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“Best” is among the most relative of all descriptors.

But, in true civil engineering fashion, ASCE strives each year to quantify the “best places” for civil engineers to work and live.

It’s the annual ASCE Best Places for Civil Engineers index.

The 2021 edition derives from the index's most robust formula yet – a combination of data from ASCE's 2020 Salary Report; job information from Naylor Associations Solutions drawn from June 14, 2019, to June 14, 2020; and cost of living statistics from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Read a full exploration of the data and trends in Civil Engineering magazine or peruse ASCE's 2021 Top 10 "Best Places" list:

image of Austin, Texas10. Austin-San Marcos, Texas

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 115.9

Civil Engineering Job Index: 101.8

Cost of Living Index: 82.4

Overall score: 135.3

The engineering job climate in Austin mirrors the housing market. Employees on the job hunt are garnering top-dollar salaries. And it has become very competitive for employers to lure top talent.” – Bradley L. East, M.S., P.E., M.ASCE, director of operations, Polaris Forensics Inc., Austin, and president, ASCE Austin Branch

photo of Philadelphia  

9. Philadelphia

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 84.1

Civil Engineering Job Index: 146.3

Cost of Living Index: 94.7

Overall core: 135.6

The constant in Philadelphia is transportation infrastructure: roads, bridges, and transit. We have ‘retirees’ working two or three days a week — that tells you what the growth in job opportunities is here. Many of us more seasoned engineers would like to consider full retirement but can’t, given the availability of work and need for experienced staff. We are now making offers to juniors in college just to get them in. We bring them in as part-time employees or co-op workers until they get their degree. And then they hopefully go full time.” – Robert M. Wright, P.E., M.ASCE, project manager at McMahon Associates, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and a former president of ASCE’s Philadelphia Section

photo of Atlanta  

 8. Atlanta

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 92.7

Civil Engineering Job Index: 139.3

Cost of Living Index: 87.3

Overall score: 144.7

Nearly every engineering firm I cross paths with is looking to hire. We have interesting problems to solve locally. … There are excellent parks and greenways and many highly rated school systems. It is a great place to raise a family and do meaningful work.” – Katherine Gurd, P.E., CFM, F.ASCE, division director of stormwater services in Gwinnett County, Georgia’s Department of Water Resources

photo of NYC  

 7. New York City

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 111.9

Civil Engineering Job Index: 205.9

Cost of Living Index: 162.7

Overall score: 155.1

New York City will reinvent itself post-COVID as it has so many times before in its history. The greater NYC region excels at growth and reinvention, and this translates into limitless opportunities for enterprising engineers.” – James Starace, P.E., M.ASCE, chief of engineering for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

photo of Chicago  
6. Chicago

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 105.9

Civil Engineering Job Index: 167.0

Cost of Living Index: 103.3

Overall score: 169.6

Chicago is an amazing city full of options and opportunities, both personal and professional. There are a large number of civil engineering companies in the Chicago area – firms of all sizes, specializing in all aspects of civil engineering – making it easy for any engineer to find the right professional fit for them.” – Sandra Lynn Homola, P.E., M.ASCE, department manager for water resources at EXP US Services Inc., Chicago, and treasurer, ASCE Illinois Section

photo of Washington, D.C.  

5. Washington, D.C.

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 108.8

Civil Engineering Job Index: 205.8

Cost of Living Index: 128.5

Overall score: 186.1

The population has grown tremendously from 2010 to 2020, so engineers are needed to design infrastructure to meet demands. For a city so steeped in American history with its monuments and classic street names, Washington, D.C. is incredibly forward looking as well. Projects focusing on clean energy are on the rise. For example, government agencies are focusing on a transition to zero-emission vehicles, including buses. This transformation comes with a bevy of policy changes and infrastructure needs.

“And with the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (i.e., the DMV) so close to one another that an engineer could easily find themselves in all three places in the span of one workday. Each locale has clients with unique challenges to solve. It is essentially an engineer’s playground in that regard!” – Jameelah Carol Muhammad Ingram, P.E., M.ASCE, lead structural engineer, WSP, Washington, D.C., and vice president, ASCE National Capital Section

photo of Dallas             

4. Dallas

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 102.8

Civil Engineering Job Index: 176.3

Cost of Living Index: 92.4

Overall score: 186.6

Dallas is booming right now. There is a ton of growth in the area, especially in the northern suburbs. All of this growth means that civil engineers are needed everywhere. We need more roads, more utilities, more housing, more offices, more stores, and more schools. This means that there is work aplenty for civil engineers. Plus, Texas offers lots of benefits when it comes to standard of living.” – Jonathan Brower, P.E., M.ASCE, associate, L.A. Fuess Partners, Dallas, and president, ASCE Dallas Branch

photo of Denver     
3. Denver

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 100.2

Civil Engineering Job Index: 222.9

Cost of Living Index: 95.2

Overall score: 227.9

“The city and county have been pushing to increase multi-modal travel, with a large focus on providing equitable transportation and adding bicycle lanes. This has only accelerated through the pandemic with the addition of many mixed-use streets.

“It also seems that the state and city understand how important civil engineers are to the economy, and salaries have had a large improvement relative to the cost of living in the last six years I’ve been in Denver.” – Aaron L. Leopold, P.E., M.ASCE, senior geotechnical engineer, Shannon & Wilson, Denver, and president, ASCE Denver Branch

photo of Los Angeles 

2. Los Angeles

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 117.5

Civil Engineering Job Index: 244.6

Cost of Living Index: 125.5

Overall score: 236.5

There is real opportunity to make L.A. more resilient to the effects of climate change and more equitable through infrastructure projects that create opportunity for all – improving our region for generations to come. To work with cutting-edge technologies; to be in a place that has historically been at the forefront of new architecture, engineering, and construction processes; to learn quickly and grow. It’s an exciting place to be a civil engineer!” – Kelli Bernard, executive vice president and national cities lead, AECOM

photo of Houston        

1. Houston

2020 ASCE Salary Report score: 138.3

Civil Engineering Job Index: 207.2

Cost of Living Index: 81.8

Overall score: 263.6

“We’re seeing a lot of growth. When I started in 2001, we had one office, in Houston, and barely had 100 employees. Now we have 15 offices across Texas and another six across the southeast and 880 employees. I can’t believe how much the entire region is growing.” – Sean P. Merrell, P.E., PTOE, F.ASCE, senior project manager, BGE Inc., Frisco, Texas, and ASCE Region 6 governor and Texas Section president

Read the full Best Places 2021 article in Civil Engineering magazine.