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How Much Do Civil Engineers Make?

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Civil engineers make a lasting, tangible impact on their communities through infrastructure that serves the public, from iconic landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Eiffel Tower, to the countless bridges, highways and bike lanes used every day. Even the smallest cities are shaped by public engineering projects spearheaded by civil engineers — professionals who have a direct hand in shaping the environment to meet human needs.

What do civil engineers do? What sorts of projects might civil engineers apply their training and intellect to? How much do civil engineers make? This field, one of the oldest branches of engineering, features a broad spectrum of possibilities and potential outcomes.

Who Are Civil Engineers?

Civil engineers are innovators willing to think creatively to solve complex design problems. They listen to the needs of their communities and respond in kind. The first roads of the Roman Empire and massive security projects such as the Great Wall of China are the fruits of some of the first large-scale civil engineering projects. Though the architects may not have held the title of civil engineer at the time, their role was largely similar to that of the professionals who create our modern infrastructure.

Civil engineers have been responsible for numerous landmarks, monuments and icons of the modern world. Take, for example, the Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Marin County in Northern California. Completed in 1937 by Joseph B. Strauss, this engineering marvel spans 1.7 miles over the water between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. Many thought the tide, winds and distance were too great for the project to be feasible, but Strauss applied innovative techniques to the design to execute the bridge. Today it is not only a tourist attraction, but also part of the daily commute for many people, with more than a hundred thousand cars crossing each day.

Another modern marvel of civil engineering is the Panama Canal. The French first attempted the project in the late 19th century, but American civil engineers ultimately completed it several years later. Bridging the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, this engineering feat is still in use more than a century later.

Civil engineers possess both the imagination to dream up new solutions and the conviction to get them done. Coupling mathematic, scientific and technical skills with problem-solving, administrative and analytical abilities, they work toward the collective good.

What Is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering is all about developing, maintaining or adapting infrastructure to make it more efficient and overall more pleasing to the public. In their day-to-day lives, civil engineers might be working on any aspect of that process — selecting a site, supervising construction or modifying structures built decades ago to suit modern needs, for example.

Applying diverse skill sets to complex designs, civil engineering is a unique field that unites math and science with creativity and public service.

Where Do Civil Engineers Work?

How much civil engineers make, where they work and how they apply their skills can vary by company and whether they specialize in an area such as environmental, structural, municipal, transportation or geotechnical engineering. Within these broad areas of specialization, civil engineers may choose to be primarily consultants or contractors. Consultants generally work out of an office and provide insight on design, while contractors typically oversee the physical construction at the site.

Regardless of environment or specialization, these creative public works engineers take into account all aspects of the design, execution, future use and maintenance of roads, bridges, dams, tunnels, sewer systems and more. They analyze the potential of sites for excavation, assess the reliability of building materials and consider the best design for a structure’s intended use, taking into account both practical concerns and aesthetics.

What Do Civil Engineers Do?

Most civil engineers use mathematics and physics almost daily, as well as leverage computer-aided design (CAD) and other technical programs. Increasingly, civil engineers incorporate advanced technologies like 3D printing and modeling, modular construction, and cloud collaboration to maximize the efficiency of project development and execution. They write specifications for builds, review bids by subcontractors and maintain knowledge of local compliance codes. They also possess the ability to communicate their vision to team members and supervise others as they work.

Combining creativity, ethics, and technical know-how, civil engineers create foundations for thriving communities by literally shaping the environment to suit them. Modern civil engineering has connected cultures through projects like the Channel Tunnel, a 32-mile stretch of tunnel for high-speed trains that runs under the English Channel. They’ve also overseen projects like the Itaipu Dam on the border of Paraguay and Brazil. Energy generated by this hydroelectric dam supplies both countries with electricity. Through such projects, civil engineers have the power to effect positive change and create ripples across the built landscape.

How Much Do Civil Engineers Make?

Civil engineers are vital to modern society. They’re responsible not just for the world’s most inspiring structures but also for the infrastructure that we use daily. Though the rate of pay can vary tremendously by project, company and geographic region, compensation is generally commensurate with the education, experience and learned skills necessary to execute projects successfully.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil engineers make a median salary of $86,640 in the United States. Civil engineers who reach this pay grade frequently possess an undergraduate degree as well as a graduate degree in civil engineering or a closely related the field, such as civil engineering technology. They also have invested time and resources into attaining state-required licenses.

For those just starting out on the path toward becoming a civil engineer, the future is bright. The bureau expects the civil engineering field to grow 11% between 2016 and 2026, which is almost double the national average for most jobs of 7%.

How to Become a Civil Engineer

The varied demands of the civil engineering profession require fortitude, creativity, experience, technical know-how and adaptability. While there are many ways to begin a career as a civil engineer, education is typically the first step.

Attain a Bachelor of Science

An undergraduate degree tends to be a baseline requirement for hiring agencies within the field of civil engineering. While earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, students come to understand foundational best practices, as well as the evolving ways to approach the design and building of civil engineering projects.

It is not uncommon for aspiring civil engineers to find a junior-level job with an undergraduate degree, though many go on to deepen their understanding and specialize by earning a master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree will provide the basic understanding needed to pursue a civil engineering career, but hands-on experience will be critical to continued success.

Earn a Master’s Degree

Through a graduate program in civil engineering, professionals can expand their knowledge and further develop their technical, creative and leadership abilities. Graduate students often find a specific discipline that they are passionate about and deepen their skills within that concentration. As a result, a master’s degree in civil engineering may provide more opportunities to dive into the design, construction and enhancement of our overall infrastructure.

While many employers today require only a bachelor’s degree to enter the civil engineering workforce, a master’s degree often increases the likelihood of taking on more high-profile projects. UCF Online offers tracks in structural and geotechnical engineering, transportation systems engineering, and water resources engineering for students to earn specialized skills, which may lead to additional opportunities. When looking into how much civil engineers make, an advanced education may reflect a higher salary.

Attain Required Licenses

Whether working in the private or public sector, as a consultant or contractor, civil engineers are required to hold certain licenses, though these requirements can vary by state. Through the licensure process, civil engineers demonstrate their technical and ethical responsibilities as they design and build public works. In addition to acquiring state-required licenses, many engineers also choose to earn a certification through the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Continued Education

How much civil engineers make, as well as how successfully they execute projects and how far they advance professionally, is often contingent upon their willingness to continue learning. By pursuing advanced degrees, earning certifications, staying current with new and evolving technologies, and educating themselves about public values and concerns, civil engineers can better serve their clients and the public at large.

Learn More

Advance your career in civil engineering. If you would like to take your engineering profession to the next level with a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, the University of Central Florida offers programs that approach the discipline with excitement and an eye for innovation. Find out more about how to step into the interesting and important field of civil engineering and how UCF can help.