Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Posted By: Brightwood Engineering Education
Updated: August 18, 2017 


You already know you want to be an engineer. Now, let’s take a look at what a civil engineer does during the course of his or her career.

Recently, we explored some of the tasks carried out by mechanical engineers in an attempt to help sort through the many facets of engineering, as well as guide the undecided. Maybe mechanical engineering isn’t quite the route you’d like to travel, or maybe you’re interested in learning what other aspects of engineering have to offer before making a decision.

Typically, civil engineers design, build, supervise, and maintain construction projects and systems. These include roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water-sewage systems. As cities continue to grow, civil engineers need to assist in the development of new and improved water systems, as well as renewable energy projects. Civil engineers play a pivotal role in acquiring permits for project launches and often oversee the construction of wind and solar farms.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil engineer employment is expected to increase by 8% over the next eight years. This average increase can be partially attributed to the need for project management necessary to rebuild bridges and repair roads as infrastructure continues to age.

In 2014, there were a recorded 281,400 civil engineers employed in the United States. To give you a better idea of what all of these civil engineers actually do, let’s take a look at a few famous civil engineers from history. Benjamin Wright was declared the Father of American Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Wright was the chief engineer during the construction of the Erie Canal. Squire Whipple is another important civil engineer in history, credited with designing and building a weight lock scale that possessed a 300-ton capacity and was used to weigh boats on the Erie Canal.

Civil engineers have also played major roles in improving our world, including assisting Haiti in its recovery after the 2010 disaster, constructing the Panama Canal, and designing the Burj Khalifa, the world’s second-tallest building (interesting fact: Brightwood instructor Lawrence Novak was the lead structural engineer for the Burj Khalifa).

Civil engineers help shape our cities by designing transportation systems, creating school buildings, and figuring out how to turn natural resources into power for our homes. Their typical roles include managing teams, creating CAD models, and designing structures that meet particular clients’ needs. Other civil engineering tasks include:

  • Analyzing survey reports, maps, drawings, blueprints, and aerial photography in order to plan projects efficiently
  • Computing load and grade requirements, water flow rates, and materials’ stress factors for design specifications
  • Inspecting project sites and monitoring progress
  • Estimating quantities and material costs (to determine project feasibility)
  • Compiling public reports (bid proposals, environmental impact statements, property descriptions)
  • Testing soils and materials to determine their strength in different conditions for use in large projects

To conclude, if you’re in the market for a “people-serving” profession, and you want to play a major role in constructing the world around you, civil engineering might be the right profession for you.

Preparing for the FE Exam - Free eBook - Brightwood EngineeringPreparing for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam

Getting ready for the FE exam can seem overwhelming, and you may have a number of questions about the test. How should you prepare and what should you expect from this computer-based test? Learn from former test-takers in this free eBook download how to prepare for success.

Download this FREE eBook Now