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Essential Skills for a Career in Civil Engineering

Working civil engineering

In today’s highly competitive, global world, civil engineers who possess the proper training, education, and experience often find they have multiple career opportunities and options available to them. These highly skilled engineers use their wide range of knowledge to grow and foster successful careers in the public and private sectors. For those civil engineers who are early on in their career, or for those who are looking to further their career success, it’s important to have a solid grasp of the essential skills that are necessary for civil engineers today.

Technical training

The foundation for any career in engineering, especially the field of civil engineering, is an understanding and working knowledge of science. This includes chemistry, physics, biology, and the computer sciences. Students vying for careers in the civil engineering field these days have the upper hand, as the formal training they receive in their undergraduate and graduate education helps lay a foundation for their technical training. Some states also require that civil engineers obtain a Professional Engineer’s License (PE), especially when working with the public.

Mathematical skills

The principles of mathematics are applicable to the day-to-day duties and routines of a civil engineering career. In order to succeed as a civil engineer, engineering students need to have a thorough understanding of algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and geometry. In some areas of specialization, such as transportation engineering and water resources engineering, a basic understanding of statistics is a plus.

Written communication skills

From technicians to project managers, civil engineers at every level need to be able to communicate via written reports and correspondence in a clear and concise way. Oftentimes, civil engineers deal with other professionals of various backgrounds such as architects, urban planners, regional planners, and other technicians and tradespeople. Other aspects of their job may require communicating with elected officials, citizens, and others who may not possess technical backgrounds in engineering or science. This varied communication requires that civil engineers can write in an easily understandable and straightforward manner for their audience.

Oral communication skills

Oral communication skills are another critical asset for future civil engineers. This entails being able to listen to clients, officials, team members, and other skilled workers in order to grasp their concerns and requests effectively. Strong speaking skills are also necessary for civil engineers when explaining complex technical information to the people they work and interact with in a concise fashion so that they can easily comprehend the information being shared.

Leadership skills

The responsibility for the outcomes of projects falls on the civil engineers who manage them. Therefore, it is important that managers have significant leadership skills when overseeing planners, technicians, technologists, surveyors, and contractors. This involves being able to plan and prioritize, manage time effectively, delegate duties when necessary, make decisions with confidence and authority, and motivate members of the team.

Organizational skills

One of the main duties of a licensed civil engineer is to monitor and evaluate the progress of work completed at a jobsite, and making sure staff are in compliance with design documents, project plans, and other rules and regulations. Licensed civil engineers are also the only ones who can sign design documents for infrastructure projects. Due to this responsibility for the official documents and the fact that engineers often work on multiple projects at once, they must be able to organize project information, manage team members, and allocate resources where necessary.

Problem solving

Analytical skills are absolutely vital. During the different stages of a project, such as planning and construction, engineers will encounter a number of variables that will influence the outcome or hold up the progress of a project. This is when engineers need to harness their skills, education, and experience in order to find safe and cost-effective solutions to the issues that arise while keeping the project on track.

Decision-making

While working as a leader and manager of a project, a civil engineer will need to consider the available information, conflicting goals from different parties involved, professional ethics, financial responsibilities, and safety concerns when making decisions. They need to have confidence in themselves and in their team for providing accurate and useful information in order to make decisions that are clear and effective. Also, when mistakes are made, they should take responsibility, learn what went wrong, and guide the project on a new path.

As technology evolves and the needs of growing populations change, civil engineers also need to ensure they continually strengthen their existing skillsets and spend time honing and developing new ones. Each new skill civil engineers master could help them land their dream job, or rise the ranks in their existing organization.

Learn More

For more than a century, Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology has been teaching engineers how to create for good – how to engineer a better future with responsible and sustainable design. Learn more about our online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program and master how to effectively supervise, plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructures essential to connect the modern world.

Recommended Readings

Civil Engineering Resource and Career Guide
A Civil Engineer’s Look at Roads and Highways
Civil Engineering Failures

Sources

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm#tab-4

http://tryengineering.org/ask-expert/what-skills-do-i-need-develop-become-effective-engineer

http://work.chron.com/important-skills-civil-engineer-6187.html

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