become a civil engineer

What does a Civil Engineer do?

A civil engineer supervises and designs substantial construction projects. They maintain, construct, and operate these construction projects. These projects could be include airports, buildings, bridges, sewage treatment, or systems for water supply.

Watch a video to learn what a civil engineer does:

How to Become a Civil Engineer

Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology or civil engineering. In order to elevate their career a graduate degree would usually be expected. A civil engineer must normally be licensed where they provide public services, but requirements are different from state to state. There are also many benefits to having a career in civil engineering. At the top of the list is job demand as there are always projects worldwide that require civil engineers. Because of the numerous projects that civil engineers can work on, there can also be a variety of different types of work. If you like to travel, some civil engineers travel the world depending on the company they work for.

Job Description of a Civil Engineer

A civil engineer oversees, designs, and plans the construction and maintenance of building structures and/or facilities like irrigation projects, power plants, bridges, and other sites. They inspect work sites to ensure conformance to safety and design specifications and monitor progress of the project. They give estimates of cost materials and quantities or the project site’s maintenance. They can provide the technical advice needed for structural repairs, program modifications or regarding design.

A civil engineer would determine the strength and adequacy of steel, foundations, asphalt, or concrete by testing materials or soils. In determining design specifications to material stress factors or water flow rates they would grade and compute load requirements. They use design software and drawing tools to follow construction and government standards in designing and planning hydraulic systems or transportation and structures. They analyze aerial photography, geologic data, maps, blueprints and other types of reports and surveys to plan projects. He or she would sometimes give reports on subjects, like, environmental impact statements, bid proposals or other public reports.

A knowledge of engineering and technology, management and administration, as well as, design, building and construction is needed. A knowledge of public safety and security, mathematics and physics is used in this occupation. Time management is important and complex problem solving among other skills.

Civil Engineer Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the Department of Transportation. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Provides on-site administration of construction contracts.
  • Ensures projects are constructed according to plans and specifications.
  • Administers projects by providing engineering guidance to the contractor, the client agency, and other project personnel.
  • Ensures engineering and technical specification requirements are met and work is accomplished according to the contract documents.
  • Determines the need for and issues directives to the contractor as provided for in the contract and in conformance with Division policies and procedures.
  • Foresees possible problems and takes appropriate action.
  • Oversees a range of assigned activities such as materials testing, project schedule, progress estimates, surveys, traffic control, environmental controls, and construction methods.
  • Makes recommendations to the project engineer if construction methods and safety measures do not comply with the contract.
  • Determines the acceptability and quality of the day-to-day work.
  • Documents daily activities and ensures project files are kept up-to-date and complete.
  • Identifies possible changes needed and obtains field data as needed.
  • Prepares contract modifications and, as approved by the project engineer, issues directives and contract modifications.
  • Develops independent government estimates and drafts contract modification documents, including pre-negotiation memorandums and negotiation memorandums.
  • Prepares on-site correspondence.
  • Carries out the day-to-day project activity and coordinates with contractor staff, co-workers, partner or cooperating agency representatives, State and county officials, local municipalities, property owners, local utilities, and other interested parties, and resolves issues and problems that arise.
  • Maintains public relations through contacts at the local level.

This position was posted to run 10/01/2018 until 09/30/2019 with a salary range of $46,609 to $106,012 per year on (link opens in a new tab). is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

The American Society of Civil Engineers (link opens in a new tab) has games, activities, and career guidance for students on the Pre-College Outreach page. There are resources specifically for teachers as well.

Civil Engineer Career Video Transcript

From 4,500-year-old Egyptian pyramids and ancient Roman aqueducts to today’s monolithic bridges and giant skyscrapers, civil engineering has a long and impressive history. Civil engineers design and maintain many of the structures around us, including buildings, roads, bridges, and the systems that move water and waste for our communities. For every project, civil engineers must meet regulatory standards, prioritize safety, consider environmental risks, and the endurance of materials, and anticipate costs for building as well as long-term maintenance. From entry-level positions to project leads, this is a team-based career that requires continuous problem solving. It’s typical for civil engineers to specialize. Construction engineers manage large construction projects.

Geotechnical engineers ensure the solid foundation of engineering projects like tunnels and tall buildings. Structural engineers design and evaluate plans for major buildings, bridges, and dams and make sure they are built to last. Transportation engineers plan roadway construction and maintenance, as well as design airports, subways, and metro transit systems. Civil engineers often work outdoors at construction sites to monitor progress and troubleshoot any problems that come up. Most work full time. They need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, one of its specialties, or in civil engineering technology. A professional engineering license is required for many jobs. Civil engineering is a complex field, but it’s one that leaves a lasting mark.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Civil Engineers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 17-2051.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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