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Civil Engineers

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Career Overview

All cities exist because of the civil engineers who designed it. Civil engineers plan, design, and help build almost every aspect of a city, including roads, buildings, water systems, and bridges. While some civil engineers are on-site supervisors, many work off-site in administration, design, research, or even education roles.In terms of the actual process for building something, there's a lot more to it than it might seem. At the start of a new project, you'll have the analyze survey reports, estimate construction costs, determine environmental impact, and consider any other factors that could be effected. Then you'll have to submit several permit applications to government agencies to confirm that your project complies with all the various regulations. Next, it's a matter of testing the strength of the foundation you're building on, as well as the materials you'll be using. After you create the full building plan with design software, construction can finally begin.It might have taken just a few sentences to explain the process, but it's much more complicated when you're actually on the job. Depending on the size of the project, it could take several years of planning and construction before it's actually finished. It all really comes down to where you're working and the type of projects you're dealing with.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
10.6 %

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering or related specialization Civil Engineering (CE) Intern, Engineer-in-Training (EIT), or Professional Engineer (PE) Licensure

Becoming a civil engineer isn't easy. It takes a lot of time, tests, and licensing, so it's better to be absolutely sure that this is the path you want to go down.You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to get started, but senior positions often require a graduate degree. Engineers require a strong background in math and science, with coursework in math, statistics, mechanics and systems, fluid dynamics, and more.Civil engineers require a license to work professionally, but the rules differ in each state. First off, the degree program you choose must be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Then you'll have to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination to become a CE Intern or an EIT. Depending on the state, you'll either need to take another test, gain work experience, or satisfy other requirements in order to become a full-fledged PE.

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Valued Traits & Abilities

Decision-Making Skills
Problem-Solving Skills
Quantitative Abilities
Leadership Skills
Communication Skills

Career Opportunities

A lot of projects in civil engineering are pretty complex. Since so many different factors need to be considered, many civil engineers choose a specialization in one of these areas.

Construction Engineers

Construction engineers oversee the actual construction, making sure everything goes smoothly and follows the planned specifications. They are usually responsible for designing the plans as well as ensuring the safety of temporary structures used during construction.

Geo technical Engineers

These engineers are in charge of making sure the land can support whatever they're building on it. They analyze soil composition and rock foundations to make sure it won't collapse or cause any damage to the structure.

Structural Engineers

Structural engineers mainly design major support-based projects, such buildings, bridges and dams. They must ensure that the project remains strong and durable over time.

Transportation Engineers

Transportation engineers cover projects related to how people get around. It can be as ordinary as roads or highways, but they also deal with larger projects such as airports, harbors, and mass transit systems.

Work Environment

The hours may vary depending on the project and deadlines, but civil engineers usually work full time in an office. Since they cover a lot of the planning and development of a project, it's fairly likely you'll see a civil engineer at the project site. They won't be doing any heavy lifting, but they will be overseeing construction to make sure everything goes according to plan.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013