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Civil Engineer Careers

Civil Engineers are responsible for designing, building and supervising infrastructure projects and systems. A lot of times they're able to split their time between working outside and in an office. So, at least, you won't be spending all of your time outside. Which is especially important depending on the seasons. No one wants to spend all day outside in the sweltering heat, but they also probably don't want to freeze to death in the dead of winter.

What Does a Civil Engineer 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.

How To Become a Civil Engineer

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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Average Salary for a Civil Engineer

Civil Engineers in America make an average salary of $70,785 per year or $34 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $90,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $55,000 per year.
Average Salary

Best Paying Cities

Average Salarydesc
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range79k - 108k$93k$92,828
Las Vegas, NV
Salary Range65k - 91k$78k$77,555
Linden, NJ
Salary Range62k - 87k$74k$74,010
Seattle, WA
Salary Range63k - 85k$74k$73,730
San Antonio, TX
Salary Range61k - 88k$74k$73,722
Washington, DC
Salary Range62k - 86k$73k$73,486

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Civil Engineer Department Lead
Civil Engineer Department Lead
Civil Engineer/Public Works
Civil Engineer/Public Works
City of Pueblo
City of Pueblo
Civil Engineer
Civil Engineer
Department of The Interior
Department of The Interior
Civil Engineer (Transportation)
Civil Engineer (Transportation)
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Assistant/Associate Civil Engineer
Assistant/Associate Civil Engineer
City of Fairfield, California
City of Fairfield, California
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Civil Engineer Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Civil Engineer. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Civil Engineer Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Civil Engineer resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Civil Engineer Demographics



77.3 %


17.2 %


5.5 %



71.0 %


11.4 %

Hispanic or Latino

10.8 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


39.4 %


13.0 %


10.2 %
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Civil Engineer Education




57.4 %


29.9 %


4.2 %

Top Colleges for Civil Engineers

1. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Public

In-State Tuition

2. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

3. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, CA • Public

In-State Tuition

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition

5. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

6. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, VA • Public

In-State Tuition

7. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA • Public

In-State Tuition

8. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

9. Texas Tech University

Lubbock, TX • Public

In-State Tuition

10. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
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Top Skills For a Civil Engineer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.6% of civil engineers listed civil 3d on their resume, but soft skills such as leadership skills and math skills are important as well.

  • Civil 3D, 13.6%
  • Engineering Design, 9.3%
  • Construction Projects, 7.1%
  • Construction Documents, 6.8%
  • Project Management, 6.3%
  • Other Skills, 56.9%
  • See All Civil Engineer Skills

Best States For a Civil Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a civil engineer. The best states for people in this position are California, Alaska, Nevada, and New Jersey. Civil engineers make the most in California with an average salary of $89,341. Whereas in Alaska and Nevada, they would average $83,860 and $77,816, respectively. While civil engineers would only make an average of $73,874 in New Jersey, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Alaska

Total Civil Engineer Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. California

Total Civil Engineer Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Nevada

Total Civil Engineer Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Civil Engineer Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ civil engineers and discovered their number of civil engineer opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that United States Army was the best, especially with an average salary of $81,577. Black & Veatch follows up with an average salary of $74,645, and then comes Jacobs Engineering Group with an average of $78,132. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a civil engineer. The employers include Southern California Edison, Edison International, and System One

1. United States Army
Avg. Salary: 
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2. Black & Veatch
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3. Jacobs Engineering Group
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5. Bechtel
Avg. Salary: 
Civil Engineers Hired: 
6. Greeley & Hansen
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Civil Engineers Hired: 

What are the best companies to work for?


Nik Brown Ph.D.

Assistant Teaching Professor, Northeastern University

Small companies, labs, or think tanks are given a lot of responsibility as a recent graduate.Show more

Civil Engineer Videos

Updated October 2, 2020