Civil engineering is quite the field to get into. There is an estimated 6% growth in the employment of civil engineers in the next ten years and the pay sits at a respectable average pay of around $41/hour. It’s certainly a field worth considering!
First things first though…you need to know how to become a civil engineer in the first place! Join us as we review the basics of getting into engineering, what qualifications you will need, and finally how to excel in this ever-needed field.
Where to Begin
Like most engineering fields, you are going to need to at least have a relevant bachelor’s degree to be considered for an engineering position. Civil engineering education requirements aren’t too intense, but it is obviously important you know what you’re doing when you’re building houses, offices, and bridges!
Your degree will generally have to be in civil engineering, in one of its specialties, or in civil engineering technology. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a dual major, but this isn’t necessary to land most engineering positions.
Note that some experts also recommend against choosing a specialty too early. This can serve several purposes at once when you are finally employed as an engineer:
- You are much less likely to wind up stuck in a specialty you don’t end up liking.
- Varied experience is likely to be a fantastic asset in your work, especially when dealing with projects where multiple engineering specialties are overlapping.
- You may hit upon a specialty you never considered early on, but wind up thoroughly enjoying.
Once you have a degree, you will also want to consider getting a PE license. A professional engineering (PE) license is essentially your proof that you are up to your state’s professional standards as an engineer.
While these licenses aren’t essential for all engineering jobs, many government jobs will require them. As a general rule, the more responsibility a civil engineering position requires, the more likely it is a PE license will be necessary.
These licenses need to be maintained, as the field changes and just to make sure your skills stay up to state standards. One way this is done is through professional development hours (PDH).
PDHs, also known as continuing education units (CEUs), are essentially a state’s way of making sure you’re keeping up with engineering. 42 states require these, with slightly licensing board requirements, so be sure to keep up with your own state’s rules and regulations (which any engineer should be doing anyway).
A relevant degree and (potentially) a PE license can get an engineer pretty far, but what if you want to excel? If you’re aiming for big projects (and big paychecks), you’ll probably want more advice than the basics.
How to Excel
As with any position, you obviously won’t be able to land senior-level positions right away. You can expect to work about 1-4 years in an entry-level position before higher positions open up to you. Senior positions may require 5-9 years of experience (or even more).
However, if your goal is to climb the engineering ladder, you’re not going to just want to rely on your experience in a lower position landing you the job. As with any field, engineering gets more competitive as you rise in the ranks. So how do you stand out?
First, you’re probably going to need a PE license after a while, rather than it just being beneficial. Even if you don’t legally require one, more and more of your competition will have one. If the choice comes down to a candidate with a license and without one, an employer will likely go with the licensed engineer.
Second, you may want to consider continuing your education. Look into websites offering opportunities for continuing education for engineers.
Some companies, like PDH-Pro, even offer free ways to educate yourself about the field and earn PDHs. Before you pay to continue your education, be sure to look into free options! Many are just as good as far more expensive courses.
It also wouldn’t hurt to get a higher level degree either. A bachelor’s meets most employer’s standards, but a higher degree in the same field still shows you may have more to offer than your competition. Standing out from your competitors is generally the best way to land the most lucrative positions!
Nailing an Interview
Once you’re ready for a civil engineering position, you still need to actually get one! You’ll need to do some research, write up a good resume, and start sending it out to potential employers.
Once it’s time to apply for a job, you’re going to need to land an interview, and then hopefully nail it. There’s plenty of good advice online about doing both, far too much to include here, but some good pointers include:
- Research companies in the area you intend to live and important employees at those companies, trying to feel out what sort of culture they have at their organization (and whether you’d even like working there).
- If you know people connected to the engineering field, ask them about job opportunities. The saying about the importance of who you know has at least some truth to it; it is much easier to land a position through friendly contacts.
- Be friendly, professional, and persistent. There’s an art to mastering the inquiring phone call and application email, but it’s worth the effort. Companies are much more receptive to people who seem friendly yet driven. If you’re too shy, you won’t get noticed. Too rude, and it may not matter who notices you!
That’s How to Become a Civil Engineer
That’s the basics of how to become a civil engineer and excel in the field. By using the advice above, we hope you can land the position you’ve always dreamed of!
Seeking more knowledge about exciting education developments? Or maybe something completely different? Look through our site, and we certainly have even more articles that will pique your interest!