what does a civil engineer do?

  • job profiles
  • September 08, 2020

From roads to buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges and more, civil engineers have a hand in constructing a lot of the physical infrastructure you probably use all the time. They work in a wide range of different environments, too: Nearly half of civil engineers are employed in engineering services (49%), followed by state and local governments.

Diving a bit deeper into the role, high-level responsibilities of most civil engineers today include the following:

  • spearheading engineering and civil engineering projects
  • designing transportation projects from end to end
  • collaborating with transportation engineers, environmental engineers, geotechnical engineers, construction engineers and more
  • understanding concerns about public works, water supplies and health and safety risks
  • applying knowledge of environmental impact studies to engineering projects
  • conceiving, building and maintaining large-scale infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector
  • leading teams and acting in a project management capacity
  • conducting feasibility studies and assessments as well as site inspections
  • researching projects and creating cost and materials estimates
  • staying on top of the latest government regulations, zoning codes, ordinances and more
  • optimizing safety procedures and production processes
  • troubleshooting and finding solutions
  • communication with a wide range of stakeholders, from clients to onsite contractors, subcontractors and more

how do you become a civil engineer?

There are any number of different paths to becoming a civil engineer today, but probably the most reliable begins with education and training. After all, you’re going to be well versed in some of the finer points of the structure and mechanics of buildings, building and zoning codes, design principles and a whole lot more.

What are the qualifications and requirements needed to become a successful civil engineer? Let’s call out a few:

  • bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related field from a university that has been accredited by the Institution of Civil Engineers
  • registration/licensure to practice as a professional engineer (PE) typically required
  • previous industry experience
  • proficiency with design software like Autodesk, AutoCad Civil 3D, MicroStation and more
  • the ability to create maps, models and blueprints using advanced software

Pro tip: Scan the job description closely to be sure you understand all of the “must-have” versus “nice-to-have” qualifications for the role.

what are the key skills of a civil engineer?

Civil engineers — who, it should be noted, are also sometimes called “structural engineers” or “structural design engineers” on job boards — tend to have fairly diverse skill sets. Beyond having the essential math and engineering know-how, they also frequently have to work with large teams of people day in and day out. It’s easy to see why, in that case, relationship management and team-building skills can be crucial, as well.

Of course, those aren’t the only soft skills that are prized among civil engineers today. Additional aptitudes that frequently set candidates apart include:

  • analytical and critical thinking
  • verbal and written communication skills
  • people management and interpersonal skills
  • trust- and team-building abilities
  • emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy
  • budgeting and financial management abilities

what's the pay rate for a civil engineer?

Compensation levels for civil engineers tend to vary considerably, but six-figure salaries — at least for some of the most seasoned pros — aren’t unheard of. Looking at the latest data, in any case, average salaries for civil engineers can be effectively grouped into three tiers: low, middle and high. Those tiers are as follows:

  • low $85,813
  • mid $108,627
  • high $131,651

Like a lot of things in the economy right now, of course, salaries for civil engineers are very much in flux. Your best bet for getting insights, given that context, is to head on over to our free salary comparison tool. It’ll surface at-a-glance data about pay rates across locations and markets.

key takeaways

At this point, you should be pretty well versed in what civil engineers do on a daily basis, as we've taken you step-by-step through:

  • what civil engineers do
  • background, training, experience and other requirements for this position
  • key skills
  • salary
  • and more

Got it all? Good! Now, it's time for you to take action — start searching for highly in-demand civil engineering jobs near you. Alternately, in the event that you need to secure a bit more relevant training in order to improve your overall readiness for the role, you should check out online courses like these ones from Udemy, our learning partner. There, you’ll find everything you need to make the cut, improve your pay grade and land your next great role as a civil engineer in today’s ultra-competitive job market.