Job profiles of Civil Engineers and Other Related Fields

Civil engineering is the oldest branch of the engineering profession. Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of roads, tunnels, bridges, public transportation systems, water supply and sewage systems, flood control systems, harbors, and air pollution control systems, among other projects. Civil engineers work with structures and are called upon to design solutions to problems such as polluted streams, rivers and lakes, and foul air, in a workable and cost-effective manner. In the environmental sciences, civil engineers play an extremely important role in developing technology and structures that control or minimize pollution and are energy efficient.

Civil engineers often use computers to solve mathematical equations to determine how a structure or system operates. They also use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to produce and analyze designs. They spend a great deal of time writing reports and consulting with other engineers. Complex projects often require many engineers, with each individual working on a small part of the job.

In addition to design and development, many civil engineers work in testing, production, and maintenance. They supervise production in factories, test manufactured goods to determine quality, and estimate the time and cost to complete projects.

A particularly important sub-field of civil engineering is environmental engineering. These engineers, also called sanitary engineers, design, construct, and supervise programs to improve the environment and public health. They design and build waste water treatment facilities, monitor treatment processing, devise strategies to deliver water during droughts, and work internationally building sanitation facilities in impoverished countries and refugee camps. They also design and build treatment processes to control air pollution, work with industries to comply with air pollution laws, and use computer simulations to help solve metropolitan air pollution problems. These engineers also work with government agencies responsible for maintaining clean air and water standards. Environmental engineering is one of the fastest-growing sub fields in the engineering sciences, and a large number of these engineers are being called upon to help solve some of the nation's most pressing environmental problems.

Several other sub fields of civil engineering are involved with air and water issues. Water resource engineers design dams and plan the diversion of rivers, streams, and flood waters. Structural engineers design large project, such as dams, bridges, smokestacks, and buildings. Geo-technical engineers develop excavation techniques and construction methods for tunnels, aqueducts, and other works. Public works engineers plan and design environmentally friendly cities with large-scale public transportation systems, clustered and central retail centers, and efficient highway systems.

Related Professions:
  • Mechanical Engineer Architect

  • Computer Scientist

  • Hydrologist

  • Geophysicist

  • Industrial Engineer

  • Earth Scientist

  • Environmental Planner

  • Chemist Oceanographer
Courses are specific to the sub field in civil engineering that the student chooses. Some schools offer a general engineering curriculum where students are not able to choose a concentration until reaching graduate school. In addition, some institutions offer a five-year master's degree program.

Professional Certification

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require registration for engineers whose work affects life, health, or property, or who offer their services to the public. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) offers the Professional Engineer (PE) license. Attainment of the license is based upon the acquisition of a engineering degree from an ABET-approved institution, successful completion of the Engineering-in-Training examination, four years of relevant work experience, and the passage of a state examination. Licenses are generally transferable among states. Contact ABET for further information.

The American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE) has established the designation of Diplomat Environmental Engineer (DEE) to establish a criteria for those who have excelled in the area of environmental engineering. A number of criteria must be met before taking a qualifying examination: All candidates must possess an AAEE recognized bachelor's degree in engineering or a closely related field; candidates must already hold a valid PE license; they must have eight years of experience prior to taking the acceptance exam and they must be of high moral character. Applicants then take an examination that concentrates in one of the following eight areas: air pollution, water supply and waste water, general environmental engineering, solid waste management, hazardous waste management, industrial hygiene, radiation protection, or sanitary engineering. Contact AAEE for further information.


While members of many branches of engineering spend all or most of their time indoors working in laboratories, industrial plants, or offices, civil engineers often spend a good amount of time outdoors on construction or work sites. However, a good number of civil engineers work almost exclusively in offices. Many engineers work a standard 40-hour week, but, at times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to the job. When this happens, engineers may be required to work long hours, and sometimes experience considerable job stress.
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