Civil engineers play important roles in developing the public infrastructure. Their work helps plan and execute projects for transportation, public utility, environmental and other systems. This Civil Engineer Job Description explains the educational, experience and licensing requirements to help oversee many public projects and the engineer’s duties, work experience and career outlook.

Engineer going over a project with the foreman.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

The Civil Engineer job description entails public project design, planning, oversight, and evaluation. Civil engineers must test materials and soil, analyze the costs of projects, and ensure the establishment and execution of specifications for the construction. Various math calculations help civil engineers determine items such as the ability of buildings, water, sewer and petroleum lines and pipes to handle volume; and roads, buildings, and bridges to bear particular weight.

Civil Engineer Job Description for Resume – Responsibilities

The civil engineer job description outlines the main tasks these professionals have to fulfill like planning projects by analysis of plans, reports, maps, surveys, construction costs, regulations and potential environmental impacts.

  • Submit applications for government-issued permits.
  • Estimate labor, materials, equipment and other construction costs.
  • Test materials to be used in construction.
  • Plan and design transportation systems, such as highways, airports and railways; and sewer and water lines to ensure compliance with governmental standards.
  • Perform or supervise soil testing to determine the adequacy of foundations or ground support for structures and surveying to set grades, reference points and elevations for site development and construction.
  • Evaluate the ability of the infrastructure to withstand earthquakes, wind, rain and other natural conditions.
  • Oversee and approve private and public infrastructure construction, repair, and replacement.
  • Ensure and enforce worker safety requirements.

Civil Engineer Job Required/ Essential Skills

Decision-Making. Whether and how projects proceed often turns on the decisions or recommendations of civil engineers. Businesses, governments, environmental advocacy groups and others with stakes in private and public construction often hold competing interests. The civil engineer must take these and conditions into account.

Math. Civil engineers employ geometry, trigonometry, calculus and other math to calculate angles, curves, lengths, volume and other measurements necessary to designing and executing projects.

Problem-Solving. Weather, unforeseen conditions, and accidents can delay or hamper major construction projects or threaten cost over-runs. Equipment or materials may fail. The civil engineer job description includes the ability to solve these and other problems. Solutions may involve revising plans, designs, and schedules. Problem-solving is also required to address that present themselves in the project planning and design stages.

Communication. Civil engineers must present recommendations, job specifications and findings of tests and other analyses to audiences not well-versed in technical or scientific terminology. Communication also requires that civil engineers are precise in drawings and other reports relied upon by agencies granting permits and crews performing construction work.

Leadership. The responsibility for supervising construction or research often falls to the civil engineer. These leadership skills include instructing, advising, evaluating and delegating tasks to crew members and their supervisors, architects and planners.

How to Become a Civil Engineer

Civil engineers must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or specialty thereof, or in civil engineering technology. A master’s degree can afford opportunities for advancement or managerial positions. Those who seek to manage or supervise public projects must obtain a license from their respective state’s engineering board.

Education & Training Requirements

At a minimum, a civil engineer should obtain a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or some specialty of it or civil engineering technology. Coursework typically includes mathematics, statistics, the mechanics of engineering, physical science, and fluid dynamics. Knowledge of geometry and trigonometry is also necessary.

With a master’s degree, a civil engineer can enhance qualifications to oversee and manage projects or engineering staff. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 percent of civil engineers hold a master’s degree in civil engineering.

States generally require a license to practice professional engineering. Graduation from an ABET-accredited degree program is an educational prerequisite.

Candidates must then pass a “Fundamentals of Engineering” (FE) test, work at least four years under supervision of a licensee and then pass the “Professional Engineering” (PE) test. The license empowers a civil engineer to sign and seal plans and oversee planning, design, construction and maintenance of public projects. These projects may include public road and other infrastructure construction.

Licensed professional engineers can obtain certification in specialties such as coastal, geotechnical, ocean, water resources and ports. The American Society of Civil Engineers certifies professional engineers in these areas. You can also look at other well paid construction jobs.

Work Experience

Civil engineers must normally work four years after graduation under a licensed professional engineer as part of qualifying for a license. Depending on the state, pre-graduate work may suffice for meeting the experience requirement. Typically, though, students do not engage in the necessary professional level of engineering work. Certain states may permit prospective licensees to gain experience under an unlicensed engineer who is not offering services to the public or is not involved in public projects.

Generally, the qualifying work experience must allow the candidate to demonstrate and apply engineering knowledge and assume responsibility for design, decisions, and aspects of project management.

License candidates must carefully consider whether experience counts in a particular civil engineering firm. For example, performing studies of traffic congestion, patterns and lights and flow constitutes traffic, but not civil engineering. Designing water and sewer lines outside of buildings, such as in a city neighborhood, is civil engineering, but may become mechanical engineering when the work is confined to the inside of a building.

Work Schedules

Typically, civil engineers work a minimum of 40 hours a week. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one in four log more than 40 hours per week.

Schedules can cover more than the normal 9 to 5 office hours. For example, civil engineers may have to appear at local government public hearings to explain whether a project or aspects of it complies with standards and requirements for the permit. These meetings often occur in evenings. Civil engineers also travel to various project sites to supervise and resolve problems on projects. Office hours are more likely when the civil engineer creates designs.

Career Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil engineers earned on average $87,940 in May 2015. The Oil and Gas Extraction industry yielded the highest average salaries, at $130,750. The median salary was $82,220, with 10 percent of earners making north of $129,850 per year.

The need to upgrade, repair and replace roads, bridges, levees, waterways and treatment plants, and other infrastructure will drive the demand for civil engineers. Environmental concerns will require civil engineers to design and help entities obtain permits for renewable energy projects and evaluate environmental impacts of public construction. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says civil engineering employment will rise by 8 percent, or 23,600 jobs, between 2014 and 2024.


The Civil Engineer Job Description calls upon those pursuing this career to exhibit math, decision-making, technological and communication skills. Civil engineers who supervise or consult on public projects must be licensed as professional engineers. Work experience under the oversight of a licensed civil engineer is part of the process.

Civil engineers can advance to managerial roles and higher salaries with a license and specialize in particular fields, such as coastal or water systems. The prospects of employment will continue to show stability as infrastructure needs repairs, upgrades or replacement.