How Hard Is Civil Engineering?

About the Author

Emma Keegan

Emma is a graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in education and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at George Washington University for publishing. Having both taught and studied online, she has experience on both sides of online education. Emma is an avid writer who enjoys helping others by writing engaging educational content. When she’s not writing blogs or reading the newest academic studies, you’ll find her spending time with her family and her favorite cat.

You’ve decided to take the next step and attend college. Finding the right major can be difficult, as your options are seemingly unlimited.

But after lots of searching, you have landed on civil engineering. It interests you and seems like a steady career with high earning potential.

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But one thing is holding you back: how challenging will it be to get your degree?

In this article, we will take a look at the different factors that go into determining how difficult it is to earn a civil engineering degree and if it’s even worth it.

See Also: How Hard is it to Get a Job in Computer Science?

What Is a Civil Engineer?

Simply put, a civil engineer designs, builds, and maintains public works and infrastructure. In this career, your days will be split between maintaining the local dam, designing a new bridge, or overseeing the construction of a new public building. 

Related: What is Civil Engineering Technology?

Does a Civil Engineer Need a Degree?

Simply put, yes, all civil engineers need to go to school and earn an engineering degree. While the majority of civil engineers earn only a bachelor’s degree, there are many who go on to earn a master’s or even doctoral degree as well.

The courses you will be taking at university include advanced math, physics, and, of course, engineering. That said, if you find high school level math and science courses difficult, then you will need to work extra hard in college to pass. While earning a civil engineering or mechanical engineering degree isn’t impossible, you will have to work hard and make sacrifices to get it.

Is Civil Engineering Hard, Stressful, or Both?

Civil engineering is relatively hard. Consider the amount of work-related skills needed to succeed in this profession.

  • Communication and writing
  • Advanced math, physics, engineering
  • Problem-solving
  • At least a four-year degree

Additionally, since practical experience is valued so highly in this field, you might also have to spend your summers interning just to get your foot in the door. These internships can be hard and stressful, as you are pushed out of your comfort zone and forced to apply your newly acquired knowledge to real-life situations.

Many engineers find themselves a member or head of a team, meaning that being able to handle interpersonal conflict is crucial to success. So be prepared to deal with problems from both your physical work to your personal relationships.

While engineering might be hard, it is not impossible. Much of what you do will take work, but it is no doubt possible.

Will I Need Extra Training?

Any additional training depends on the route you take as an engineer.

If you choose to be an independent contractor and sell your services, you will need a license. This license allows you to be in control of a project and supervise civil engineers. To get this license, you will first need a degree given by an ABET-accredited program.

No matter the route you take, it is highly recommended that you continually conduct on the job training. As technology advances and new techniques are invented, you will want to make sure you stay abreast of the field. 

What Are the Must-Have Skills?

Many employers were asked to rank the top five skills they found most important in their civil engineers. If you want to be in engineering, focus on growing these five skills.


As an engineer, you will need to have a deep understanding of various math concepts. In college, you will study calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, trigonometry, and more. If you are considering this degree but highly disliked your math courses in high school, then at least be aware of what awaits you in this field. 

Clear Communication

A civil engineer usually works as a part of a team and sometimes even takes on leadership roles. Therefore, you must be able to clearly communicate complex ideas and technical plans to your colleagues and clients. 

While most engineers are left-brain thinkers, speaking eloquently and creatively can be a developed skill. Take the time to practice your presentations and craft arguments that match your audience. Having a plan in place will help you become more confident in the boardroom and out in the field.

Reading Comprehension

Being able to absorb textbook knowledge is crucial for both academic and career success. On the job, you will spend your time designing a solution for a presented problem. Determining the problem will be your first step, and that is where reading comprehension comes in. If you don’t understand the project or concept, you will never be able to implement a viable solution. 

To improve your reading skills, focus on expanding your vocabulary as well as improving your reading comprehension. Subscribe to reputable journals in the field and make sure you are reading relevant articles that can help familiarize you with important industry jargon and concepts.

Active Listening

Active listening is important for hearing your client and your team members. Through carefully listening to their suggestions, you can design a plan that fits the project’s needs. Active listening involves fully concentrating on the speaker, understanding what they are saying, and responding to them. You know you’re actively listening when:

  • You ask specific questions
  • Demonstrate concern
  • Use brief verbal affirmations
  • Build trust

At first, this may be hard, but with practice you can grow stronger in this area. Give the speaker your undivided attention and show that you’re listening by repeating what they are saying and providing feedback to each of their points. 

Critical Thinking

This is considered by many the most important skill for any civil engineer. This simply means that you can make logical and informed decisions. Can you take hard theoretical concepts and apply them to everyday situations? Can you tackle nuanced subjects and understand them from multiple perspectives? 

If you find critical thinking difficult, practice asking in-depth questions and analyzing complex topics. The more thought-provoking questions you ask and research, the smarter your brain becomes. You will find that many school courses help you think deeper about a variety of subjects. Applying physics to a mechanical engineering problem will require your brain to break down complex concepts.