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Become A Civil Designer

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Working As A Civil Designer

  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Getting Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • $80,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Civil Designer Do

Civil engineers design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Many civil engineers work in design, construction, research, and education.


Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze long range plans, survey reports, maps, and other data in order to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning the stages of, and risk analysis for, a project
  • Compile and submit permit applications to local, state, and federal agencies, verifying that projects comply with various regulations
  • Perform or oversee soil testing to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project’s economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Perform or oversee surveying operations in order to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or descriptions of property
  • Manage the repair, maintenance, and replacement of public and private infrastructure

Civil engineers inspect projects to insure regulatory compliance. In addition, they are tasked with ensuring that safe work practices are followed at construction sites.

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer, public works director, and city manager. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. Civil engineers work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians.

Civil engineers prepare permit documents for work on projects in renewable energy. They verify that the projects will comply with federal, state, and local requirements. With regard to solar energy, these engineers conduct structural analyses for large-scale photovoltaic projects. They also evaluate the ability of solar array support structures and buildings to tolerate stresses from wind, seismic activity, and other sources. For large-scale wind projects, civil engineers often prepare roadbeds to handle large trucks that haul in the turbines. In addition, they prepare the sites on the shore or offshore to make sure that the foundations for the turbines will safely keep them upright in expected environmental conditions.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Construction engineers manage construction projects, ensuring that they are scheduled and built in accordance with plans and specifications. These engineers typically are responsible for the design and safety of temporary structures used during construction.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). In addition, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as buildings, bridges, or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan, design, operate, and maintain everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ship ports, mass transit systems, and harbors.

The work of civil engineers is closely related to the work of environmental engineers.

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How To Become A Civil Designer

Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree. They typically need a graduate degree and licensure for promotion to senior positions. Although licensure requirements vary within the United States, civil engineers usually must be licensed in the locations where they provide services directly to the public.


Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, in one of its specialties, or in civil engineering technology. Programs in civil engineering and civil engineering technology include coursework in math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics, among other courses, depending on the specialty. Courses include a mix of traditional classroom learning, work in laboratories, and fieldwork.

A degree from a program accredited by the ABET is needed in order to earn the professional engineer (PE) license. In many states, a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology also will suffice as an academic requirement for obtaining a license.

About 1 in 4 civil engineers has a master’s degree. Further education after the bachelor’s degree, along with the PE license and previous experience, is helpful in getting a job as a manager. For more information on engineering managers, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Civil engineers often balance multiple and frequently conflicting objectives, such as determining the feasibility of plans with regard to financial costs and safety concerns. Urban and regional planners often look to civil engineers for advice on these issues. Civil engineers must be able to make good decisions based on best practices, their own technical knowledge, and their own experience.

Leadership skills. Civil engineers take ultimate responsibility for the projects that they manage or research that they perform. Therefore, they must be able to lead planners, surveyors, construction managers, civil engineering technicians, civil engineering technologists, and others in implementing their project plan.

Math skills. Civil engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Organizational skills. Only licensed civil engineers can sign the design documents for infrastructure projects. This requirement makes it imperative that civil engineers be able to monitor and evaluate the work at the jobsite as a project progresses. That way, they can ensure compliance with the design documents. Civil engineers also often manage several projects at the same time, and thus must be able to balance time needs and to effectively allocate resources.

Problem-solving skills. Civil engineers work at the highest level of the planning, design, construction, and operation of multifaceted projects or research. The many variables involved require that they possess the ability to identify and evaluate complex problems. They must be able to then utilize their skill and training to develop cost-effective, safe, and efficient solutions.

Speaking skills. Civil engineers must present reports and plans to audiences of people with a wide range of backgrounds and technical knowledge. This requires the ability to speak clearly and to converse with people in various settings, and to translate engineering and scientific information into easy to understand concepts.

Writing skills. Civil engineers must be able to communicate with others, such as architects, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners. They also must be able to explain projects to elected officials and citizens. This means that civil engineers must be able to write reports that are clear, concise, and understandable to those with little or no technical or scientific background.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a civil engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, approve design plans, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years working under a licensed engineer
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after earning a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Each state issues its own licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.


Civil engineers with ample experience may move into senior positions, such as project managers or functional managers of design, construction, operation, or maintenance. However, they would first need to obtain the Professional Engineering (PE) license, because only licensed engineers can assume responsibilities for public projects.

After gaining licensure, a professional engineer may seek credentialing that attests to his or her expertise in a civil engineering specialty. Such a credential may be of help for advancement to senior technical or even managerial positions.

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Civil Designer Career Paths

Civil Designer
Structural Designer Senior Designer
Design Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Structural Designer Senior Designer Project Manager
Director Of Construction
13 Yearsyrs
Structural Designer Senior Designer Senior Design Engineer
Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Project Manager General Manager Owner/Operator
Construction Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Owner/Operator Construction Manager
Senior Construction Manager
14 Yearsyrs
Mechanical Designer Mechanical Engineer Project Engineer
Project Engineering Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Mechanical Designer Design Engineer Engineering Manager
Engineering Director
13 Yearsyrs
Mechanical Designer Project Engineer Engineering Manager
Senior Engineering Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Project Engineer Engineering Manager Engineering Director
Vice President Of Engineering
13 Yearsyrs
Civil Engineer Construction Manager
Senior Project Manager Construction
13 Yearsyrs
Civil Engineer Senior Engineer
Engineering Supervisor
6 Yearsyrs
Civil Engineer Construction Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Engineering Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Design Engineer Senior Design Engineer
Design Engineering Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Design Engineer Senior Project Engineer Assistant Project Manager
Controls Project Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Design Manager Project Manager/Design Manager Project Engineering Manager
Engineering Operations Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Structural Designer Lead Designer Project Manager/Design Manager
Facilities Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Civil Engineering Designer Engineer Structures Engineer
Senior Civil Engineer
10 Yearsyrs
Engineer Radio Frequency Engineer Senior Field Engineer
Field Engineering Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Estimator Senior Estimator
Construction Consultant
11 Yearsyrs
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Average Yearly Salary
View Detailed Salary Report
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Quanta Services
Highest Paying City
Walnut Creek, CA
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
4.3 years
How much does a Civil Designer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Civil Designer in the United States is $80,127 per year or $39 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $49,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $131,000.

Real Civil Designer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principle Civil/Structrual Designer I CB&I Inc. Houston, TX Oct 08, 2016 $135,491 -
Civil Designer Foster Wheeler USA Corporation Houston, TX Sep 30, 2012 $108,393
Civil Designer Vatani Consulting Engineers Houston, TX Sep 30, 2016 $108,160
Civil Designer Foster Wheeler USA Corporation Houston, TX Jul 27, 2012 $106,080
Architectural/Civil Designer Drafter Tadjer-Cohen-Edelson Associates, Inc. Silver Spring, MD Jan 08, 2016 $79,000
Civil Designer T.Y. Lin International San Ramon, CA Sep 10, 2012 $78,728
Civil Designer Vatani Consulting Engineers Houston, TX Oct 01, 2013 $75,712
Civil Designer/GIS Analyst Tapanam Associates, Inc. Kansas City, MO Dec 01, 2014 $75,000
Civil Designer T.Y. Lin International Chicago, IL May 12, 2012 $75,000 -
Civil Designer T.Y. Lin International Chicago, IL Sep 10, 2012 $75,000 -
Civil Designer/Traffic Analyst Ca Group, Inc. Las Vegas, NV Apr 01, 2015 $74,880
Civil Designer/Traffic Analyst Ca Group, Inc. Las Vegas, NV Jun 01, 2015 $74,880
Civil Designer Vatani Consulting Engineers, PLLC Houston, TX Oct 01, 2010 $72,000
Civil Designer/Traffic Analyst C A Group, Inc. Las Vegas, NV Oct 01, 2014 $70,000 -
Civil Designer/Gis Analyst Tapanam Associates, Inc. Kansas City, MO Dec 01, 2011 $66,830
Civil Designer Civiltech Engineering Inc. Bellevue, WA Aug 02, 2014 $63,153
Senior Civil Designer Ammann & Whitney, Inc. Philadelphia, PA Oct 01, 2012 $62,000 -
Senior Civil Designer Patrick Engineering, Inc. Lisle, IL Sep 15, 2014 $58,282

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Top Skills for A Civil Designer

  1. Autocad
  2. Drainage Design
  3. Site Layout
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Produced fiber design drawing sets for telecommunications industry using AutoCad.
  • Assisted in the design and drafting of area grading and drainage design, landfill design and construction.
  • Produced site layouts, utility locations, grading, landscaping, roadway sections and erosion controls for design and construction plans.
  • Identified optimal lot arrangements to maximize land availability for the most unit, roads and water/sewer lines.
  • Supervised CAD operations for a 25-kilometer water distribution pipeline project located in the Gaza Strip.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Civil Designers

  1. Alaska
  2. California
  3. Texas
  4. New Jersey
  5. Louisiana
  6. New York
  7. Nevada
  8. Washington
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Minnesota
  • (19 jobs)
  • (712 jobs)
  • (421 jobs)
  • (147 jobs)
  • (40 jobs)
  • (345 jobs)
  • (33 jobs)
  • (183 jobs)
  • (51 jobs)
  • (86 jobs)

Civil Designer Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken






















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Civil Designer Education


Houston Community College


University of Houston


Pennsylvania State University


ITT Technical Institute-Houston West


Lamar University


Georgia Institute of Technology -


Pellissippi State Community College


Arizona State University


University of North Carolina at Charlotte


University of Arizona


California State Polytechnic University - Pomona


University of Nevada - Las Vegas


Southern Polytechnic State University


Pittsburgh Technical Institute


University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez


Wake Technical Community College


Valencia College


Tennessee Technological University


University of Texas at Arlington


San Jose State University

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Civil Engineering


Drafting And Design






Civil Engineering Technologies




Construction Management


Project Management


Industrial Technology


Computer Science


Graphic Design


Environmental Design


Engineering Technology


Mechanical Engineering


Architectural Technology


Surveying, Mapping, And Hydraulic Technologies




Engineering And Industrial Management


Environmental Science


Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

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