Civil engineering represents more than just constructing buildings and structures. The work of civil engineers provides the very infrastructures to help society take shape, from public works projects such as roads and bridges to hidden structures like pipelines and sewage systems. As the world continues to modernize, the future of civil engineers looks as sturdy as the structures that come from their blueprints.
Career prospects in civil engineering are steady. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% job growth rate for civil engineers between 2020 and 2030 — equal to the projected growth for the labor market as a whole. Additionally, new and continuing civil engineering projects the world over mean that the field will always be in demand. A career in civil engineering may be challenging, but it also promises great financial and personal rewards.
What Is a Civil Engineering Degree?
A civil engineering degree concentrates on the form of engineering that involves the design, construction, and maintenance of a wide range of man-made structures in the public and private sectors. These structures include but are not limited to, buildings, roads, bridges, canals, and dams.
After completing a bachelor’s degree, usually in civil engineering or a related field such as construction, many civil engineers move on to an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE). This can be key to career advancement, as senior positions typically require at least a master’s education.
Civil engineering represents a broad field, and there are many subdivisions of civil engineering, ranging from construction engineering to transportation engineering. Each discipline contributes to society in a certain way, but generally, the purpose of civil engineering is to create structures and infrastructures that are functional, efficient, and also aesthetically pleasing.
A graduate degree offers students a deep dive into these topics, from studying steel design and open channel hydraulics to database information systems and engineering law. Students will also focus on some of the major challenges that civil engineers may face, such as the need for structural soundness, functionality, and conformity to local construction regulations.
Civil Engineering Careers
Those who have a civil engineering degree have a wide range of career options to choose from. They can seek employment with municipal, state, or federal departments, and contribute to the construction of public buildings, roads, railways, and other structures. Alternatively, they can work as project managers in privately-owned real estate and construction companies, and build residential and commercial buildings. Some companies also need civil engineers to construct industrial structures.
Other than constructing buildings and structures, civil engineering graduates can also perform tasks such as analyzing and designing buildings, supervising other engineers and managing complex construction projects. Some civil engineers also choose to go into engineering research or teach engineering in universities and colleges. Accomplished engineers can also start their own engineering consultancy businesses.
Because of the breadth of the civil engineering field, there are several different career paths that an individual can pursue once they’ve obtained an advanced degree. These paths tend to focus on a specific element of civil engineering.
Construction engineers oversee general construction projects, from the planning and development stage to their completion. These projects can take on many forms, from bridges and highways to airports and stadiums. Those in the role can also oversee elements of a project, such as its budget and timeline.
Structural engineers provide assessment and analysis of major construction projects to ensure their strength, durability, and safety. They can also be involved in a project’s design process to ensure a structure’s overall integrity.
Coastal engineers oversee the construction of structures that are located along the coast. Their work marries the principles of construction engineering with the objectives of protecting the environment and ensuring building integrity in the face of unique coastal conditions. These conditions or factors may include land reclamation, flood and erosion control, and coastal defense.
Transportation engineers design, develop, and maintain systems related to effective transportation. These projects can range from everyday projects such as streets and highways to more complex projects like mass transit systems, airports, and harbors. In some cases, transportation engineers focus entirely on a specific aspect of transportation.
Environmental engineers combine civil engineering and environmental principles to find solutions that improve the environment and work toward resolving environmental problems. Their work can concentrate on local issues or expand to more global concepts, such as environmental sustainability, climate change, purification of air and water, treatment of chemical and biological wastes, and rectifying contaminated sites.
Surveyors provide measurements of sizes and positions of construction projects to determine the boundaries of a structure or property. They also measure elements that can impact how a structure can be built, such as angular deviation and slope distances. Additionally, they can work to establish official land and water boundaries for legal documents such as leases or deeds.
Resources for Civil Engineers
Civil engineering is a complex field filled with many intricacies. While this presents certain challenges, there are a number of resources civil engineers can access to help guide them.
- American Society of Civil Engineers: A national engineering organization publishing civil engineering content as well as civil engineering codes and standards
- Civil Digital: An online digital library with an emphasis on eco-friendly design
- Civil Engineering Information Center: A website that provides a wealth of useful information for civil engineers
- Civil Engineering Media: The ultimate civil engineering news website
- Civil Engineering Portal: A repository for civil engineering journals, books, magazines, and software
- ICE Bookshop: A bookshop that specializes in civil engineering publications
- Introduction to Civil Engineering: A website that covers the basics of civil engineering
Build Your Career Path Today
The work of civil engineers can make the world a more connected and efficient place. Each building, structure, or system they help build represents progress toward a better tomorrow. This makes their work not only important but also immensely satisfying.
For more than a century, Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology has been guiding engineers toward this satisfying career path. The online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program at Ohio University is designed to equip students with the skills and expertise to make a profound difference in this dynamic field and in the modern world.
Learn how the Ohio University MSCE program can help you get ready to make that difference.
Civil Engineering: A Solid Job Market
Civil Engineering Failures That Led to New Technology Breakthroughs
What Is Construction Engineering? Exploring Careers, Salaries, and Educational Requirements
American Society of Civil Engineers, Role of the Coastal Engineer in Civil Engineering Practice
Houston Chronicle, “Job Description for a Construction Project Engineer”
Structural Engineers Association of California, What Is a Structural Engineer?
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civil Engineers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Environmental Engineers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Surveyors