14 Pros and Cons of Being a Civil Engineer

If you’ve ever looked at a suspension bridge or skyscraper and thought about who created such wonderful sites, the answer is a civil engineer.

Civil engineers are professionals that design, construct, and maintain infrastructure systems.

These creations include skyscrapers, dams, bridges, railways, canals, roads, airports, waste facilities, and buildings of all sizes.

Often, they address issues related to natural disasters, climate change, and urbanization.

Civil engineering is believed to be the second oldest type of engineering, just behind military engineering.

These professionals must be able to troubleshoot and problem-solve, quickly and efficiently.

A good civil engineering candidate will be strong in physics, chemistry, and math.

Some other needed skills include excellent communication skills, advanced computer skills, time management, and an eye for detail.

In order to become a civil engineer, one must complete a bachelors degree in the area.

The average salary for a civil engineer in the United States is about $88,000 per year.

However, many engineers receive bonuses, which adds to their overall salary.

Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of being a civil engineer.


1. Good Salary

 Civil engineers are paid well for their expertise.

While the average salary is $88,000 per year, many engineers make over $130,000 per year.

This all depends on experience, training, and the type of company they work at.

Most civil engineers get yearly bonuses, as well as project completion bonuses, which can add a good deal to the base salary.

So, if money is a factor, civil engineering may be a good career choice.

2. Good Benefits

Most civil engineers work for companies that not only pay pretty well, but provide excellent benefits too.

A civil engineer can look forward to benefits that include health coverage, dental, vision, 401K matching, paid time off, disability insurance, and vacation time.

These packages are especially helpful if you have a family.

There’s no need to worry about medical expenses, and you get time to spend with your loved ones.

3. Opportunity For Travel

The position of civil engineer can lead to many opportunities for travel.

Some engineers are able to work on projects that take them anywhere from large cities in the United States, to rural communities.

They are also often called upon to travel abroad, particularly to areas of the Middle East (like Dubai), and developing nations that need assistance with their infrastructure.

Though much of the time is spent working, it’s always exciting to see new places and experience different cultures.

4. Job Satisfaction

Many people may not equate civil engineering with helping the community, and the world at large, but that’s exactly what they do.

A lot of their work involves building new roadways, rail lines, airports, bridges, and waterways.

They ensure that people have safe means of transport, clean drinking water, and do not get their neighborhoods flooded.

Knowing that you have made a community safer and easier to live in for fellow humans can give you a great deal of pride and satisfaction.

5. The Ability To Be Creative

While civil engineers must follow the specifications of the contractors, they do have plenty of room as to how the specifications are met.

They can use their talents to create breathtaking designs and use unique materials, that in the end, could be considered a piece of art.

If you’ve got an artistic or creative side that’s itching to come out, this might be a career worth pursuing.

6. Job Stability

Civil engineering is a high-demand career and there’s plenty of room for growth.

In fact, they are one of the most in demand engineering jobs in the world.

With the population increasing and the need to update older buildings, there is always a need for civil engineers.

Also, with the current push to go green and help combat climate change, civil engineers are one of the first people we turn to to design sustainable, environmentally friendly structures.

7. Task Variety

Civil engineers never have a lack of work, and the tasks they perform are often diverse and varied.

One day they may be in the office working on designs with a team, and the next they may be able to work from home on an upcoming budget.

They also visit work sites, meet with clients, pitch ideas to clients, and perform research. Some even act as instructors for workshops and mentoring programs.


1. Long Hours

 Civil engineering is not your typical 8 hour work day.

While you may have some regular work hours, the reality is, a large part of the job is to meet deadlines.

Those days end when the project is on course.

So you could end up working 12, even 14 hours a day.

Weekends and holidays may also be on the table as well.

Sometimes you may need to drive or travel long hours to get to a work site that you’ll be at all day, then take the long drive back home.

So, if long days are not your thing, neither is civil engineering.

2. Risk Of Job Site Injury

Many people believe that civil engineers have cushy offices, in nice toasty buildings.

While this is true, they often spend a lot of time at work sites.

They are exposed to the elements, and they are also at risk for injury.

Just as construction workers suffer accidents on the job, so can engineers.

Falling debris, exposure to chemicals and dust, stepping in hidden holes, and falling from heights are all things that can happen to anyone at a construction work site.

3. Pressure/Stress

One of the biggest challenges civil engineers say they face is the huge pressure and amount of stress that comes with many projects.

Engineers are not only responsible for ensuring their designs meet the client’s expectations, but they must also stay within the mandated safety guidelines as well.

They must meet deadlines, stay within budget requirements, and carefully watch over workers at construction sites.

Doing all this while trying to maintain cordial relationships can often be difficult.

4. Labor/Legal Disputes

Some of the worst words a civil engineer can hear include strike, protest, and legal action.

Civil engineers must deal with worker disputes, including strikes.

If the workers are not happy, or not working at all, deadlines will not be met.

Another nightmare situation is when protesters come around for what reason, to demonstrate at a work site.

This can greatly disrupt a project and cause a deadline to be missed.

Perhaps the worst situation of all is when someone files suit against a project or even the engineering company.

A lawsuit could be filed for a number of reasons.

It may be frivolous or have merit, but either way it creates a mess for the engineer.

5. No Room For Error

One of the most stressful aspects of being a civil engineer is that one mistake could cause a disaster.

As dramatic as it sounds, if an engineer is off by even an inch in their math, or uses the wrong material, it could cause a sign to fall, a road to buckle, or a building to collapse.

We’ve all seen news footage of hotels and apartment buildings going down.

That is what nightmares are made of for civil engineers.

6. Economy Driven

Another drawback of the civil engineering industry is that it’s very dependent upon a good economy.

When people and businesses are doing well financially, they build.

There’s funding for projects from the government and other entities.

When the economy is in a downturn, construction often comes to a standstill.

Even projects that are underway.

We’ve all seen buildings and other structures that are half-finished.

It’s because the company ran out of money, or the project went over budget.

7. Demanding Clients

Clients of civil engineers are often serious business people.

Therefore, they are not there to make friends, they are there to make money.

They don’t care about excuses or personal issues, the project needs to get done on time and under budget.

They will call, email, and show up constantly to make sure everything is going as planned.

This can be stressful and annoying to the engineering team. 

14 Pros and Cons of Being a Civil Engineer – Summary Table

1. Good Salary1. Long Hours
2. Good Benefits2. Risk Of Job Site Injury
3. Opportunity For Travel3. Pressure/Stress
4. Job Satisfaction4. Labor/Legal Disputes
5. The Ability To Be Creative5. No Room For Error
6. Job Stability6. Economy Driven
7. Task Variety7. Demanding Clients

Should You Become A Civil Engineer?

Civil engineering is one of the top 5 most in-demand engineering jobs, and there’s plenty of room for growth.

They help make the world easier to maneuver and safer for everyone.

The pay and benefits are quite good and you have the opportunity to be creative.

You should keep in mind that a 4-year degree is needed, along with strong math and science skills.

Long hours are often involved, and the stress level can be high.

But if you are up for the challenge, being a civil engineer can be a truly rewarding career. 

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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