roadways, dams, water delivery systems, etc.
  • Perform many different types of analysis to develop plans that lead to the long-term structural integrity of projects
  • Identify all permits needed for projects and submit applications for approval
  • Estimate the cost of materials and labor for projects, and find more cost-effective workarounds when needed
  • Monitor progress during the construction phase to ensure projects are being built to specifications

A Day in the Life

Civil engineers design the plans for major construction and infrastructure projects. They work with construction companies, architects, city planners, public officials, and other parties to plan the construction of buildings, water and sewage systems, bridges, roads and interstates, and dams. Planning for these types of projects takes significant research and effort, and civil engineers coordinate and orchestrate all planning activities, from developing blueprints to choosing the materials used.

As part of infrastructure planning, a civil engineer must conduct significant analysis. For example, when building roadways, the civil engineer must determine how the project will affect traffic patterns, determine how many drivers are likely to utilize the new system, and project how traffic will change in the future. This analysis allows the civil engineer to design plans that improve—rather than impede—the flow of traffic through the area where the new roadway is being constructed.

In addition to developing plans and performing analysis for upcoming projects, the civil engineer must also consider potential budget implications of planned projects. Materials, labor, and other factors can affect whether a not a project is financially feasible, so the civil engineer often must look for ways to cut costs—use lower-cost materials or fewer laborers—without compromising the integrity of the structure being developed. They also present plans to government and business officials, as well as the public.

Typical Work Schedule

Most civil engineers work full-time during normal business hours. Overtime is occasionally required in order to finalize plans or hit project deadlines.

Projected Job Growth

Because more government entities, businesses, and individuals are becoming interested in renewable energy, it’s expected that the demand for civil engineers will increase in the coming decade to develop plans for traditional structures as well as design renewable energy remodeling projects.

Civil Engineering Specializations

  • Geotechnical engineers focus on how the environment will impact infrastructure plans. They may develop plans for infrastructure that changes land patterns, such as tunnels through the ground or water, or roadways through mountainous and or/rocky areas.
  • Transportation engineers design and develop systems used in the mass transportation of people or cargo, such as airports, ship ports, subways, and harbors.
  • Structural engineers assess the likely structural integrity of designed projects, evaluating the durability of suggested materials, and determining the long-term structural impacts of elements like weight, erosion, and weather.

Typical Employers

Most civil engineers are employed by engineering companies, local, state, and federal governments, and construction companies.

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How To Become a Civil Engineer

The minimum requirement for finding work as a civil engineer is a bachelor’s degree in engineering, civil engineering, or civil engineering technologies. Some colleges may offer focused programs as well for individuals interested in a specific civil engineering specialty, such as geotechnical engineering. Regardless of the degree pursued, it’s important to ensure that the program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to become licensed as a civil engineer.

After earning the appropriate bachelor’s degree, aspiring civil engineers must then pursue the appropriate licensure. Each state has its own requirements for the licensing process, so it’s important to learn the regulations and processes applicable to your state. However, many states first require new graduates to take a written exam; if passed, they’ll qualify to work as an engineering intern or engineer-in-training under a professionally trained civil engineer.

To become fully licensed, aspiring civil engineers then need to accrue a certain number of hours working as an assistant or intern. Once the training requirements are complete, applicants for licensure take a second exam that, if passed, allows them to become licensed as a full civil engineer. Some civil engineers end their education at this point, while others move into master’s degree programs. A master’s degree can be beneficial to a civil engineer who hopes to move into management positions in the future.

Civil Engineer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Civil Engineer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Civil Engineer's can make an average annual salary of $87,940, or $42 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $64,750 or $31 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #106 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Civil Engineer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Civil Engineers

  • 4%   Doctorate
  • 25.7%   Masters
  • 56.9%   Bachelors
  • 4.7%   Associates
  • 6.2%   College
  • 2.3%   High School
  • 0.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Civil Engineer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 23,600 jobs for a total of 305,000 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 8.4% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #263 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Civil Engineers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Engineering services 130,700 15,200 15%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 36,500 600 1%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 29,800 1,700 2%

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