Find a civil engineering career path that best suits you.
Do you ever wonder what path you would follow to become a chief executive officer…or a public works director? How about a professor of civil engineering? A project engineer for a large consulting firm? Or a senior project manager for a construction management firm?
While there are no magic formulas to achieve your career goals, your individual interests, skills, and training will dictate the path you should follow. Over time, you may modify your career path based on personal interests, values, goals, experiences, and new opportunities that present themselves.
Your Career. Your Life. What’s Next?
Civil engineers are uniquely positioned to build on their skills and knowledge and serve in a wide range of roles for organizations ranging from small to global, both public and private, and contribute to almost every aspect of creating and maintaining our built environment. Civil engineering careers described here are typical and illustrate the diversity of paths available but don’t cover all of the opportunities that civil engineers are equipped to pursue.
More resources to help you choose your path and advance your career are included below.
This track is ideal for someone who has a strong desire to:
- help shape their community,
- make a difference in the world around them,
- work on a variety of important issues, and
- see their projects become physical reality.
The work is challenging and varied, requiring a resourceful problem solver with strong technical acumen who enjoys a wide range of experiences. There are early opportunities for taking on significant responsibility for those with a desire to involve themselves in important and complex issues.
Along with a clear path for career advancement, engineers in public agencies can expect:
- work-life balance,
- job stability,
- excellent benefits, and
- a defined retirement.
Engineers who enjoy working with the public and want to see their work go from concept to physical completion will find this a rewarding career path.
Civil engineering educators typically enjoy job stability without routine.
Educators often work collaboratively and have a flexible schedule that may include:
- research, and
Collaborating with other faculty, industry representatives, and government officials is common. At many academic institutions, publishing research findings and obtaining grant funding for your academic institution are key elements to success. Facilitating student learning and achieving recognition as a top performing educator make this a fulfilling career choice.
Consulting offers a multitude of career opportunities in firms ranging in size from less than 10 people to more than 1,000.
At smaller firms, civil engineers may work on varied projects, design challenges, and management-related activities. At larger firms, they may focus on specific projects, an area of technical expertise, or business management and development.
Consulting spans the gamut of engineering work, from:
- project management,
- software development,
- construction services, and more.
Whether at a small or large firm, civil engineers in consulting have control over their own success, with opportunities to advance within companies or become business owners.
In industry, civil engineers work in diverse settings, including:
- public facilities and utilities, and
- many others providing goods and services to the public.
Civil engineers in industry manage large plants, oversee the design/construction of facilities, and are instrumental in new ventures requiring environmental site assessments and feasibility studies. They make significant contributions to decrease costs, increase profits, and produce smaller environmental footprints by developing more efficient processes, implementing waste minimization programs, and finding creative solutions to a wide range of issues.
The diversity of jobs in industry provides nontraditional career paths, opportunities to build relationships with and learn from industry experts, and solve diverse challenges.
In construction, civil engineers may work for a contractor, owner, developer, or program manager to create the built environment, transforming engineering and architectural design drawings from paper to reality.
They are involved in projects of every size and complexity and may spend much of their time on project sites. No two days are the same as projects progress and present a variety of challenges to be resolved while maintaining that progress.
Rewards for those who succeed in this often fast-paced environment include:
- higher salaries,
- team camaraderie, and
- the satisfaction of seeing tangible results of their work.
Civil engineers in the construction sector are instrumental in building and maintaining the world we live in.
ASCE’s Guidelines for Engineering Grades was created to help engineers and their employers recognize an engineer’s level of professional development and career advancement. The guidelines outline the knowledge, skills, and responsibilities associated with engineers at each grade.
The ASCE Guidelines for Engineering Grades Comparison Tool is an interactive online tool that lets you compare requirements across up to three different grades at once.
Additional resources to help you find the job that's right for you
Career by Design
Plug in to ASCE’s online community for young civil engineers. Get the tools, tips, resources, and opportunities you need to advance your career.
Your guide to the FE exam
The NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is the first of the two exams engineers must pass in order to become licensed professional engineers (PE).
Attend ASCE’s free eLearning webinar on what you need to know about preparing to take the FE Exam.