What Does a Civil Engineer Do? (Skills, Roles, Salary and More!)

Updated on 03/22/2024


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  1. Civil engineers shape our infrastructure and ensure projects are executed safely and efficiently.
  2. Civil engineers operate in diverse settings, from office spaces to bustling construction sites.
  3. The future looks promising for aspiring civil engineers, with job growth projected at 5% over the next decade.
  4. Civil engineering offers competitive salaries, with median annual earnings of $89,940 as of 2022.

Civil engineering has been important for humans for a long time. Think about our ancestors finding safety in caves or using logs to make bridges. These early acts of civil engineering show how we've always been clever problem-solvers.

Throughout history, civil engineering has shaped our world. It's been quietly making things work, from the pyramids to water systems. Nowadays, with tall buildings and fancy bridges, people wonder, "What does a civil engineer do?" Let's explore what skills and creativity make up a civil engineer's job.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

A civil engineer shapes our world by building things like bridges, roads, and buildings. They ensure these structures are safe and efficient and follow the rules to protect the environment.

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Civil Engineer Responsibilities and Tasks:

  • Designing and Planning: Civil engineers make detailed plans for projects like roads and buildings. They think about how strong the structures need to be, how they will work, and how they'll affect the environment.
  • Project Management: They manage projects from start to finish. This includes making budgets and schedules and deciding what resources are needed. They work closely with clients, contractors, and others involved in the project.
  • Construction Supervision: Civil engineers oversee construction work to ensure it follows the plans and is done safely. They visit construction sites often to check progress and solve any problems.
  • Site Investigation: Civil engineers study the land before starting a project to determine suitability. They look at things like soil, water, and potential risks to decide if it's a good place to build.
  • Cost Estimation and Budgeting: They determine how much a project will cost and make budgets to keep spending in check. They look at materials, equipment, and labor prices to ensure everything stays on track.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Civil engineers ensure their projects meet all the rules and regulations. They stay up-to-date on laws about buildings, the environment, and other legal stuff.
  • Documentation and Reporting: The Civil Engineer role also includes keeping detailed records of everything that happens during a project. This includes making reports, drawings, and other documents to share with everyone involved.
  • Continuous Learning and Professional Development: Civil engineers never stop learning. They attend classes and seminars and get certifications to stay on top of new ideas and skills in their field.

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Types of Civil Engineers

Now that we have elaborated and answered the question “what does a civil engineer do”. Let’s move on to the different areas where engineers can specialize. Here are some common types:

  • Structural Engineer: These engineers focus on designing and studying the parts that hold up buildings, bridges, and other structures. They make sure everything is strong enough and safe.
  • Geotechnical Engineers: They look at how soil and rocks behave to help with construction projects. They figure out whether the ground is stable enough for building on.
  • Transportation Engineer: These engineers work on plans and designs for roads, railways, airports, and public transportation. They try to make getting around easier and safer.
  • Water Resources Engineer: They manage water-related projects like supplying water, controlling floods, and treating wastewater. They also look at how these projects affect the environment.
  • Environmental Engineer: These engineers focus on how construction projects impact the environment. They come up with ways to reduce pollution, manage waste, and protect nature.
  • Construction Engineer: They're responsible for ensuring construction projects go smoothly. They keep things on schedule, within budget, and up to code.
  • Urban Planning Engineer: These engineers help design cities and urban areas. They decide where things like roads, buildings, and parks should go to make cities work better.
  • Coastal Engineers: They work on projects near the coast, like preventing erosion, designing harbors, and protecting buildings from rising sea levels.
  • Civil Engineering Technician: These technicians support civil engineers by helping with planning, design, and construction. They make sure everything runs smoothly and meets standards.

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What's it Like Working as a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers work in different places and conditions. They can be found in offices and at construction sites. In the office, they design various things like bridges, buildings, roads, airports, and water treatment plants. They often work with different people, such as architects, geologists, and engineers.

Most civil engineers work for engineering services, making up about 48% of the workforce. Others work for state and local governments, nonresidential building construction, and federal government agencies, making up 12%, 10%, and 6%, respectively.

When working on construction sites, some civil engineers set up temporary offices, usually in trailers, to better manage projects. This ability to work in different settings shows how adaptable civil engineers must be as they switch between planning, designing, and building phases.

Skills Required to Become a Civil Engineer

Civil engineers need a mix of different skills to do their job well. These skills help them succeed and make sure projects run smoothly.

Technical Skills

For the technical side, civil engineers should be good at:

  1. Understanding math, physics, and chemistry to deal with the numbers in their projects.
  2. Knowing how to plan, design, build, operate, and maintain different types of infrastructure like buildings, roads, and water systems.
  3. Being able to read maps and blueprints.
  4. Using computer programs like Microstation, Civil 3D, and AutoCAD for detailed planning and drawing.
  5. Writing technical reports and documents.

Soft Skills

In addition to technical skills, civil engineers also need to be good at:

  1. Working well in teams.
  2. Communicating effectively.
  3. Thinking critically and solving problems.
  4. Managing their time wisely.
  5. Showing leadership when needed.

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Civil Engineers' Pay and Job Prospects

The future looks bright for civil engineers. Over the next decade, there's expected to be a 5% (2022-2032) increase in jobs, higher than the average for most jobs. Each year, around 326,300 new job openings are predicted. This is because some people will switch careers, and others will retire.

Now, let's talk about MONEY. The median yearly salary for civil engineers in 2022 was $89,940. Salaries can vary depending on where you work:

How to Become a Civil Engineer?

If you want to be a civil engineer, start with a bachelor's degree from a good school. You can study civil engineering, construction, or related fields.

Some people get a master's or PhD in Civil Engineering. This can help if you want higher positions or to teach. Moreover, getting certifications in specific areas can also make you more qualified.

For some jobs, like entry-level ones, you don't need to be a licensed professional engineer (PE). But you'll need to get licensed if you work on projects that affect public safety, like building bridges or roads.

To become licensed, you need to pass exams. First, take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. If you pass, you become an engineer intern (EI) or engineer in training (EIT). After some training, you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to get your license.


After reading our guide on “what does a civil engineer do”, we believe you must have gotten enough information regarding civil engineering roles.  Civil engineering has continuously played a pivotal role in shaping our societies and improving the quality of life for generations. With each new project, civil engineers demonstrate their commitment to innovation, sustainability, and the betterment of our shared environment. As we continue to face global challenges, the importance of civil engineering in providing safe, efficient, and sustainable infrastructure remains paramount.

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Sumaira Arif

Update at 03/22/2024

Sumaira is a content writer at Yulys. She creates user-oriented research-based content to present industry stats and facts in a meaningful way.

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