If you’re wondering whether a degree in civil engineering is right for you, there are a lot of factors to consider. Do you like to work outdoors as well as indoors? Do you excel at subjects like science and mathematics? Do you have a passion for building things or for taking things apart and putting them back together? If you believe you would make a good engineer, then you should be aware of the many benefits of this career path, including the value it adds to society, the versatility and flexibility of the field, the opportunity to earn high wages and the above-average job outlook.
The Importance of Civil Engineering to Society
If you’d like to use your skills and creativity to do good in the world, working as a civil engineer could offer you that opportunity. Without the work of civil engineers, society as we know it wouldn’t function. There would be no clean water to drink, no safe buildings and structures to live in or work in and no transportation infrastructure to use for travel. Civil engineers design, develop and create all of these essential parts of modern life.
Students who have a passion for doing good deeds globally can use their engineering skills to help charitable service organizations. During your education, you could join a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders and travel to impoverished communities anywhere in the world to solve humanitarian and engineering problems as part of a team. After you graduate, you could also consider volunteer or salaried positions with organizations like the Peace Corps.
Activities like Engineers Without Borders and the Peace Corps aren’t just good for the soul. They’re also good for job prospects, boosting your resumé and giving you hands-on work experience that can impress prospective employers.
Variety of Specializations and Career Options
One of the biggest benefits of studying civil engineering is that the field is so broad, encompassing a diverse collection of specializations and projects. Some of the most popular civil engineering specializations are construction engineer, geotechnical engineer, structural engineer and transportation engineer, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There is also the related field of environmental engineering, which can be considered either a discipline of engineering in its own right or a subfield of civil engineering.
One of the benefits of studying civil engineering is that, due to the breadth of the discipline, students are never bored with the major. They are involved in so many different phases and stages of an engineering project that their opportunities to contribute are endless. They use a variety of different calculations throughout the planning, design and testing stages. They play a part in building and construction as well as planning and design. Civil engineers are even responsible for maintaining, repairing and upgrading infrastructure, so they are involved with engineering projects in a unique and ongoing way even after construction is complete.
While civil engineers usually specialize in an area of the discipline they find particularly interesting, they may branch out into other specializations or disciplines over the course of their careers.
High Salary Potential
Engineering is known as a profitable career field, and civil engineering is no exception. Civil engineers earn a median wage of $84,770 per year, according to the BLS. While that figure is slightly below the $92,220 median salary for engineers in all disciplines, it is still well above the $37,690 median for all occupations in the United States. Even new engineers earn a good living, with an entry-level median salary of $58,763 per year.
How much you will make as a civil engineer depends largely on the industry in which you work. The highest paid civil engineers work for the federal government, where the median salary for this occupation is $93,820. Civil engineering positions in local government entities earn a median wage of $90,280, while civil engineers working for state governments have lower salaries, with an $82,050 median. The industry of engineering services pays civil engineers a median wage of $83,970. Among the largest employers of engineers, the nonresidential building construction pays the lowest wages, with a median of $78,130.
If you work your way into the top 10 percent of highest paid civil engineers – a feat which may require licensure, graduate school and years of experience with increasingly challenging job responsibilities – then you could make more than $138,110 per year.
Rapid Job Growth
Civil engineering is the largest engineering occupation, employing approximately 303,500 Americans, according to the BLS. It’s also one of the fastest growing branches of engineering. The faster than average 11 percent job growth rate predicted by the BLS should result in 32,200 new jobs for civil engineers over a decade.
Opportunities are expected to be particularly plentiful in files such as renewable energy and the development and maintenance of water and waste treatment systems. Aging infrastructure across the United States will require upgrades and repairs involving civil engineers with experience working with airports, roads, bridges, building and other structures and systems. Candidates who take part in a cooperative program, or co-op, during their education will have the best career outlook, according to the BLS.
Another way to improve your job opportunities and salary as a civil engineer is to earn a master’s degree, the BLS reported.