Explore Civil Engineering

Civil engineers analyze, design and oversee construction of buildings, bridges, roads, airports, tunnels, dams, water supply systems, and wastewater treatment systems. They must consider many factors in the design process including regulations and policy issues, sustainability, fabrication costs and constructability, expected lifetime of a project, and risk assessment of natural events and potential hazards.

Major specialties within civil engineering include construction, environmental, geotechnical, municipal, structural, transportation, and water resources engineering.

Civil engineering jobs are available in both the private and public sector through consulting firms and in government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Employment can be found in nearly any region, from small communities and remote areas to the largest cities in the world.

Civil engineering is considered to have one of the highest levels of job satisfaction of all professions. The infrastructure required to sustainably maintain modern society ensures the continued demand for civil engineers.

*Salary and Career Outcomes gathered from the 2018-2019 CSE Graduation Survey. Post-graduation outcomes reflect the percentage of students who were employed full-time in their field or were enrolled in a graduate program at 6 months post-graduation.

CivE Career Prospects. Average Starting Salary: $57,025; Post-Graduation Outcomes: Employed 83.3%, Graduate School 11.1%, Other 5.6%

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What can I do with a major in Civil Engineering?

INDUSTRIES

  • Aeronautical
  • Construction/building
  • Energy/Power
  • Environmental engineering
  • Geological engineering
  • Highway design and planning
  • Municipal engineering
  • Pavements
  • Pollution control
  • Public works projects
  • Railroads
  • Roads, Bridges
  • Solid waste and recycling
  • State/local government
  • Stream Restoration
  • Structural engineering
  • Telecommunications
  • Transit, Autonomous vehicles
  • Transportation engineering
  • Urban planning and development
  • Water resources engineering

EMPLOYERS

  • Alliant Engineering
  • American Engineering Testing
  • Barr Engineering
  • BKBM Engineers
  • Black & Veatch
  • Bolton & Menk
  • Braun Intertec
  • City of Minneapolis
  • Kimley-Horn & Associates
  • MN Dept of Transportation
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • Short Elliott Hendrickson
  • SRF Consulting
  • Stantec
  • TKDA
  • Wenck
  • Westwood Professional Services
  • WSB & Associates

TECHNICAL SKILLS

  • AutoCAD
  • ChemDraw
  • Excel, Visual Basic
  • GIS
  • LoggerPro
  • Mathematica
  • MATLAB
  • Stochastic Analysis

POSSIBLE POSITIONS

  • Civil engineer: Plans, designs, and oversees construction and maintenance of building structures and facilities, such as airports, bridges, channels, dams, harbors, irrigation projects, pipelines, power plants, railroads, roads, and water and wastewater systems.
  • Environmental engineer: Designs and oversees systems that prevent and control pollution including identifying, abating, or eliminating sources of pollutants or hazards that affect the environment or the health of the population.
  • Field engineer: Conducts site investigations and oversees construction.
  • Geotechnical engineer: Analyzes properties of soil and rock that support and affect the behavior of structures, pavements, and underground facilities.
  • Hydrologist: Studies distribution, movement, and quality of underground and surface water including irrigation systems, waste treatment plants, hydroelectric power plants, flood warning systems, storm water systems, and stream restoration.
  • Municipal engineer: Deals with operations and issues associated with urban life including laying out parks and developments, and constructing and maintaining sewer systems, waterworks, and pavements.
  • Project engineer/manager: Oversees projects including organizing and directing workers and materials.
  • Structural engineer: Analyzes and designs structures such as buildings, bridges, stadiums, and arenas to ensure they safely and satisfactorily perform their purpose.
  • Transportation engineer: Designs and maintains all types of transportation components and systems including airports, harbors and ports, highways, mass transit systems, pavements, and railroads.
  • Wastewater engineer: Improves both the environment and economy by helping communities and businesses dispose of waste without polluting natural water sources.
  • Water resource engineer: Determines areas prone to flooding, restores ecological function to streams and rivers, develops methods to handle and treat urban runoff, and redirects water by constructing hydraulic structures.

**Some of these positions may require an advanced degree.

GET INVOLVED

  • American Public Works Association
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • Chi Epsilon
  • CEGE Student Ambassadors
  • Concrete Canoe Team
  • CSE K-12 Outreach
  • CSE Ambassadors
  • CSE International Ambassadors
  • Earthquake Engrg. Research Inst.
  • Engineers Without Borders
  • Interdisciplinary Transportation Student Organization
  • MN Environmental Engrs., Scientists, and Enthusiasts
  • National Society of Black Engineers
  • Plumb Bob Honorary Leadership Soc.
  • Science and Engrg. Student Board
  • Soc. For Mining, Metal., & Explortn.
  • Soc. of Asian Scientists and Engrs.
  • Society of Hispanic Prof. Engrs.
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • Solar Vehicle Project
  • Steel Bridge Team
  • Tau Beta Pi
  • TeslaWorks
  • Theta Tau

Q&A with Lisa Cerney, City Engineer/Deputy Director of Public Works, City of Minneapolis

What do you do?

The City of Minneapolis Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining the city’s physical infrastructure and for providing a variety of services to those who live, work and play in Minneapolis. Those activities are coordinated through three business lines: Transportation, Utilities, and Administration. I oversee transportation and utility.

The department employs over 1,000 full-time personnel and has an annual operating budget of $335 million for the operation of its nine divisions: Business Administration, Solid Water and Recycling, Surface Water and Sewers, Water Treatment and Distribution, Traffic and Parking Services, Transportation Engineering and Design, Transportation Planning and Programming, Transportation Maintenance and Repair and Fleet Services.

What’s a typical work day?

My days generally revolve around maintaining the city’s infrastructure and planning for the future. Daily discussions can range from water treatment plant infrastructure to storm tunnels 100 feet below the surface to bridge design or creating a plan to move the city towards our zero waste goals. In addition to infrastructure, we invest time in safe work practices, employee development, and new technology. The part I like best is helping the public and making Minneapolis better for today’s generation—and future generations!

What qualities are important for this position?

Technical competency is definitely key to being a city engineer, and then there are several others I would highlight in no particular order: communication skills, integrity, work ethic, creativity, ability to work with others, and problem solving. If you aren’t able to communicate your technical plans to elected officials or the community in a manner they can understand, you will find it very difficult to engage them or even be able to address their concerns. 

What about technical skills?

Time management, problem solving and using data to determine solutions are very helpful!

What training were you offered for your position?

I started with a civil engineering degree and then had the opportunity to work in several different areas of municipal engineering to help provide me with a broad background.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

I am very proud of my team and the work we do every day to make Minneapolis better every day.

Most challenging? 

You can’t solve every problem immediately. Solving many of our infrastructure challenges require significant financial investments, technical design time, and time to build or rebuild—this is often difficult for people to understand and, therefore, they get frustrated.

What are your possible career paths now?

You can be anything you want to be and right now, I am very happy with my position and love the people I work with. The way that I have approached my career is that every day is an interview and that is the best way to keep every option available.

Advice for current students?

Having a civil engineering degree gives you the opportunity to have a career that can be very fulfilling and rewarding in so many different ways—from helping provide basic service like drinking water to designing and building the next big iconic piece of infrastructure. Keep your options open and find something you enjoy!

Any other advice you’d like to share?

I would encourage you to take some time while you are in school to meet with different engineers in different types of jobs to best understand what might interest you most. Plus, knowing people in the field can definitely help make connections to jobs!

Q&A with Cody Mathisen, , Engineering Technician (EIT), Wenck Associates Inc.

What do you do?

During the winter months, I assist with design and creating plans for a variety of projects—including municipal street reconstruction, private site development, and water quality improvement. During construction season, I am responsible for construction oversight on one or multiple projects—including taking progress photos, coordinating questions/changes from the plans, and compliance with all project/city/state specifications.

What’s a typical work day? 

Again, this varies depending on the time of year. My days may be spent in the office working in Civil3D drafting or in other programs compiling project documents, estimates, etc. Or, I may be on a job site or multiple sites. On a normal day during construction season, I arrive on site in the morning when contractors are beginning to work and I leave when they are substantially done for the day. Throughout the day, I am coordinating communication between the contractor, Wenck project engineers, and our client (city or developer usually) as questions or changes arise.

What qualities are important for this position?

A willingness to learn and ask questions. Nearly every day, something comes up on a job that I haven’t seen before and I need to ask a superior or co-worker for their insight or advice on how to handle a certain situation. Over time, you become better equipped to handle the next situation—but you should never stop asking questions.

What about technical skills? 

  1. An ability to work practically with numbers/estimating. In other words, being able figure out something within 10% of the right answer within 10-30 seconds.
  2. General computer capability. The rest will come based on your work ethic and interest in learning. 
  3. Being thorough, complete, and concise in documentation. 

What training were you offered for your position? 

My superiors and co-workers have been my primary trainers with regards to construction procedures, drafting, and project management. My employer has also sponsored a variety of training including MNDOT technical certifications, Civil3D Webinars, storm water management training, and HAZWOPER 40-hour training.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

That I am going to improve something or create something for public use—whether it be fixing a road to make it safer, restoring a stream to enhance ecosystems, or cleaning up a contaminated site.

Most challenging? 

There is always a best possible way to do things, and then there is the best way that your client, city, or agency can afford. On every project, we need to try and find that balance of quality and cost, because often times we are dealing with taxpayer dollars that should be used in the most efficient way possible.

What are your possible career paths now?

I could go from being the designer or inspector on site, to a project manager who oversees those responsibilities. Some people in this position go on to work for a city, county, or state agency often as a result of working alongside them in a project. 

Advice for current students?

There are so many internship opportunities in civil, geotechnical, and environmental engineering. Apply for them, even as a sophomore. It will help you understand what you are learning in the classroom—and also help you discover what you like and dislike as potential career. 

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Networking is an underrated investment of time that could be the difference in you getting an internship, or not. Student groups—including the U of M student chapters of the American Public Works Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Minnesota Environmental Engineers, Scientists, and Enthusiasts—all host opportunities to meet professionals. Do not miss these! Remember, many job opportunities never make it online for a posting.