Earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering is the first step to becoming a civil engineer. Once you graduate, you need to get your first engineering job – which requires a successful interview.
Know Your Value
Even among engineers, civil engineering is a rapidly growing field. Jobs in all occupations are expected to increase by just seven percent over a decade, and engineering jobs in all branches should increase by eight percent. Opportunities for civil engineers are expected to rise at a faster than average rate of 11 percent, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s an increase of about 32,200 jobs.
Many of these new jobs will revolve around work in maintaining and repairing aging infrastructure, including buildings, roads and bridges. The need for the development of new water systems will also drive employment of civil engineers. Renewable energy projects, too, will add to the number of civil engineering positions.
If the job you are interviewing for is in one of these in-demand fields, your career opportunities may be more plentiful, and you can be somewhat more selective in your job search. If the area of chemical engineering you want to work in is not growing as fast, you may not have as many options. Students graduating with a civil engineering degree in 2017 and 2018 have generally expressed positive results finding internships and entry-level engineering jobs and noted that opportunities are better now than they were in the past, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The average starting salary for civil engineers is $59,000, according to PayScale. The median wage for all civil engineers is $84,770 per year, according to the BLS.
Leverage Your Education
Every candidate competing against you for an entry-level civil engineering job has an undergraduate degree in the field, so it may seem like it’s difficult to make yourself stand out from the crowd. However, there are certainly ways for job applicants to highlight the most impressive aspects of their education in a job interview. If you went to a top-ranked engineering school or if there is something novel about your engineering program’s curriculum, that information may be worth sharing with an interviewer, perhaps warranting a brief mention when you are asked to tell the interviewer about yourself and your background. If during the course of your education, you had the opportunity to participate in a relevant project or research opportunity or to do some independent study into a subject you are passionate about, you can share this information, too.
Increasingly, the discipline of civil engineering is embracing new standards called the Body of Knowledge. In accordance with these new standards, many employers require or give preference to candidates with a graduate degree, the BLS reported. This is good news if you are already in a dual degree program that will award a master’s degree as well as a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Even if you don’t have a graduate degree yet, if you have plans to go back to school in the future, making those plans known to an interviewer can help increase your value as a candidate. You may not need a master’s-level education for the entry-level role you are applying for, but by planning to go to graduate school in the future, you’re showing a commitment to keep learning and an interest in career advancement.
Even before this recent change in standards, a graduate degree and a Professional Engineering license would often be necessary to advance to senior positions later on in your career, according to the BLS.
Showcase Your Experience
One thing your interviewer doesn’t want to hear is that you don’t have any experience. Fortunately, even new graduates often have plenty of relevant experience from the laboratory and fieldwork they completed as part of their curriculum, or from their internships, jobs and extracurricular activities they took part in prior to graduating. Engineering job candidates who took part in a co-op program during college have the best job opportunities, according to the BLS.
Co-op programs and internships are valuable, because they aim to teach students the ropes of the occupation they are planning to enter, but your work experience doesn’t have to be formal to count. Aspiring civil engineers can learn a lot from summer jobs in construction and related fields, the ASCE reported. You can also draw on experience you gained while taking part in engineering design competitions, such as the American Institute of Steel Construction’s Steel Bridge Competition. If you took part in an extracurricular activity such as Engineers Without Borders, particularly if you served in a leadership position such as executive board member, you may find this experience relevant to your prospective employer, too.
Think about laboratory and fieldwork you completed in your engineering courses, especially work involving principles and applications that are relevant to the job you are seeking.
Get Familiar With Interview Questions
No matter what career path you are pursuing, it’s always a good idea to prepare for the interview itself by thinking about the questions you will be asked and how to answer them. If you don’t prepare in advance and instead try to come up with answers on the spot, you might forget to bring up a crucial piece of information that could help you get the job, or you might feel flustered.
Interviews for civil engineering jobs often begin with more general interview questions, including requests for the candidate to tall the interviewer about his or her background and about personal and professional strengths, weaknesses and goals. Interview questions for civil engineers often progress to more technical questions about engineering topics, your own engineering research and what you would do in different work scenarios.
You may be asked to complete sample civil engineering design tasks using computer software like AutoCAD Civil 3D during your interview to show your prospective employer your skills, work process and software proficiency.