What Do Civil Engineers Do? Would you find it inspiring to interact with the physical and natural environment to create the next municipal park for your community?

Do you dream about designing and overseeing the next public building project, such as roads, bridges, canals, or dams?

Would you like to work in a variety of locations and conditions and spend time outdoors so that you can monitor operations or solve problems onsite?

The field of civil engineering offers unique opportunities to make a real difference by designing, building, supervising, operating, and maintaining construction projects and systems in the public and private sector.

Civil engineers

  • Design and supervise the construction of:
    • Roads
    • Buildings
    • Airports
    • Tunnels
    • Dams
    • Bridges
    • Water supply and sewage treatment systems.
  • 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.


  • Structural
  • Environmental
  • Geotechnical
  • Water resources
  • Transportation
  • Construction
  • Urban planning

Famous Civil Engineers

  • Sarah Guppy – English inventor who contributed to the design of Britain’s infrastructure
  • Magdalena Matte – civil engineer, businesswoman, and politician who was part of Chile’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
  • Alexandre Gustave Eiffel – French civil engineer and architect known for various bridges for the French railway network, most famously the Garabit viaduct, and best known for the world-famous Eiffel Tower
  • George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. – American engineer mostly known for creating the original Ferris Wheel for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition
  • James Finley – first designer and builder of the modern suspension bridge
  • Robert Stephenson – early railway engineer who built on the achievements of his father, George Stephenson, the “Father of Railways”

Areas of Employment

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Supervisory or administrative positions (e.g. construction site to city engineer)
  • Engineering services
  • State government
  • Local government
  • Nonresidential building construction
  • Federal government

Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students

Coursework to consider
  • Pre-algebra
  • Geometry
  • Advanced algebra
  • Engineering fundamentals
  • Chemistry
  • Geology
  • Calculus
  • Trigonometry
  • Statistics
  • Physics
  • Robotics
  • Economics
  • Programming
  • Geometric design
  • Data analysis
  • Structural dynamics
  • Electrical circuits
  • Mechanics of materials
  • Fluid mechanics and hydraulics
  • Environmental geotechnology
  • Transportation engineering
  • Technical writing
Suggested extracurricular activities
  • Competitions
  • Summer programs
  • Afterschool programs
  • Clubs
  • Internships
  • Online puzzles and games
  • Online courses
  • Maker Faires
  • Design projects
Local programs offered by
  • Science centers and museums
  • Professional societies like IEEE
  • Universities
Important Skills
  • Decision-making skills: balance multiple and frequently conflicting objectives, such as determining the feasibility of plans with regard to financial costs and safety concerns.
  • Leadership skills: take responsibility for the projects that one manages or research that one performs and lead planners, surveyors, construction managers, civil engineering technicians, civil engineering technologists, and others in implementing one’s project plan.
  • Math skills: use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting.
  • Organizational skills: monitor and evaluate the work at the jobsite as a project progresses in order to ensure compliance with the design documents.
  • Problem-solving skills: identify and evaluate complex problems, and utilize one’s skills and training to develop cost-effective, safe, and efficient solutions.
  • Communication skills: present reports to audiences with a wide range of backgrounds and technical knowledge, speak clearly and converse with people in various settings, and translate engineering and scientific information into easy to understand concepts.
  • Writing skills: explain projects to elected officials and citizens, and write reports that are clear, concise, and understandable to those with little or no technical or scientific background.

Links and Resources