Civil engineers design structures that are vital to every city and town. Roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, buildings, dams - even water supply and sewage systems - are all the work of civil engineers.
These projects all involve civil engineers during different phases. Whether in design, research or actual construction, these professionals make a contribution every step of the way. They may specialize in such areas as construction, structural, environment or transportation - there is even a specialization called earthquake engineering, which studies the ability of structures to withstand ground tremors.
Making the grade
Civil engineering is a profession that requires strict training and proven ability. Most all entry-level jobs require a bachelor's degree in engineering. A typical program includes two years of studying math, science, engineering basics, the arts and social sciences. The last two years generally focus mainly on engineering courses, mostly in a single branch. Civil engineering is one of the most commonly studied branches of engineering.
Acceptance into an engineering program requires good grades in math and science, and knowledge of computers. In addition to academic grades and technical skills, civil engineers should be analytical, detail-oriented and creative. The ability to work as part of a team is also important, since the work often involves collaboration with other engineers and professionals in various other fields.
Some positions might be available to college graduates with degrees in mathematics or science, but it's not a good idea to count on this. An engineering degree is the best preparation for a career, and is also the first step toward licensure, which is required by every state. Becoming a licensed professional engineer takes four years of work experience and passing an exam. In fact, licensing is required in most countries, and some professional associations maintain agreements that allow for reciprocity among foreign countries.
Many engineers pursue a doctoral degree, earning a Ph.D. in engineering. The advanced degree is required to teach engineering, and is an advantage in many positions in research and management.
Where the jobs are
More than half of civil engineers work for firms that specialize in architecture, engineering, and related services, and are generally involved in designing new construction projects. The government also employs many civil engineers for federal, state and municipal work. Many find employment in the construction industry, often working for developers or firms that contract with government agencies.
Given our growing population, the need for new projects will increase to accommodate higher numbers of residents. In addition to new projects, there will be the need to repair and replace older structures, and to retrofit many existing building to meet changing energy standards.