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Civil Engineer

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Overall Score
(7.3 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

3.4 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Technology Jobs #6
The 100 Best Jobs #18

Civil engineering is a profession that offers plenty of visual payoff. Take a look around, and you'll see the work of civil engineers everywhere – from buildings and bridges to roads and reservoirs. "To create things, to actually see them being built ... it's very rewarding to see the results of what you saw on paper. It gives you a lot of personal satisfaction," says Andrew Herrmann, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and principal with the engineering firm Hardesty & Hanover. These professionals design and oversee the construction and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure such as highways, tunnels, rail systems, airports and water supply and sewage systems. The job includes analysis – especially in the planning stage – studying survey reports and maps, breaking down construction costs and considering government regulations and potential environmental hazards. Civil engineers also may test soils and building materials, provide cost estimates for equipment and labor, and use software to plan and design systems and structures.

There are many career paths within this field. Specialties include architectural, structural, transportation, traffic, water resources and geotechnical engineering. Civil engineers may work for state or local governments or in the private sector at consulting or construction firms. Some civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions, while others pursue careers in design, construction or teaching.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 19.7 percent employment growth for civil engineers between 2012 and 2022. During that time period, about 53,700 jobs will need to be filled. The promising outlook for civil engineering led this profession to claim the No. 18 spot on the 2014 list of Best Jobs.


Civil engineers made a median salary of $79,340 in 2012, according to the BLS. The highest-paid 10 percent in the profession earned $122,020, while the lowest-paid earned $51,280 in 2012. The most highly compensated positions are within the commercial and industrial machinery repair industry, and the highest-paid positions are in Lafayette, La., Naples, Fla., and Midland, Texas.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $100,330
Median $79,340
25th Percentile $63,030


Entry-level jobs require a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, which includes coursework in math, statistics and engineering mechanics and systems. One out of every five civil engineers also has a master’s degree, according to the BLS, which can help advance civil engineers to managerial positions. All 50 states and the District of Columbia mandate licensure for civil engineers who offer their services directly to the public.

Reviews & Advice

Before deciding which civil engineering discipline to pursue – environmental, structural or geotechnical engineering, for example – take different courses to see what interests you, suggests Herrmann. If possible, complete an internship while you’re in school to get practical experience. "If you're fortunate to get an internship, you can watch people working in a particular discipline and try it out," he says. "See how much you enjoy it because you really should be enjoying what you're doing." Developing solid communications skills – both written and oral – is also important. "You could design the best bridge in the world," says Herrmann, a bridge engineer himself, "but if you can't communicate the details to other engineers, the public or officials, what good is it?"

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Harriet Edleson.

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