how to become civil engineer

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how to become civil engineer

Steps to Becoming a Civil Engineer


  • Step 1: Prepare While Still in High School
  • Step 2: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
  • Step 3: Get Professional Experience
  • Step 4: Earn Your Professional Engineer (PE) License
  • Step 5: Obtain a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering (Optional but Recommended)

Step 1: Prepare While Still in High School

Colleges and universities will look more favorably on a college preparatory program of studies, including a strong background in science and math. Students should take advanced coursework in physics, biology, math, and computer science. Maintaining high grades will help you be competitive for admission into a civil engineering program. You can explore various civil engineering careers by job-shadowing, summer programs, or similar exposure to the field. This will help you determine the best engineering avenue to pursue.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering

As you research college and university options, look for ABET-accredited civil engineering degree programs. ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation ensures high standards in applied and natural sciences, computer science, engineering, and engineering technology programs. In addition, graduating from an ABET-accredited program is one of the requirements for earning your Professional Engineer License, which is important if you plan to move up the civil engineering career ladder.

Civil engineering coursework will include classes in mathematics, statistics, fluid dynamics, and engineering mechanics and systems. Good programs include a mix of these classes and both fieldwork and lab time. In addition, students should look for internships to give them real-world, practical experience which not only increases their knowledge, but also can help with obtaining their first job upon graduation.

Step 3: Get Professional Experience

Civil engineers typically begin their careers as engineers in training (EITs). In most states, you’ll achieve this status by passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Once the FE exam is passed civil engineers may work in internships, apprenticeships, co-ops, or other employment. This is typically done under the supervision of an experienced civil engineer, and relevant work experience will allow you to move up the civil engineering career ladder.

Step 4: Earn Your Professional Engineer (PE) License

The PE license is not required to obtain an entry-level job in the civil engineering field, but career advancement is difficult without the PE license. Although there is some variation by state, generally most states require:

  • A Bachelor of Science from an ABET-accredited program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam
  • Related work experience under a PE; typically around 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering exam

Coursework at the master’s level will help you specialize and improve your civil engineering knowledge. Requirements for these programs include

  • A Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering or a related field
  • A cumulative GPA of at least a 3.0
  • Two to three letters of recommendation
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) results
  • Some programs require interviews or additional essays

Coursework at the graduate level will include core coursework and additional specialized courses. Typical programming includes courses such as Advanced Principles of Engineering, Fluid Mechanics, Risk Assessment, Dynamics, Structural Design, Civil Engineering Materials, Decision Methods for Engineers, Fundamentals of Transportation Engineering, Reinforced Concrete Design, Structural Steel Design, and Solid or Hazardous Waste Management.

what do civil engineers do


What Does a Civil Engineer Do?


Civil Engineers are involved with all aspects of construction and design for projects such as roads, bridges, water treatment systems, dams and levees, tunnels, and more. Civil engineers conceive, design, supervise, construct, operate, and maintain a variety of public and private sector projects and systems. Typical duties include

  • Analyzing data from maps, surveys, long-range plans, and other data to create and plan new projects.
  • Factoring costs, government and environmental regulations, and risks or hazards to the public during the planning stages.
  • Submitting applicable permits to the appropriate state, local, and federal authorities to ensure proper procedures and regulations are followed
  • Overseeing and analyzing tests on various building materials (concrete, steel, or wood), soil samples, and other environmental tests to ensure minimums are met or exceeded.
  • Preparing cost estimates for equipment, materials, and labor to submit proposals and to ensure the financial viability of a project.
  • Using design software to assist in planning and designing projects in line with government and industry standards.
  • Overseeing site layout, building locations, grades, elevations, and reference points to ensure proper procedures are followed.
  • Overseeing and managing the repair, replacement, and maintenance of infrastructure.

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