Employment Statistics and Major Employers of Civil Engineer

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The early 1990s, civil engineers held about 200,000 jobs while, overall, more than 1.5 million engineers were employed in the United States. According to the Engineering Manpower Commission, there has been a steady drop in the number of engineers graduated from colleges and universities during the past nine years. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment opportunities in all branches of engineering are expected to be good through the years to come, because employment is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations, while the number of degrees granted in engineering is not expected to increase much above present levels. In addition, opportunities for civil engineers have been strong for several decades because civil engineering is one of the basic disciplines and continuing large-scale projects take place. Certain industries have experienced declines, such as in the bloated defense contracting sector, but these adjustments are expected to affect civil engineers very little.

More than 40 percent of civil engineers work for federal, state, and local government agencies. In the federal government, civil engineers work for the Departments of Transportation, Defense, Interior, and Energy, and in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In state and local government agencies, civil engineers are employed mainly in departments of water resources and transportation.

In private industry, civil engineers work for research and development firms, construction companies, and consulting firms. Many federal agencies contract-out much of their actual work to engineering consulting firms in and around Washington, DC, and around the country. In addition, civil engineers work in every large- and medium-sized urban area, and in many rural communities. Many engineers teach and conduct research at colleges and universities.

Salary Statistics

In 1992, the average starting salary for a civil engineer with a bachelor's degree was $29,376, while the starting salary for those with a master's degree was $34,303, and $46,501 for Ph.D. holders. A typical civil engineer with a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $39,000 annually after five years in the field, and more than $50,000 after ten years. Engineers with advanced degrees can expect to earn 10% to 15% more than entry-level bachelor's degree holders.

The average salary for civil engineers working for the federal government was $49,195 in 1992. Entry-level engineers working for the federal government with a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $22,717 to $24,231, depending upon experience. The holder of a master's degree will earn between $27,789 and $29,641, while those with a Ph.D. can expect a salary of $33,623 to $35,865.

In academia, assistant engineering professors earned an average salary of $45,753 in 1992. Associate professors had an average income of $52,896, while full professors earned $70,177 per year. Part-time engineering instructors earned an average of $27,000 per year.

Sources of Further Information
  • Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology 345 East 47th St. New York, NY 10017-2397

  • American Academy of Environmental Engineers 130 Holiday Court Suite 100 Annapolis, MD 21401

  • American Society of Civil Engineers 345 E. 47th St. New York, NY 10017

  • American Society of Sanitary Engineers PO Box 9712 Bay Village, OH 44140

  • Junior Engineering Technical Society JETS-Guidance Project 1420 King St. Suite 405 Alexandria, VA 22314-2715
The society describes careers for many different engineering concentrations. For further information on a certain area of engineering, or a listing of accredited programs send a self- addressed envelope to JETS.

Educational Requirements

The minimal educational requirement for a career in engineering is a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. There are presently more than 390 schools offering degrees in engineering. A large number of these institutions offer a specialty degree in civil engineering; however, an engineer trained in one branch can easily work in another area. Some college graduates in the physical sciences or mathematics may be qualified to work as engineers, especially in the emerging high-technology fields. Schools with civil engineering programs may stress different specialties within the field. A program, for example, may stress environmental engineering or geotechnical classes. Some programs emphasize industrial practices, preparing students for a job in industry, while others, are more theoretical and are better for students preparing for graduate work. Students should therefore investigate curriculums carefully before selecting a college.

Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering positions. Many engineers obtain a masters degree to learn new technology, to broaden their education, or to enhance promotion opportunities. Many engineers are obtaining MBA degrees to advance to management and sales positions.

In a typical four-year curriculum, students spend the first two years studying the basics, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, introduction to engineering, English, the social sciences, and humanities.
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