How to Become a Civil Engineer

Civil Engineer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $93,820
Avg. Pay / hour $45.11
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 6%

Civil engineers work to design and implement plans for external constructions such as roads, bridges, railways, buildings, and dams.

When you become a civil engineer you are qualified for a role that will always prove challenging.

There is lots of diversity in this field, while some civil engineers spend their time in an office working on design, others will work solely on the field, and some divide their time between the two.

As a civil engineer, you will also have the opportunity to travel, many engineers travel to different sites to research, plan, and supervise projects.

Educational requirements to Become a Civil Engineer

To become a civil engineer, you will need to complete a four year civil engineering degree program with a major sequence in engineering.

During the first two years of your course, you will complete mostly science and math subjects, the second two years will have a greater focus on engineering.

To become a licensed civil engineer, you will need to make your degree is one of the courses approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Once you have finished your degree, there are still some further requirements to complete before you become a civil engineer.

You will need to complete the first part of your state-set licensing exam, on the fundamentals of engineering.

After gaining an entry level job at an engineering firm, you will work under the supervision of a licensed civil engineer for four years.

You will then sit a second state-set exam, this one on the principles and practice of engineering, after which you will be granted a license.

Civil Engineer Job Description

There is no doubt that when you become a civil engineer you can look forward to a challenging role.

You’ll be providing the infrastructure that helps keep the country running, roads, dams, pipes, and railways all fall under the umbrella of civil engineering.

There are many different areas of civil engineering that you might be employed in.

While some jobs may require you to spend all of your time on the field, others may require you to be outside, working on site.

Here are some of the duties a civil engineer might provide:

  • Research new projects
  • Estimate budget for projects including materials and labor
  • Create blueprints for new projects
  • Consider environmental impact of new construction
  • Supervise construction
  • Communicate with colleagues, clients, and people from the community
  • Preparing reports and proposals
  • Testing soils and other materials

As a civil engineer, there is also opportunity to specialize in a particular area.

Here are some of the niche segments a civil engineer might work in:

  • Environmental engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Transportation engineering
  • Municipal or urban engineering
  • Water resources engineering
  • Materials engineering
  • Coastal engineering
  • Surveying
  • Construction engineering

To gain employment in these areas will need further studies, but you will also earn a larger salary.

It can be good to know when you are working as a civil engineer that there will be more opportunities during their career to branch out into these areas and expand on your professional development.

Civil Engineer Salary and Career Path

An entry level salary for a civil engineer is around $55,000, however with a few years experience, this can increase very rapidly.

About one half of civil engineers are employed by private companies including architectural and engineering firms.

A further third are employed by government bodies.

The remainder are employed by other companies, or are self-employed.

Most civil engineers will begin their careers by working for a firm while they complete their requirements for licensure.

After they gain experience, they will take on a more senior role and greater responsibility.

Some will leave and begin their own firms, or work as freelancers.

Employment prospects are good, this is a field that is expected to grow within the next few years as population grows and infrastructure requires expansion.

If you are strong in science and math, and have an interest in architecture and design, you will likely find much job satisfaction when you become a civil engineer.

You work will be challenging, but you will also be playing an important roles within the community, as you plan and implement new infrastructure.

Working as a civil engineer, once qualified, you can be assured of excellent job security as well as salary.

An great benefit of civil engineering is the possibility for further study and development.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$95,450
New Hampshire$91,210
New Jersey$103,140
New Mexico$92,290
New York$99,860
North Carolina$90,920
North Dakota$84,690
Rhode Island$104,010
South Carolina$87,040
South Dakota$82,340
West Virginia$90,350
Puerto Rico$62,180
Virgin Islands$85,930

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $109,890.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $109,890
Alaska - $106,440
Delaware - $105,620
Rhode Island - $104,010
New Jersey - $103,140
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Civil Engineers, OCC Code 17-2051, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a civil engineer?

Civil engineers design, build and supervise infrastructure projects, including roads, buildings, airports, bridges, etc.

Among other things, civil engineers analyze plans, compile permit applications, preparing cost estimates, design the systems using computer software, and manage the repair and maintenance of public and private infrastructure.

Civil engineers typically specialize in a particular area, such as construction, foundations, structures, and transportation.

They usually work full time and those who work directly on projects may work overtime, to guarantee that the deadlines are met.

In order to be a good civil engineer, you need many skills, including decision-making skills, leadership skills, math skills, organizational skills, and problem-solving skills.

How much does a civil engineer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil engineers earned a median wage of $86,640 per year in May 2018.

The salary varies depending on the field of expertise and the employer.

For instance, engineers working in the field of nonresidential building constructions earned a median wage of $76,670 a year, while engineers who work for the federal government earned an annual wage of $95,380.

How much does it cost to become a civil engineer?

Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree and most of them also need a graduate degree or a license in order to promote to senior positions.

The average out-of-state cost for bachelor’s degree programs in civil engineering is around $42,000 per year.

Most states require that civil engineers be licensed if they provide services directly to the public.

In order to get your license, you will need a few years of work experience as a civil engineer; the exact requirements depend on the state where you are seeking licensure.

The exam fee is around $350.

What is the demand for civil engineers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of civil engineers is expected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Civil engineers will continue to be needed in maintaining and building new water systems, for renewable-energy projects, and to work on projects funded by state and local governments.

If you want to have the best chances of finding employment in the field, you should participate in a co-op program during college.

How long does it take to become a civil engineer?

Civil engineers must complete a bachelor’s degree, which usually lasts around four years.

Getting your master’s degree can take another two years.

Civil engineers who work directly for the public also need to be licensed to practice in most states.

In order to get become a licensed Professional Engineer, you will need around four years of work experience in the domain and you must pass two exams.

The American Society of Civil Engineers offers certificates in a variety of fields, such as coastal engineering, geotechnical engineering, navigation engineering, and ports engineering.

In order to become board-certified, you may also need a few years of experience after earning your PE license and to possess a master’s degree; exact requirements vary depending on the board who issues the certificate.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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