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Civil engineer

Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sectors. Projects include roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply, stormwater management and sewage treatment. They usually specialize in one of six areas: transportation, structural, geotechnical, construction, environmental or water resources.

Quick facts: Civil engineer
2021 Median Pay $88,050 per year; $42.33 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Number of Jobs, 2021 318,300
Job Outlook, 2021-31 7% (average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 22,100

Civil engineers play a significant role when it comes to influencing the sustainability, resilience, and health and safety of the built environment. Depending on their area of specialty, civil engineers can optimize better material use through analysis and design, reduce development impacts on existing ecosystems, and restore degraded or contaminated sites.

How to become a civil engineer

Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or one of its specialty areas. They typically need a graduate degree and a license for promotion to senior positions. Programs in civil engineering and civil engineering technology include coursework in math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics, depending on the specialty. Courses include a mix of traditional classroom learning, work in laboratories, and fieldwork. Programs may include cooperative programs, also known as co-ops, in which students gain work experience while pursuing a degree. Important skills include decision-making, leadership, math, communications (written and oral) and problem-solving. Although licensure requirements vary from state to state, civil engineers must be licensed if they provide services directly or indirectly to the public.

  • Construction laborer
  • Land surveyor

Education and resources

Access courses and resources to learn about green building and sustainability concepts related to civil engineering.

Online courses

Stay up to date on the latest developments in green building through access to online courses with an annual subscription to the USGBC course catalog.

Role on a LEED project

LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

Direct activities that a civil engineer may participate in as part of a green building certification, such as LEED, include: contributing to a comprehensive site assessment (typically includes information on hydrology, soils, etc.), assessing and remediating contaminated sites or brownfields, developing a rainwater management plan that focuses on low impact development (LID) and green infrastructure, and developing an erosion and sedimentation control (ESC) plan, and overseeing site grading and construction.

Many other professional services provided by civil engineers indirectly contribute to the sustainability efforts at the project or community level. One example could be the permitting, structural analysis, and site work required for various renewable energy efforts such as large-scale photovoltaic or wind projects.

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