Hiring a Civil Engineer: Job Description, Pay, & More

From the roads and bridges, we drive on to the clean drinking water from our taps, civil engineers design, build, and maintain the infrastructure that keeps our communities safe and functioning smoothly.

Read on for an in-depth look at this indispensable profession, including a job description and salary expectations to use when hiring a civil engineer.

What Is a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers are the unsung heroes of public safety. They design road systems, dams, tunnels, utility infrastructure, water treatment and sewer systems, and much more with the comfort and safety of the public in mind.

They are often involved in a project from raw land through completion. Civil engineers have to understand the soil, lot layout, and land grading. They design infrastructure to withstand wind, rain, and potential natural disasters and to meet safety, code, and environmental regulations.

Civil engineers often collaborate with other professionals, like architects, urban planners, and construction supervisors, during planning and construction.

Well-designed infrastructure is a cornerstone of economic prosperity and growth. Civil engineering projects can be catalysts for local economic expansion.

Civil Engineer Job Description

A civil engineer oversees the design and construction of traffic intersections, roads, tunnels, bridges, waterways, and other infrastructure. They use CAD software programs to design blueprints according to local building codes and safety regulations. Their duties don’t stop after design. Civil engineers oversee the construction of their plans to troubleshoot any problems and ensure adherence to environmental regulations and building codes.

Their duties may include the following:

  • Review and analyze survey reports, maps, construction plans, aerial photographs, and related topographical and geologic data related to a project’s design.
  • Survey potential building locations, site layouts, grades, and elevations to guide design and construction.
  • Review and analyze soil test results, terrain, hydrological characteristics, proposed building materials, and other location and construction factors.
  • Estimate project costs by calculating labor, material, and other costs.
  • Study project concepts, architectural drawings and models, engineering designs, environmental impact studies, and other data to create feasibility studies.
  • Use CAD or other design software to create blueprints, confirming specifications.
  • Submit required permit applications, ensuring all designs comply with local, state, and federal regulations.
  • Create engineering documents, including construction specifications, plans, and schedules.
  • Oversee and manage building and infrastructure construction, maintenance, repair, or replacement, confirming adherence to construction specifications and safety standards.
  • Train and guide operators for new equipment or infrastructure.
  • Provide ongoing maintenance, ensuring adherence to operational policies and procedures.
  • Stay abreast of federal, state, and local legal requirements.

Civil engineers employ an array of hard and soft skills, from analysis and design to project management and collaboration. However, most civil engineers specialize in a category of design. For example, some may be specialists in seismic retrofitting, new building construction, road development, or stormwater management.

Top Civil Engineer Skills

A dynamic career like civil engineering requires someone who enjoys analysis and engineering as much as working with others and being out in the field. Top civil engineer skills include the following:

  • LISP (a functional programming language for list processing)
  • Proficiency with drafting software like CAD and AutoCAD
  • Design skills
  • Site development
  • Planning
  • Construction knowledge
  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Database design
  • Math and physics
  • Legal compliance
  • Attention to detail
  • Organization
  • Multi-tasking
  • Communication
  • Analytical and spatial thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership

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Education Requirements

To become a civil engineer requires a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related field. Civil engineering coursework includes math, physics, engineering mechanics, and construction systems. Academic programs often include academic study and hands-on laboratory work.

Many employers prefer to hire civil engineers with degrees from ABET-accredited programs. New graduates should have practical experience. Some get it through internships after graduation. Others attend cooperative education programs, which include opportunities to work in the field while earning their degree.

Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements vary by state and position. Entry-level civil engineers don’t need a license. Civil engineers who work on public-serving projects, act as consultants, or manage other engineers need a license.

A Professional Engineer (PE) license is a state-approved engineering license. The requirements for a PE include the following:

  • An ABET-accredited degree
  • Four years of experience working under a PE
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • A passing score on the PE exam.
  • Some states require continuing education for engineers.

A PE can oversee the other engineers, approve design plans, sign off on projects, and design and manage projects that directly serve the public. A civil engineer without a license can design plans, but a PE will have to approve them before they move forward.

Certification Requirements

Certifications are not required, but they can help civil engineers advance in their careers.

Specialty certifications are available—for example, coastal or geotechnical engineering from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Civil engineers get these optional certifications to demonstrate competence and experience, making them more attractive to employers.

Civil Engineer Salary and Outlook

The median annual civil engineer salary in the United States is around $89,940, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, depending on the industry and area of expertise, the median annual compensation can range from $78,420 to $103,170.

Roads, bridges, water systems, and other infrastructure need ongoing upgrades, so the demand for civil engineers remains strong. The BLS reports that the need for civil engineers is growing at about 5 percent a year, which is faster than average compared to other jobs, with about 21,200 new job openings for civil engineers each year.

How to Hire a Civil Engineer for Your Company

Whether you need to hire one civil engineer or a fleet of engineers to design and oversee an upcoming project, an engineering staffing agency like Insight Global can help. Our full-time recruiters source, vet, and hire engineering professionals for public and private organizations nationwide.

Contact our Insight Global team to learn more about our network of premier talent and staffing agency services. Our team can help write a job description that attracts top talent and implement the best strategy to find, attract, and hire civil engineers who mesh with your company culture and have the skills you require.

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