Civil engineering is an important branch of engineering. Most of the work in that field directly affects the lives of the public. As a result, they need to be highly qualified and possess a good set of ethics before they can start work.
Here’s the good news: anyone who can meet those standards can expect to make a great deal of money through rewarding work.
Of course, becoming an engineer is easier said than done. You’ll need to meet a set of strict prerequisites and pass multiple certification exams. However, once you’ve done so you’ll find yourself working in a highly rewarding field.
Keep reading to learn how to become a civil engineer!
Educational Requirements for Civil Engineering
There are several steps you need to take before you can become a civil engineer. First, you need to complete a 4-year degree in civil engineering; this guarantees you have the required knowledge to work as an engineer. In fact, many companies recommend you get a master’s degree before starting your career.
Next, you’ll need to get some work experience under your belt. Engineers need at least 4 years of work experience before they can be certified as a professional civil engineer. This work must be completed in a field related to civil engineering.
Engineering candidates who have met these requirements will then need to pass 2 certification exams to be recognized as professional engineers.
How to Become a Certified Civil Engineer
Your last step in becoming an engineer involves passing 2 certification exams, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) tests. Both of these exams are very difficult and require you to put in a lot of work to pass on your first try.
The first thing you need to know is what each exam looks like. This allows you to develop a good study plan and develop test-taking strategies. Plus, it will help you grow comfortable with the testing experience ahead of time.
NCEES makes the blueprint for each exam available on its website. Reading this will tell you exactly which subjects you need to be an expert in.
For the FE exam, you’ll be asked to demonstrate what you’ve learned by answering 110 questions over the course of 6 hours. During that time you’ll have a scheduled break for 25 minutes.
Exam results will be available for you to view 7-10 days after completing the test. Assuming you pass, you can move on to the PE exam.
The structure of the PE exam is very similar to the FE exam. You’ll be testing in the same environment on many of the same concepts. However, this test is much harder than the FE test. It consists of 80 questions and lasts for 9 hours instead of 6. During that time you’ll have a scheduled break of 50 minutes. As with the FE exam, the NCEES hosts an exam blueprint for the PE exam on their site. Make sure to use this when studying for the exam.
What Is the Average Salary of a Civil Engineer in the US?
Civil engineering is a very well-paid field. Many civil engineers starting out can expect an average base pay of $77,632 each year. As you advance in your field, you can even find yourself making over $100k annually.
The typical career path for a civil engineer involves slowly moving up engineering positions. After enough time you can become a senior engineer, principal engineer, or even an engineering director. Each of these civil engineering jobs come with an increase in pay and responsibilities.
The job outlook for civil engineers is fairly promising right now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to grow by 8% in the next 10 years. Knowing that this career has much more job security compared to other employment options.
Civil Engineering vs Architecture
The major differences between civil engineers and architects come down to a matter of scale. Architects create the initial design and plans for buildings. Civil engineers are in charge of the entire building process, from design to completion. Consequently, that means civil engineers have far more responsibilities overall.
Another key difference is what type of structures each field focuses on. Architects focus solely on buildings when designing structures. By contrast, civil engineers work on a much wider range of projects such as water systems, transportation systems, and other public works. It’s no exaggeration to say civil engineers have to work much harder than an architect!
Civil Engineer vs Structural Engineer
Structural engineering is a more specialized subset of civil engineering. This branch focuses heavily on mathematical skills— even more so than other branches of engineering. Structural engineers need to make sure the structures they’re creating can resist every type of load it’ll be subject to; this requires intimate knowledge of building materials, designs, and the area of construction.
Civil engineering is much broader. There’s definitely overlap between the two fields, but for the most part, they won’t have to focus as heavily on the structural design. Instead, they need to manage most of the construction process and ensure everything is completed safely and within budget.
Construction Engineering vs Civil Engineering
Much like structural engineering, construction engineering is another specialized branch of civil engineering.
Construction engineers primarily work on infrastructure projects and construction projects, including building bridges, roads, buildings, and more. Most of their time is spent working with architects and engineering technicians to create a workable building plan for the projects they’re working on.
The range of projects a civil engineer works on is much broader in comparison. Civil engineers tend to focus on projects that interact with the environment in some way. As a result, they can be seen designing and building dams, sewage systems, canals, pipelines, and much more. Their work is more broad in scope overall, although it is no more or less difficult than what construction engineers are expected to do.
Bryce Welker is an entrepreneur and owner of over 20 test prep websites dedicated to helping professionals earn certifications and pass their licensure exams. Bryce is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Inc.com, and Business.com where he shares his knowledge to help others boost their careers.