1. What civil engineers do?
Civil engineers conceive, design, build,
supervise, operate, construct and maintain infrastructure projects and systems
in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports,
tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Many
civil engineers work in planning, design, construction, research, and
2. Duties of civil engineers
typically do the following:
Analyze long range plans, survey reports,
maps, and other data to plan and design projects
Consider construction costs, government
regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors during the
planning and risk-analysis stages of a project
Compile and submit permit applications to
local, state, and federal agencies, verifying that projects comply with various
Oversee and analyze the results of soil
testing to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
Analyze the results of tests on building
materials, such as concrete, wood, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular
Prepare cost estimates for materials,
equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
Use design software to plan and design
transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry
and government standards
Perform or oversee surveying operations to
establish building locations, site layouts, reference points, grades, and
elevations to guide construction
Manage the repair, maintenance, and
replacement of public and private infrastructure
Civil engineers also
must present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals,
environmental impact statements, or property descriptions.
Many civil engineers
hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a
construction site to city engineer, public works director, and city manager. As
supervisors, they are tasked with ensuring that safe work practices are
followed at construction sites.
Other civil engineers
work in design, construction, research, and teaching. Civil engineers work with others on
projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians.
prepare permit documents for work on projects in renewable energy. They verify
that the projects will comply with federal, state, and local requirements.
These engineers conduct structural analyses for large-scale photovoltaic, or
solar energy, projects. They also evaluate the ability of solar array support
structures and buildings to tolerate stresses from wind, seismic activity, and
other sources. For large-scale wind projects, civil engineers often prepare
roadbeds to handle large trucks that haul in the turbines.
Civil engineers work
on complex projects, and they can achieve job satisfaction in seeing the
project reach completion. They usually specialize in one of several areas.
Construction engineers manage
construction projects, ensuring that they are scheduled and built in accordance
with plans and specifications. These engineers typically are responsible for
the design and safety of temporary structures used during construction. They
may also oversee budgetary, time-management, and communications aspects of a
Geotechnical engineers work to make
sure that foundations for built objects ranging from streets and buildings to
runways and dams, are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil
engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including
soil and rock). In addition, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls,
Structural engineers design and
assess major projects, such as buildings, bridges, or dams, to ensure their
strength and durability.
engineers plan, design, operate, and maintain everyday systems, such
as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports,
ship ports, mass transit systems, and harbors.
3. Important qualities for civil engineers
Decisionmaking skills. Civil engineers
often balance multiple and frequently conflicting objectives, such as
determining the feasibility of plans with regard to financial costs and safety
concerns. Urban and regional planners often look to civil engineers for advice
on these issues. Civil engineers must be able to make good decisions based on
best practices, their own technical knowledge, and their own experience.
Leadership skills. Civil engineers
take ultimate responsibility for the projects that they manage or research that
they perform. Therefore, they must be able to lead planners, surveyors,
construction managers, civil engineering technicians, civil engineering
technologists, and others in implementing their project plan.
Math skills. Civil engineers
use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in
mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Organizational skills. Only licensed
civil engineers can sign the design documents for infrastructure projects. This
requirement makes it imperative that civil engineers be able to monitor and
evaluate the work at the jobsite as a project progresses. That way, they can
ensure compliance with the design documents. Civil engineers also often manage
several projects at the same time, and thus must be able to balance time needs
and to effectively allocate resources.
skills. Civil engineers work at the highest level of the planning,
design, construction, and operation of multifaceted projects or research. The
many variables involved require that they possess the ability to identify and
evaluate complex problems. They must be able to then use their skill and
training to develop cost-effective, safe, and efficient solutions.
Speaking skills. Civil engineers must
present reports and plans to audiences of people with a wide range of
backgrounds and technical knowledge. This requires the ability to speak clearly
and to converse with people in various settings, and to translate engineering
and scientific information into easy-to-understand concepts.
Writing skills. Civil engineers
must be able to communicate with others, such as architects, landscape
architects, urban and regional planners. They also must be able to explain
projects to elected officials and citizens. Civil engineers must be able to
write reports that are clear, concise, and understandable to those with little
or no technical or scientific background.
4. Careers related to civil engineers
Architects plan and design houses, factories,
office buildings, and other structures.
Civil engineering technicians help civil
engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, utilities, and other
infrastructure projects. They also help to plan, design, and build commercial,
industrial, residential, and land development projects.
Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget,
and supervise construction projects from start to finish.
Environmental engineers use the principles of
engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to
environmental problems. They are involved in efforts to improve recycling,
waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control.
Landscape architects design parks and the
outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, private homes,
and other open areas.
Mechanical engineers design, develop, build,
and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines,
Surveyors make precise measurements to
determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and
contour of the Earth's surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction
Urban and regional planners develop land use
plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth,
and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan