Civil Engineer Job Description

Civil Engineers plan and oversee the construction of roads, bridges, railways, airports and other types of infrastructure. The job requires a great deal of collaboration with building contractors, project managers, drafters and engineering colleagues. While planning a project, a Civil Engineer creates design concepts, conducts field inspections, tests project materials, prepares cost estimates and reviews the work of subordinates.

Entry-level Civil Engineers support senior engineers by performing routine tasks. After working in the field for several years, a Civil Engineer qualifies for senior positions with more technical responsibilities. There are also management opportunities available to Civil Engineers who excel at supervising others. Government agencies often hire Civil Engineers to oversee the construction of public projects, but there are also jobs available in the aerospace, construction, transportation and energy industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8 percent increase in the number of Civil Engineer jobs available through 2024.


Civil Engineer Duties and Responsibilities

The primary goal of a Civil Engineer is to design and supervise large construction projects. To manage projects effectively, a Civil Engineer must perform a variety of tasks related to planning, forecasting, and using technology. We reviewed several job listings to determine these core duties of a Civil Engineer.

Prepare Cost Estimates

Using bids submitted by vendors, a Civil Engineer prepares a cost estimate for each construction project. To prepare an accurate estimate, the Civil Engineer must determine the scope of the project and analyze any risks associated with the proposed construction. After analyzing the information, a Civil Engineer uses a spreadsheet program or project-management software to generate the estimate.

Create Renderings

Civil Engineers use design software to produce renderings, which are images made from two-dimensional and three-dimensional models. In some cases, a Civil Engineer uses software to create a basic design idea and then has a drafting professional produce the renderings.

Ensure Compliance with Laws

Large construction projects often require approval from government agencies. A Civil Engineer is responsible for ensuring each project complies with zoning laws and other regulations. For government-funded projects, a civil engineer may also have to ensure that all materials are purchased in accordance with state, city or county procurement rules.

Analyze Data

Civil Engineers analyze data from several sources to determine the best way to plan projects. For example, a Civil Engineer tasked with designing a water system may use data collected from sensors to determine the demand for water in a specific municipality.

Conduct Field Inspections

Civil Engineers perform multiple types of inspections. Field inspections take the Civil Engineer onsite to survey and analyze a project’s proposed location whereas structural inspections look at existing structures for signs of wear and tear or damage. You may also find yourself examining the construction process to ensure everything is going according to the plans.


Civil Engineer Skills

Analytical skills are important, but Civil Engineers must be able to communicate effectively and collaborate with team members. They are able to solve problems, manage multiple projects and use their time wisely. In addition to these basic skills, employers want Civil Engineer candidates who can do the following with minimal supervision.

Core skills: After analyzing several job listings, we determined that employers want Civil Engineers with the following skills. If you want to build a successful career as a Civil Engineer, take note of these requirements.

  • Communicating technical ideas to non-technical audiences, such as residents or local government officials
  • Determining project costs based on the bids submitted by vendors
  • Preparing reports and proposals with Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Developing project plans according to local building codes
  • Performing hand calculations to ensure the feasibility of project
  • Experience with various computer assisted engineering and design software, such as AutoCAD and Civil 3D

Advanced skills: Although not every employer requires Civil Engineers to have the following skills, several job listings did mark them as preferred. Develop these Civil Engineer skills to make yourself more marketable.

  • Rehabilitating existing buildings, such as historical structures
  • Using CAESAR software to analyze the effects of stress on piping systems
  • Analyzing the suitability of building materials for specific projects
  • Understanding the physical and chemical properties of building materials


Civil Engineer Resources

We searched book catalogs and the World Wide Web to find the best resources for anyone interested in pursuing a Civil Engineer career. The list is jam-packed with books, websites and industry groups to help you learn about engineering and make valuable connections in the industry.

On the Web

Civil Engineer: Access breaking news and information about educational opportunities in the field of civil engineering. Ask for help from Civil Engineers with experience in project management, drafting and other must-have engineering skills.

The Constructor: Learn more about the building materials used in civil engineering projects.

Next American City – A site full of infrastructure and building policy with lots of planning ideas for the new civil engineer.

Being Brunel – Civil Engineer, Thomas Michael Wallace shares the trials and tribulations of his career.

BLDGBLOG – A blog that covers civil engineering design and construction issues and provides useful tools and tips.

Industry Groups

American Society of Civil Engineers: Join ASCE to take advantage of networking events and educational opportunities.

Institution of Civil Engineers – Formed nearly 200 years ago, ICE is one of the world’s most respected professional engineering associations.

National Society of Professional Engineers: The National Society of Professional Engineers is committed to advancing the profession of engineering.

Civil Engineer Books

The Art of Construction by Mario Salvadori – Learn the basic principles of structural design.

Civil Engineering Formulas by Tyler Hicks – Keep track of the formulas and equations used to perform hand calculations for civil engineering projects.

Civil Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam Michael R. Lindeburg – Study for the PE exam, which assesses your ability to perform competently as a Civil Engineer.

Brian Brenner 3-Book Set by Brian Brenner – These collections of essays and humorous anecdotes celebrate life as a practicing civil engineer.

Infrastructure Planning, Engineering, And Economics by Alvin S. Goodman & Makarand Hastak – This text covers everything from key concepts of infrastructure planning to sustainability for design, construction and maintenance.


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