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Civil Engineering as a Career

If the idea of solving complex problems and creating bridges, skyscrapers and other structures sparks your interest, consider a career in civil engineering. You’ll need strong math and technology skills, a love of project management and the ability to communicate well with others.

With great salaries and faster than average growth projections, civil engineering is a career field you should consider. Your first step toward becoming a civil engineer is to earn your Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. Prepare yourself for a heavy technical, math and science course load, with little room in your schedule for elective courses. Upper-level classes provide a better understanding of engineering concepts and may include subjects like hydrology, foundation engineering, environmental engineering, structural analysis and fluid flow. In your senior year, your classes may focus more on your area of discipline. Your goal is to complete your degree and acquire the knowledge to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering test to enter the workplace as an engineering apprentice.

Exams and licenses

  • Fundamentals of Engineering, or FE, is a test given during the final semester of your undergraduate engineering degree. The six-hour test features 110 questions on a variety of engineering subjects. You must pass the test with a minimum of 70 percent to become certified.
  • Principles and Practices in Engineering, or PE, is an examination you take after completing four years of documented work as an engineer.
  • Structural Engineering Exam, or SE, is for civil engineers who choose structural engineering as their specialty. The engineer must choose between testing for either buildings or bridges and upon passing the test, receives a license for one or the other.

Civil engineering disciplines

Some of the more popular civil engineering disciplines include the following:

  • Structural — Creating structures such as bridges, buildings and dams
  • Environmental — Improving and protecting the environment, including water distribution systems and recycling
  • Geotechnical — Engineering behavior of earth materials such as mining and foundation
  • Water resource — Predicting, planning, developing and managing water resources
  • Transport — Using engineering for safe transport of people and goods

Employment options

Government positions with federal, state and local agencies account for approximately one-fourth of civil engineering positions. A smaller number of civil engineers are self-employed and provide services to businesses and homeowners including simple surveying, sub dividing property, water drainage analysis and structural analysis of existing buildings.

Architectural firms and construction companies hire the majority of civil engineers, who are often involved with the design, analysis, construction and repair of a wide variety of structures. Consider searching for positions with Military Spouse Employment Partnership companies who hire civil engineers.

Professional organizations and networking

Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get an interview at your new location.

Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Education options

Civil engineering is education-intensive but financially rewarding. You may need a graduate degree or additional licensing to advance your civil engineering career, but often your employer may assist with costs of your continued education. Search for additional funding using the Scholarship Finder on MySECO and other alternative funding sources.

Licensing requirements can be an issue when you transfer to a new location, so make sure to research requirements ahead of time to complete any necessary exams, work experience requirements or continuing education. Visit the Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your state.

When you transfer locations, you can investigate job options with MSEP partners to aid in your job search. Build and maintain a network with others in your field to make it easier to find another position when you relocate.

Next steps

If you are considering a career in civil engineering, review the Research Occupations tool and visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Civil Engineers O*Net. Make sure to take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with a career in civil engineering.

If you already have your civil engineering degree and are seeking employment, start your search on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search. Visit USAJOBS to search for civil engineering opportunities with the federal government.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach for assistance with choosing a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.

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