How To Become a Civil Engineer in 6 Steps

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways.[1][2]

Civil engineering is traditionally broken into a number of sub-disciplines. It is considered the second-oldest engineering discipline after military engineering,[3] and it is defined to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering.[4] Civil engineering can take place in the public sector from municipal public works departments through to federal government agencies, and in the private sector from locally based firms to global Fortune 500 companies.[5]

What is Civil Engineering?

What do civil engineers do?

Civil engineers are professionals who are responsible for designing, constructing and maintaining various structures and public works projects. Common public works that civil engineers design and erect include buildings, roads, bridges, waterways, dams and airports.

They may work in the private sector or for public organizations such as the government. Most civil engineers choose to specialize in one of the above-mentioned sub-disciplines of civil engineering. The sub-discipline a civil engineer pursues will determine the type of work they do. For example, a transportation civil engineer may work on highways, roads and other structures that facilitate transportation.

Common duties that a civil engineer may perform include:

What is civil engineering?

Civil engineering is a sector of the engineering industry that is focused on the creation, erection and maintenance of physically and naturally built structures and environments. Civil engineering is responsible for the construction of nearly every public and private structure including roads, airports, waterways, bridges and buildings. This type of engineering can be utilized in various settings including in the public sector (governments, municipals) and the private sector (private homes).

Civil engineering is a prominent component of several industries and is broken down into several sub-disciplines. The following are the most commonly recognized sub-disciplines of civil engineering:

Construction engineering

This type of engineering is concerned with the design, management and building of public and residential construction projects. Common projects a construction engineer may work on include skyscrapers, business buildings, homes and industrial warehouses.

Environmental engineering

This sub-discipline of civil engineering is responsible for maintaining and improving the quality of land, water and air by implementing eco-friendly practices. Environmental engineers may design and implement solutions that minimize pollution and waste or oversee projects in government parks.

Earthquake engineering

Earthquake engineering is focused on minimizing the damage caused by earthquakes by designing and constructing strategies to strengthen infrastructure in vulnerable areas.

Structural engineering

Structural engineers specialize in the design of structures such as homes, monuments and buildings. This type of engineer is primarily concerned with the internal aspects of a structure to ensure that they are durable and will not be susceptible to collapse or environmental damage.

Geotechnical engineering

This type of civil engineer focuses on implementing the practice of geology into the engineering field. A geotechnical engineer may analyze and study soil quality, rock and other geological factors that may affect the foundation of a structure. Geotechnical engineers most often work in the mining or petroleum industries.

Water resources engineering

Water resources engineers are concerned with studying various water systems throughout the world and often work in projects such as wetland restoration and sewage system design and construction.

Fire protection engineering

As its name implies, this sub-discipline of engineering is geared towards ensuring and improving the safety of individuals in the case of a fire. They may compose plans and strategies for reducing the risk of fires in structures and typically work for development or construction companies.

Transportation engineering

A transportation engineer is responsible for all aspects of various transportation systems including air, rail and road transportation. They focus on both current transportation systems as well as trends that may impact the future of transportation and use this knowledge to maintain and improve various aspects of modern transportation.

Mining engineering

Mining engineering is exclusively focused on the mining and extraction of minerals, coal and other related substances. A mining engineer may analyze, plan and design mining sites as well as oversee the teams who will mine them.

How to become a civil engineer

The following are the steps that most individuals pursuing a career as a civil engineer take:

1. Get a bachelors degree

The minimum education requirement for a career in civil engineering is a bachelors degree. Most civil engineers major in civil engineering, civil engineering technology or a related field. A degree from an ABET-certified program is required to be eligible for a professional engineer (PE) license.

2. Choose a specialty

As mentioned earlier, civil engineering is composed of several sub-disciplines. Many individuals decide which sub-discipline they will specialize in during their undergraduate program. Once decided, students can take classes specific to their specialty of choice.

3. Complete an internship

Most civil engineering bachelors degree programs require students to complete at least one semester of an engineering internship. This also helps individuals in the future when they begin their job search by providing hands-on experience. Most people complete an internship in the junior or senior year of their degree program.

4. Take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination

To be licensed as a professional engineer, you must take and pass two exams. The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination is the first of these exams and is sometimes referred to as the “Engineer in Training” exam. The best time to take this test is immediately upon graduating with Bachelors Degree in Engineering.

5. Become an Engineer-in-Training or Engineer Intern

After passing the FE exam, individuals will be considered an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) or Engineer Intern (EI). Aspiring engineers will need to spend a set amount of time (dependent on their state) as an Engineer In Training before being able to take the final exam.

6. Take the Principles and Practices of Engineering (PE) examination

The final step to becoming a practicing civil engineer is to take and pass the Principles and Practices of Engineering (PE) examination. This exam will certify individuals as professional engineers and is typically enough to apply for and be hired for most civil engineering positions.

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