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 education.

2. Duties of civil engineers

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 regulations

·         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 projects

·         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.

Civil engineers 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 project.

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, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as buildings, bridges, or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation 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.

Problem-solving 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

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

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.

Environmental Engineers

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

Landscape architects design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, private homes, and other open areas.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.


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 projects.

Urban and Regional Planners

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 areas.