If you’re a prospective college student trying to decide on a major, then this article could prove useful to you, particularly if you’re considering a career in civil engineering.
We’ll look at this field in terms of what you’ll study, what civil engineers do, and both the job prospects and salary potential you’ll be looking at if you graduate and become qualified in this area.
Let’s get started.
Why Study Civil Engineering?
Civil engineers contribute largely to the cities and infrastructure that surround us. They’re responsible for designing, building, and maintaining structures and other critical services, including bridges, roads, and tunnels. If you’re not sure whether this degree program is for you, consider the following points:
- It’s a good choice for highly organized individuals. If you enjoy organizing and planning tasks, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this major. Civil engineers need to plan every aspect of their work, ensuring every box is checked and that new builds meet a vast array of codes and regulations.
- It’s suitable for those who are strong in mathematics. Civil engineering requires excellent mathematical ability. You’ll regularly call on this knowledge to perform complex calculations.
- It’s suitable for those who enjoy new projects and variety at work. Unlike many repetitive jobs out there, no two days will be the same in civil engineering. Every project will be different from the last, ensuring that your workday is interesting and varied.
- It’s good for those who care about the community. If you’re interested in improving your community or the other communities around you, then this job offers some of the greatest job satisfaction around. You could be benefiting your community through the creation of new critical infrastructure.
- It’s perfect for team players. Civil engineers depend on a multidisciplinary team that includes construction managers, contractors, civil engineering technicians, and more. Without this close-knit team of professionals, nothing would ever get finished.
What Is Civil Engineering?
Civil engineering is concerned specifically with the constructed environment around us. This includes many critical infrastructure services, from bridges and roads to tunnels and drainage systems. Without civil engineering, we would not have the fluid, functional society that we have today. However, this broad term also encompasses other critical services, including subways, airports, and railroads.
Every time you turn on a faucet in your home, you expect water. This is made possible thanks to plumbers, who assist in the laying of pipework when your home is built. However, getting the water to your street relies on civil engineers, who also contribute to the creation of national water networks. It is these critical infrastructure tasks that many civil engineers spend their working life helping to plan, design, and build.
What Do Civil Engineers Do?
Civil engineers oversee the end to end activities that result in the delivery of a public works project. As mentioned above, this can include many services, such as bridges, airports, new buildings, highways, and more. While they’re often employed directly by the federal government, they may also work in a private company that bids for contracts.
It’s not unusual for a civil engineer to specialize in a specific area, given the broad variety of projects available; for example, transportation engineers are most concerned with airport, railroad, and highway projects.
Contrary to what you may believe, a large amount of the work done by a civil engineer is done within an office. This includes creating bids for new contracts, designing project specifications, and providing project progress or technical reports. When it comes to performing analysis on new sites for potential development, much of this work is often delegated to civil engineering technicians who typically work under an experienced civil engineer.
Is it Worth Studying Civil Engineering?
We’ve already touched on job satisfaction for civil engineers, of which the field has plenty. But there are other reasons to start your career in this field, such as the attractive salary that could be waiting for you upon graduation.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary earned by civil engineers in 2019 was around $87,060, or $41.86 per hour. This is more than double the national average salary for all occupations in the United States ($39,810). What’s more, this represents only the median figure. The highest 10% of earners made more than $144,560, with the highest-paid professionals in this field working in federal government roles.
While you’re more likely to start your career as something akin to a civil engineering technician, these roles still attract a good salary. The BLS highlighted a 2019 median salary of around $53,410, with an average growth rate in available positions across the next decade.