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Civil engineers

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Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges and water supply and sewage systems. Civil engineering, one of the oldest engineering disciplines, encompasses many specialties. The major specialties within civil engineering are structural, water resources, environmental, construction, transportation and geotechnical engineering.

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions, from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research and teaching.

Civil engineers usually work near major industrial and commercial centers, often at construction sites. Some projects are situated in remote areas or in foreign countries. In some jobs, civil engineers move from place to place to work on different projects.

Job outlook

Employment of civil engineers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010. Spurred by general population growth and an expanding economy, more civil engineers will be needed to design and construct higher capacity transportation, water supply, pollution control systems, and large buildings and building complexes. They will be needed to repair or replace existing roads, bridges and other public structures. There may be additional opportunities within non-civil engineering firms, such as management consulting or computer services firms. In addition to job growth, openings will result from the need to replace civil engineers that transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Because construction and related industries-including those providing design services-employ many civil engineers, employment opportunities will vary by geographic area and may decrease during economic slowdowns, when construction often is curtailed.


Civil engineers held about 232,000 jobs in 2000. Firms providing engineering consulting services, primarily developing designs for new construction projects, employed a little over half the civil engineers. Almost one-third of the jobs worked in federal, state and local government agencies. The construction and manufacturing industries accounted for most of the remaining employment. About 12,000 civil engineers were self-employed, many as consultants.

Median annual earnings of civil engineers were $55,740 in 2000. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of civil engineers in 2000 were:

Federal government $63,530
Heavy construction, except highway 62,010
Local government 56,830
State government 54,630
Engineering and architectural services 54,550

According to a 2001 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor's degree candidates in civil engineering received starting offers averaging $40,616 a year, master's degree candidates received an average offer of $44,080, and Ph.D. candidates were offered $62,280 as an initial salary.

Related links

For more information about civil engineers:

American Society of Civil Engineers, 1801 Alexander Bell Dr., Reston, VA 20191-4400.

Adapted from the Labor Department's Occupational Outlook Handbook.