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How Much Does a Civil Engineer Make?

Newsroom | Articles April 24, 2020
A civil engineers working on plans

For those who enjoy managing teams, supervising complex projects, working with advanced technology, and collaborating with creatives from fields like architecture and design, civil engineering serves as a rewarding career. Civil engineers and construction managers plan, oversee, and build the country’s infrastructure, from roads, dams, and bridges to airports, tunnels, and sewer systems.

Read on to learn more about what a civil engineer does, the typical path to becoming a sought-after construction manager or engineer, the expected job prospects for these positions, and how the LSU Online Master of Science in Civil Engineering can help you shape a potential future in this demanding career.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Working with both human-made and natural environments, civil engineers collaborate with landscapers, architects, and urban planners to shape and maintain crucial infrastructure.

They are responsible for the development of complex structural projects from beginning to end, including updating existing buildings to reflect changes in federal or local codes and ordinances; improving bridges and dams; and designing entirely new structures, from conception to completion. They often consider how structures will work together in a given environment, with an eye toward public safety, accessibility, and function. For example, a civil engineer may work with urban planners, construction professionals, and a team of architects to map out renovations for a city square to improve the flow of traffic, aesthetics, and accessibility.

Because of the diversity of their potential job duties, civil engineers need a number of important technical skills and soft skills. Effective engineers need to possess the following technical skills:

  • Understanding of innovative technology — Civil engineers and construction managers often work with the newest forms of technology, designing and building complex structures. They need to stay abreast of the latest developments in technology to complete their work effectively.
  • Design skills — Civil engineers need to understand the most innovative approaches to design. This includes creating blueprints, 3D models, maps, and drawings with computer-aided design software.
  • Physics and math — Civil engineers need a strong foundation in physics and math to plan, design, and build various forms of infrastructure. Usually, they obtain this foundation through a bachelor’s degree and may build on it later through specialized training or a graduate degree.

In addition to technical skills, civil engineers need to develop the following soft skills to work effectively in their role:

  • Problem-solving skills — Civil engineers and construction managers often need to solve complex problems and craft strategies to deal with unexpected obstacles.
  • Leadership — Because they may oversee diverse teams of professionals from varied backgrounds, civil engineers need leadership and management skills. They need to have experience in project management, excellent time management, and the ability to oversee initiatives.
  • Communication skills — Civil engineers also need to possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills, as they work with professionals in a variety of fields and need to write and speak with clarity and concision.

Steps to Becoming a Civil Engineer

Civil engineers typically begin with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or civil engineering technology, preferably from a college or university accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Some students choose to study a closely related field, such as architecture. Many students specialize in a specific aspect of civil engineering during college. Most bachelor’s degrees in this area also include internships for on-the-job, hands-on experience.

While licensure and certification processes differ from state to state, most civil engineers begin their post-graduation process by taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Eventually, after completing supervised work for a number of years as a civil engineering intern or an engineer in training, civil engineering professionals take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam in Civil Engineering. Most graduate degrees and certificates help students to prepare for these exams.

Once a civil engineering grad is officially licensed, it’s time for him or her to start their career in earnest. This means getting hired for their first job. Luckily, jumping this professional hurdle can actually be easier for civil engineers than for graduates in other disciplines, thanks to the apprentice-style model of an engineering education. Many civil engineers find their first jobs through existing contracts and clients they met during their internships— which is why it is particularly important that civil engineering students always put their best foot forward in all the work they do.

To specialize further in a given niche, increase their salaries, or advance in their careers, many civil engineers pursue graduate degrees. A master’s degree in civil engineering from LSU, for example, may enable a professional to seek out more lucrative work and take on more responsibility in an existing position.

Salaries of a Civil Engineer

If you’re wondering, “How much does a civil engineer make?” it helps to take several factors into consideration. Salaries may vary based on education level, years of experience, chosen industry, and geographic location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), civil engineers made a median annual salary of $86,640 in 2018.

To maximize their earnings, aspiring civil engineers need to consider obtaining specialized training through a graduate degree or postgraduate certificate. Civil engineers tend to command higher salaries as they rise up the ranks, take on more responsibility, and add more work experience.

Future Growth of a Civil Engineer

As cities grow and expand, the job prospects for civil engineers will as well. Qualified professionals in both the private and public sectors will plan and oversee infrastructure updates, from improvements in roads and bridges to public transportation.

According to the BLS, civil engineers can expect a job growth rate of 6% from 2018 to 2028, with around 20,500 new jobs in civil engineering projected to open up in this field.

While job prospects are promising, the number of qualified applicants is also increasing. Those with extensive work experience or specialized training in a related discipline, such as a graduate degree in civil engineering, will stand out from the competition.

Advance Your Career in Civil Engineering

Now that you know how much a civil engineer makes and the typical steps it requires to get there, consider looking into programs that can help you develop the necessary skills. The ABET-accredited LSU Online Master of Science in Civil Engineering helps professionals hone their knowledge; expand their careers; and specialize in areas such as environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, water resources, structures and mechanics, and transportation engineering. Learn more about LSU’s program today.

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