Civil Engineering

Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems. They must consider many factors in the design process from the construction costs and expected lifetime of a project to government regulations and potential environmental hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

Civil engineers might also hold supervisory or administrative positions, from the supervisor of a construction site to a city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, or education.

What makes it unique?

Civil engineering encompasses many specialties including structural, water resources, construction, transportation, and geotechnical engineering – and many of these specialties will overlap on a project such as designing a new amusement park.

Degree Connections

The following are examples of some accredited degrees leading to a career in civil engineering:

Search our global database of accredited engineering programs.

Want to learn more?

Click on the blue tabs to explore the field in more detail and learn about preparation and employment, the green tabs to be inspired by people working in civil engineering and how they impact the world, and the orange tabs for ideas on how to learn more and you can get involved with activities, camps, and competitions!

Explore Image

The only constant in the work life of a civil engineer is that they never have typical days. They face different challenges every day, and have to solve problems to meet the unique demands of whatever project they are focusing on. Civil engineers might work on the same project for several years and then move on to another effort. For example, they might be working on a long term project to plan a new housing development, and once complete might move on to developing a new highway system in a different city or country. Many projects are highly complicated and require interaction with other civil engineers, and others from other specialties as well. Teamwork is a big part of this occupation as there are usually so many people required to work together to achieve large scale efforts.

The Panama Canal:

The Panama Canal is an artificial 82 km (51 mi) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean and opened in 1914. It cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade. It was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, and serves as a shortcut that reduces the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This enabled ships to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America, and reduce costs of shipping materials to different parts of the world. (Source:


Explore the history:

15th August 1914: The Panama Canal Ermakova

Civil engineers often specialize in one of a number of technical areas which line up with different industries.

Structural: designing structures that support their own weight and the loads they carry, and that resist wind, temperature, earthquake, and many other forces. Bridges, buildings, offshore structures, space platforms, and amusement park rides are examples.

Transportation: Engineers working in this area develop or improve ways to move people, goods, and materials safely and efficiently — on land, air, and sea! Highways, railroads, airfields, ports as well as mass transit systems are examples.

Construction: The construction phase of a project represents the first tangible result of design. Engineers apply technical and management skills to turn designs into reality – on time and within budget.

These specialties translate to work with government agencies working to improve infrastructure, companies developing nonresidential construction (hotels, airports, industrial parts, malls, etc.), or independent consulting firms. Other specialty areas and industries employing civil engineers include those working on environmental or geotechnical projects, those involved with utilities and surveying, and those supporting the telecommunications infrastructure. Examples of employers range from engineering service firms, to government organizations, to large corporations. Some ocean engineers work as consultants and educators, supporting the next generation of engineers. Employers are all over the world. The following is just a sample of some companies, outside of government, so you can explore the type of projects worked on globally:

For most engineering careers:

  • a bachelor’s degree is required
  • a master’s degree may be recommended for those specializing or interested in management
  • students may also start with a related associate degree and then move on to a bachelor’s when they have settled on a degree path. Ro
  • many students are required to participate in a co-op program while at university to gain real world experience in their chosen field.
  • education doesn’t really stop…engineers need to stay current as technology changes and materials and processes improve over time.
  • many professional societies offer certificates and coursework to support continuing education for their members.

It is important to select an engineering degree that has been accredited to meet basic standards. Find out more and browse TryEngineering’s global database of accredited engineering and computing programs.

For civil engineering specifically, new standards known collectively as the Body of Knowledge are growing in importance. This development is likely to result in a heightened need for a graduate education.

Be Inspired

One of the best ways to explore what it might be like to work in civil engineering is to learn about people currently working in the field.

As an example, the American Society of Civil Engineers profiles a group of young professionals through their “New Faces of Civil Engineering” program. In 2020, one notable civil engineer was Martinez Gonzalez. She started a blog to highlight her experiences as a Latina civil engineer working in the U.S.  Another woman, Thalia Valkanos is a civil engineer who chose to specialize in environmental and infrastructure. She spent the first four years of her career as an environmental regulatory compliance consultant in New Hampshire, U.S.

The following links offer more chances to see what people are doing in the field of civil engineering:

  • Melanie Barker, Senior Project Manager of the London Underground talks about what it is like to be a civil engineer!
  • Angela Carney, Consultant and Director at Carney Consultancy, in the UK. In this interview she talks about life as a woman in a male-dominated industry and the challenges she had to overcome.
  • Civil engineer RandstadUKHolding talks about how varied and exciting he finds the career…he says there is always a new challenge around the corner!

And, there are many notable civil engineers who have left their marks on history, including Alexandre Gustave Eiffel and George Washington Gale Ferris. Can you think what they might have worked on? Explore these and others here.

Queens Road (now Queensway) tube station, c. 1900. Source Wikipedia/Public Domain.

Civil engineers are often called upon to solve problems related to urban planning and transportation. An interesting example is the London Underground system, which first started operating in 1863 and has never stopped being improved, expanded, and adjusted as new technology became available. As of 2017, the Underground serves 270 stations, providing reliable transport to residents and tourists alike.

The rail lines, or “tubes,” crisscross under the city streets in an intricate mesh of movement! And when a new line is added, such as the Elizabeth Line which partially opened recently, the new tube had to be carefully cut between and under existing tubes without stopping the other lines at all. Special equipment, called tunnel boring machines, had to be developed to cut through the soil without moving or damaging buildings above! The video to the right explains how this works!


As you can imagine, there are many types of engineers working together to make this new underground line a reality. You can read about several people contributing to this project here to see what their work is like!

Find out more:

Get Involved

Dig deeper into topics related to civil engineering that interest you!



Try it Out:

Clubs, competitions, and camps are some of the best ways to explore a career path and put your skills to the test in a friendly-competitive environment.


  • Civil Engineering Clubs: Organized by ASCE, Civil Engineering Clubs are places for preuniversity students to meet, engineer mentors and explore civil engineering through activities, lessons, and field trips.


  • Many organizations offer bridge building competitions, which is a great way to get started exploring civil engineering.
  • BRICO 2021 – The Nordic Steel Bridge Competition: BRICO 2021 is a great opportunity for students studying civil engineering, mechanical engineering or architecture (students from other faculties are also welcome) to test their designing skills in competitive and fun atmosphere.
  • Student Model Building Competition: Institution of Civil Engineers’ (UK) annual competition which participating teams formed by civil engineering undergraduates compete against each other to build a model made of balsa wood within a given time limit.
  • Civil Engineering Club Contest is a national competition is held each year to build a sense of community between the ASCE clubs. In prior years, clubs were given the blank layout for a parking lot and had to submit a layout for the lot, a written report that detailed the decisions and costs involved, and an optional video “selling” a client on why to choose their lot.
  • International Cold-Formed Steel Building Student Design Competition
  • Future City Competition is a project-based program where preuniversity students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future.


Many universities offer summer engineering experiences. Reach out to your local university’s engineering department to see what they offer.

Did you know you can explore civil engineering in your community now? Look at your local hospital and consider how it was designed and built.


    How do you think they organized the emergency room? What entrances need to be close by?

  • What sort of air purification system would need to be designed into a hospital waiting room?
  • Are there ramps and other building features to assist those in wheelchairs?
  • What facilities were included in the design and construction to help employees? Is there a cafeteria? Special parking areas? Separate elevators?
  • How many elevators do you think there are in your local hospital? Do any need to be larger than a standard passenger elevator?
  • How many months/years do you think it took to design and build your local hospital?

Find out more:

  • Read about how a company met the challenge of building an energy-efficient hospital.

Be sure to reach out to professional societies focused on civil engineering where you live. Not all will offer membership to pre-university students, but most offer groups for university students, and certainly offer online resources to help you explore the field. Some examples of groups focusing on civil engineering:

Some resources on this page are provided or adapted from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Career Cornerstone Center.