So, you want to become a civil engineer. That’s why you’re here. It is a highly skilled, highly regarded job that you may have to begin preparing for before you go off to college. In this article we will talk you through five steps for becoming a civil engineer.
First though, what is a civil engineer?
Civil Engineers, since you asked, are involved with all aspects of construction and design for projects such as roads, bridges, water treatment systems, dams and levees, tunnels, and more. They conceive, design, supervise, construct, operate, and maintain a variety of public and private sector projects and systems. Their typical duties will vary from analyzing data from maps to factoring costs, government and environmental regulations, alongside submitting applicable permits to the appropriate state, local, and federal authorities to ensure proper procedures and regulations are followed. You will be using design software, overseeing site layout, building locations, grades, elevations, and everything else.
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.
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.
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.
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
(Optional) Obtain a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering
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
- Coursework at the graduate level will include core coursework and additional specialized courses.
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