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Civil engineering is the second-oldest form of engineering (after military engineering) and is responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance of society’s infrastructures. That includes highways, tunnels, rail systems, airports, water supply, and sewage systems. There are a number of sub-disciplines, including: coastal, construction, earthquake, environmental, forensic, geotechnical, materials science, structural, transportation, municipal/urban, and water resources. Civil engineering is most commonly offered at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate level, but is available, limitedly, at the associate level.
Some civil engineering programs will require an entrance exam since class material is difficult; others may require certain math courses have been taken in high school. Be aware of each department’s requirements while applying.
Typically a 2-year program, an Associate in Civil Engineering requires strong math skills. The curriculum will usually consist of computer-aided drafting (CAD) courses along with classes on cartography and topography, materials statics, and surveying. It may also include instruction on soil behavior and highway engineering. With this level of schooling, graduates won’t be able to snag a job as a Civil Engineer, but there are entry-level positions available.
Career paths for graduates with an Associate’s in Civil Engineering: Civil Engineering Technician, Cartographer Land Surveyor, CAD Operator. The average salary in this area of study with this level of education is $47,000.
To become a civil engineer, the completion of a bachelor’s of science degree is required in most states and by most employers. Most programs can be completed in a standard 4 years and the curriculum expands to include advanced calculus, fluid mechanics, the economics of engineering, and material properties.
Upon graduation, students can opt to become licensed. Licensing varies by state, but most require completing two comprehensive exams and four years working under a licensed professional. The timeline begins after matriculation: students take the first exam, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE), work four years, and then take the Professional Engineer (PE) exam. The significance of becoming a PE is becoming more prominent. Only licensed engineers can prepare, sign, seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to public authority, and they are the only ones qualified to seal engineering work for public or private clients, as well. Many government and state level positions require it, as well.
Career paths for graduates with a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering include: Civil Engineer. There are many different industries to work in, transportation, geo-technical, hydraulic, wastewater, environmental, and compliance, for starters, but the end-goal for earning this degree is, typically, becoming a Civil Engineer. The salary is entirely based on experience and entry level begins at around $50,000. The median salary for all Civil Engineers is $82,000.
A Master’s in Civil Engineering isn’t typically required, but employers are looking for this continued education more. It particularly focuses on advancing specialization and often includes interdisciplinary options like Energy-Water-Environment Sustainability, Societal Risk Management, and Sustainable Resilient Infrastructure Systems. It can also further education in a concentration from bachelor’s.
If your intention is to enter the competitive world of academia, a doctorate is required to teach at the university level. The other primary use for a PhD in Civil Engineering is for obtaining advanced positions in highly specialized industries.