What Degree Do You Need to Be a Civil Engineer?

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What Degree Do You Need to Be a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers are in charge of planning and supervising large-scale building projects that are typically supported by the federal, state, and municipal governments. Highways, airports, sewer systems, bridges, and dams are among them. They do most of their work in offices, although they do have to go to building sites on occasion to check on progress or address difficulties. Civil engineers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, with a master’s degree being more frequent in management positions. 

A bachelor’s degree is required for civil engineers. For promotion to senior roles, they usually need a graduate degree and a license. Civil engineers are normally required to be licensed if they give services directly to the public, though the criteria vary by state.

Civil engineering is the most common and maybe the oldest of the engineering disciplines. The Greek Acropolis, Egyptian pyramids, and Roman aqueducts are only a few of the discipline’s early achievements. Civil engineers nowadays plan and supervise the construction and maintenance of bridges, highways, tunnels, buildings, and water supply systems, among other infrastructure projects. 

Civil engineers now confront different goals and obstacles than their forefathers, yet regardless of age, they have made major contributions to the advancement of community life and culture.


A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, one of its specialties, or civil engineering technology is required for civil engineers. Depending on the expertise, civil engineering and civil engineering technology programs offer training in arithmetic, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics. Traditional classroom study, laboratory work, and fieldwork are all part of the curriculum. Cooperative education, commonly known as co-ops, is a type of program in which students receive work experience while earning a degree. 

The professional engineer (PE) license requires a degree from an ABET-accredited program. A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology fits the academic qualification for acquiring a license in several states. 

Following a bachelor’s degree, additional study, as well as a PE license and prior experience, are required, which helps get a job as a manager.

Go Out on the Field and Research it

Before devoting time to this sector, aspiring civil engineers should gain a thorough understanding of the skills, information, responsibilities, specialties, and other vital factors. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about civil engineering. 

Must-Have Knowledge & Skills: The “Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the Twenty-First Century” by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a widely recognized and respected document that defines the field of civil engineering, its methods, principles, and core knowledge; employers and colleges adhere to its standards. Civil engineers use arithmetic, physics, natural forces, and materials for the “increasing well-being of humanity,” according to the declaration. They create, improve, and protect structures that support community living, industry, and transportation, while simultaneously striving to protect our environment.

Typical Duties: Civil engineers research and solve problems related to structures, roads, and other projects; evaluate compliance with laws, regulations, or standards; perform data analysis; inspect structures; monitor and control resources; coordinate the work of others; assess the quality and feasibility of projects; draught and specify technical devices, parts, and equipment; and oversee processes and materials, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021).

Personal Qualities: Civil engineers must be able to make judgments, lead groups, organize their own and others’ work, grasp and apply mathematical and scientific principles, solve issues, and communicate effectively to be successful in their jobs.

Undergraduate Civil Engineering Degrees

An undergraduate degree in civil engineering or a similar field is required to work as a civil engineer. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology must accredit the program, which normally takes four years to complete. Civil engineering disciplines include mathematics, statistics, fluid dynamics, engineering mechanics, and engineering systems, according to the University of Delaware. In most cases, education combines classroom instruction with laboratory and field activity. Students can specialize in structural engineering, soil mechanics, environmental and resources engineering, or transportation engineering. They must also take elective classes like English, geology, and communications to round up their education.

Graduate Civil Engineering Degrees

Students who want to work as construction project managers or in city engineering departments need a master’s degree and several years of experience. If pursued full-time, this educational program normally takes at least two years to finish. Working professionals, on the other hand, can choose between part-time and full-time possibilities. Students pursuing these civil engineering degrees, according to Lawrence Technical University, often specialize in fields such as geotechnical or hydraulic engineering and take classes relating to their emphasis. Students must also complete a thesis or graduate project, as with any graduate degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for a Civil Engineer

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all states require civil engineers who sell their services to the public to be licensed. Engineers who supervise or direct other civil engineers, civil engineering technologists, or civil engineering technicians must have this certificate. A bachelor’s degree in engineering from a recognized program is necessary. 

To become a civil engineering intern or engineer in training, civil engineers must first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination. There may be additional state requirements. Engineers must have experience and pass further examinations to become fully licensed civil engineering professionals. For entry-level civil engineering positions, licensure is not necessary. Later in one’s career, a Professional Engineering (PE) license can be obtained, allowing for higher levels of leadership and independence. Professional engineers are licensed engineers (PEs). A PE can direct public services, supervise the work of other engineers, approve design plans, sign off on projects, and supervise the work of other engineers. 

  •  A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program 
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam 
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least four years working under a licensed engineer 
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam is all requirement for state licensure.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, you can take the first FE test. Engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns are the terms used to describe engineers that pass this exam (EIs). EITs and EIs can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering test after satisfying the work experience criteria. Each state is in charge of issuing its permits. Most states accept licensure from other states as long as the licensing state’s criteria are equal to or greater than their own. Several states require engineers to maintain their licenses by completing continuing education courses. 

Coastal engineering, geotechnical engineering, ports engineering, water resources engineering, and other subjects are all covered by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Civil engineers can also earn certifications in building security and sustainability.


Civil engineers with a lot of experience can advance to higher positions like project managers or design, construction, operation, and maintenance functional managers. They would, however, need to first earn a Professional Engineering (PE) license, as only licensed engineers are allowed to work on public projects. 

A professional engineer may seek certification that validates his or her proficiency in a civil engineering specialty after attaining licensing. A certificate like this could help you rise to senior technical or even management jobs.

Civil Engineering Specializations

Civil engineering is a vast discipline with a variety of specialties and educational and certification requirements. Here are summaries of six civil engineering subfields: 

  • Construction engineers supervise projects to ensure that they are completed safely, on time, and according to schedule. 
  •  Environmental engineers use engineering, biology, and chemistry to create answers to environmental challenges. They make sure that drinking water is safe, that garbage is correctly disposed of, and that the air and waterways are clean. 
  •  Geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineers ensure that construction projects are acceptable for foundations in a variety of soil and rock types. They create retaining walls and tunnels, among other constructions, taking into account slopes and other factors.
  • Hydraulic or water resources engineers consider gravity and other forces when evaluating and planning for the flow of water and waste. 
  • To ensure long-term strength, structural engineers plan and inspect major construction projects such as dams, bridges, and skyscrapers. 
  • Roads, airports, harbors, and mass transit systems are among the transportation systems that transportation engineers plan, design, and maintain. 

Civil engineers may work as bridge or structure inspection leaders, structural engineers, county engineers, city engineers, railroad design consultants, water engineers, design engineers, project administrators, chief engineering officers, or chief technical officers, according to CareerOneStop (2022).

Career Opportunities for Civil Engineers 

According to the BLS, civil engineers who complete their degree requirements can expect to earn an average of $45.88 per hour or $95,440 per year by May 2020. For the top 10% of earners, salaries might reach $69.62 per hour or $144,810 per year. 

From 2020 to 2030, the profession’s jobs are expected to rise by 8%, which is slightly faster than the 7% forecast for all engineers and the same as the 8% rate for all professions combined. Demand will be driven by an increasing population as more people necessitate more infrastructure investments. In addition, during the decade, 

aging bridges, roads, and dams will need to be repaired or replaced. Earnings vary significantly depending on education, progress, qualification, and experience, although they normally increase over time. Earnings are influenced by one’s location. 

Civil engineers are also in high demand; according to the BLS (2021), employment possibilities for civil engineers will expand by 8% between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than the average growth expected across all U.S. occupations during that time (8 percent). 

The majority of those gains, according to the BLS, are due to continued urbanization, population growth, and aging infrastructure, while an aging workforce undoubtedly helps. This trend is also influenced by an environmental drive for renewable-energy projects such as wind farms and solar arrays. Above all, individuals with graduate degrees, certifications, and professional licensing, as well as those familiar with the ASCE’s Body of Knowledge, have the highest job prospects.

Important Characteristics

Ability to Make Decisions

Civil engineers must regularly balance numerous, often contradictory objectives, such as determining plan feasibility in terms of financial expenses and safety considerations. Civil engineers are frequently sought out by urban and regional planners for assistance on these matters. Civil engineers must be able to make sound decisions based on best practices, technical knowledge, and experience. 

Ability to Lead 

Civil engineers are ultimately responsible for the projects they oversee or the research they conduct. As a result, they must be competent to supervise the work of planners, surveyors, construction managers, civil engineering technicians, civil engineering technologists, and others.

Math Bilities

Civil engineers employ calculus, trigonometry, and other complex mathematical ideas in their job for analysis, design, and troubleshooting. 

Organization Skills 

The design documentation for infrastructure projects can only be signed by qualified civil engineers. As a result of this need, civil engineers must be able to monitor and evaluate work on the Jobsite as the project advances. They can then ensure that the design documents are followed. Civil engineers must also be able to manage multiple projects at the same time, balancing time demands and successfully allocating resources

Possesses Problem-Solving Abilities

Civil engineers work at the highest level of multidimensional project or research planning, design, building, and operation. Because of the various factors involved, they must be able to recognize and analyze complicated challenges. They must then be able to apply their knowledge and experience to come up with cost-effective, safe, and efficient solutions. 

Skills in Public Speaking 

Civil engineers must deliver reports and plans to audiences with a diverse range of backgrounds and technical expertise. This necessitates the capacity to talk properly and converse with people in a variety of situations, as well as the ability to transform engineering and scientific material into simple concepts. 

Writing Abilities

Civil engineers must communicate with other professionals such as architects, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners. They must also be able to communicate projects to elected leaders and the general public. Civil engineers must be able to produce reports that are clear, concise, and intelligible to people who have little or no technical or scientific knowledge.

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