Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of infrastructure such as roads, buildings, tunnels, airports, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems. One of the oldest of the engineering disciplines, civil engineering encompasses many specialties. The major specialties within civil engineering are structural, water resources, environmental, construction, transportation and geotechnical engineering.
A civil engineering degree provides the application of mathematics and physical science to solve specific, real-world problems in commerce and industry. A strong civil engineering program typically emphasizes the practical use of geometry, trigonometry, and calculus in conjunction with physics, materials science, and chemistry.
Civil engineers work as part of a team with a wide range of backgrounds and often use theory and models to predict how a design will perform. They often test ideas in the field using scale mockups so they can prove new design theories without endangering lives or jeopardizing project budgets.
Trends for Civil Engineering Careers
Civil engineers held about 232,000 jobs in 2000, and-according to the U.S. Department of Labor-employment of civil engineers is expected to increase by 21-35% through 2008. Firms providing engineering consulting services, primarily developing designs for new construction projects, employed a little over half. Almost one third of the jobs were in Federal, State, and local government agencies. The construction and manufacturing industries accounted for most of the remaining employment. Approximately 12,000 civil engineers were self-employed, many as consultants.
Employment of civil engineers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010. Stimulated 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 also 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.
Employers are offering rising salaries and sign-on bonuses to compete for graduates of civil engineering programs across the country. There are more civil engineering jobs today than schools can provide graduates for. UCLA civil engineering professor and chair, Dr. Michael K. Stenstrom, says, "With the kind of employment picture being painted at top universities across the country, civil engineering graduates should be dancing in the streets. My overall feel is that it [the employment outlook] is probably the best that I've seen in five or six years."