The annual ASCE Best Places for Civil Engineers list provides a great snapshot of career and lifestyle opportunities.

It’s a ranking of American cities based on three inputs: the number of civil engineering jobs available between June 2022 and June 2023 from Madgex Inc., compensation data from the ASCE Salary Report, and cost-of-living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

So, if you’re looking for a great place to start your career, check out the ASCE Best Places. If you’re looking for the right city to jumpstart your career, check out the ASCE Best Places.

That said, inevitably, certain more nuanced factors can fall through the cracks of the Best Places data. People are individuals with individual priorities and preferences, right?

So, Civil Engineering Source talked to a sampling of civil engineers who have lived in multiple cities during their lives and asked them more detailed questions about what makes a best place an ASCE Best Place. Here’s what they had to say:

headshot of Isamar Escobar
Isamar Escobar

What’s the best place for walkability?

Isamar Escobar, A.M.ASCE: New York City. I’ve visited NYC many times, and though, yes, it does have an amazing public transportation system (which I love), it is actually very walkable – if you’ve got some comfy shoes. The reason I love NYC for walking is because it’s on a grid system. Streets run at right angles to each other, and it just creates great flow and movement. Therefore, it’s pretty easy to navigate.

Felipe Mejia, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE: Boston metro is excellent for walkability. Depending on the neighborhood, you don’t need a car to get around to shops and restaurants.

Silky Wong, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., C.Eng, F.SEI, M.ASCE: Walnut Creek, California. I was able to walk downtown, BART stations, and work.

headshot of Felipe Mejia
Felipe Mejia

What’s the best place for civil engineering happy hour?

Escobar: I think I’m going to have to go with Chicago. There’s something about Chicago that just gets to me. It has the hustle and bustle of a big city, but with the contagious charm of a Midwest town.

With great engineering feats like the reversal of the Chicago River and the Sears/Willis Tower, I think it’s a great place to sit, have any drink of your choosing, and talk with your cohorts, family, or friends about how amazing civil engineering is.

Mejia: Seattle has lots of bars and legendary, cheap, fresh oyster promotions and fabulous happy hour deals!

Wong: Austin, Texas. The city’s size is small enough to easily meet others after work.

headshot of Silky Wong
Silky Wong

What’s the best place for biking to work?

Mejia: There are lots of biking trails around Seattle, but Boston is a small enough city that you can bike to work if you live close enough!

Wong: Berkeley, California. There are many safe places to park bikes, and office buildings have shower stations.

What’s the best place for civil engineers who enjoy nature/hiking?

Escobar: This one is hard. If I could choose the Pacific Northwest as a city, it would definitely be the PNW. For me, it’s pretty much a tie between Seattle and Portland. Both have amazing access to nature. By “amazing,” I mean within an hour’s drive.

And even if you aren’t going out to make the drive, on a clear day, you can see beautiful mountains like Mount Rainier (Washington), Mount Adams (Washington), or Mount Hood (Oregon) from the city.

OK, if you’re going to make me choose, I’d say Seattle.

Mejia: Seattle is a great place for civil engineers to be close to civilization but have the opportunity to jump off into amazing wilderness within a short drive.

Wong: Austin, Texas. It’s very easy to go for a hike in the hills nearby without a long drive after work.

What’s the best city for civil engineering career growth?

Escobar: Trick question! It’s wherever you want.

Civil engineering has a global impact whether you’re practicing in the private or public sectors or in a big or small city. No matter where you are, you can have an exceptional career, making an impact in your community.

But if you’re going to make me choose again, I’d probably say somewhere in Texas. Texas is always booming. Maybe Dallas?

Mejia: Houston has a good concentration of civil engineers working in very challenging industries: commercial, real estate, healthcare, digital infrastructure, energy and  petrochemical, etc.

There is a strong civil engineering cohort with active ASCE and Structural Engineering Institute chapters. Houston civil engineers are also compensated very well compared to the cost of living!

Wong: Houston. There is no income tax in Texas. Also, there’s a high demand for civil engineers in the energy industry.

Many engineers are willing to spend time mentoring and training others. It is also easy to switch companies since they are close to each other.

The starting salary is higher than in other major cities (after tax) in general.