Civil engineers focus on building the future

By Jan Burns
Jobs Correspondent

The job outlook is promising for civil engineers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of civil engineers is expected to grow 19.4 percent between now and 2020.

Civil engineering is a broad field that has a number of specialties, which offers a range of career paths. These include structural, construction, environmental, hydraulics and transportation.

Civil engineers plan and design infrastructure – essential facilities, services and organizational structures for cities and communities. This includes roads and bridges, dams, reservoirs, sewers, mass-transit systems, hospitals and schools, among others.

As the infrastructure in the U.S. ages, buildings, bridges and roads need to be repaired or replaced, and levees and dams upgraded. There will be growth in city rapid transit systems. These jobs are all for civil engineers.

The civil and environmental engineering undergraduate program at the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering offers students a broad-based education in freshman and sophomore years, and a more focused education in junior and senior years. This is intended to prepare graduates for a variety of positions.

“Hiring of recently graduated engineering students is very good,” said Vita Como, director of the Career Center of the Cullen College of Engineering, at the University of Houston. “The situation is better than it has been in a while.”

Como said all of the program’s students who are looking for jobs are finding them. She also said salaries for new engineers are stable.

A college degree in engineering is required for most beginning engineering jobs. Graduates will often work with experienced engineers to gain needed experience and guidance.

A graduate degree typically is required for promotion to a managerial position, or working in research and development. Teaching requires a Ph.D.

A person who wants to be a civil engineer should have a good grasp of mathematics, science and design. Classes in English, social studies and computers would be helpful.

Engineering candidates should be analytical and detail-oriented. The ability to think logically is essential for this type of work.

He or she should be able to communicate well, both written and verbally. Civil engineers work with a variety of people to complete projects, so people-skills are a plus.

Civil engineers are employed by the government, engineering and architectural firms, and construction companies.

Some work as independent consultants or teachers.

A civil engineer must be licensed from the state to offer services directly to the public. This license requires four years of relevant work experience and passing an exam.