Broadly divided into three major segments, the construction industry includes general contractors, heavy and civil engineering contractors, and specialty trade contractors. In 2004, there were about 818,000 construction companies in the United States. Of these, 57,000 companies were involved in heavy and civil engineering construction work. Overall in 2004, the construction industry accounted for around 7 million jobs in the country.
Civil engineers form an important component of the heavy and civil engineering construction industry. Civil engineers provide innovative and cost-effective solutions to a variety of construction-related problems. Civil engineers design, plan, and execute a wide range of construction projects like roads, bridges, buildings, airports, dams, and sewage systems.
Construction projects encompass a variety of government, defense, public, and private programs on a national as well as international scale. The construction industry employs a substantial number of civil engineers. Of the 1.4 million jobs that engineers held in 2004 in the United States, around 16.4% of jobs were in civil engineering, which constitutes the largest percentage of engineering jobholders in the country.
Areas and Employment Patterns
Civil engineering makes use of major disciplines such as structural, water resource, construction, environmental, transportation, and geotechnical engineering. These fields are not static and defined; they are dynamic and diverse.
A substantial percentage of civil engineers usually work at sites which may be in different geographical areas than their organizational headquarters. Though civil engineering involves substantial project execution, it is not essential that all civil engineers be involved in only construction or project-based programs. Many civil engineers also hold administrative and supervisory positions with a variety of government and private employers. Still other civil engineers are employed to do research, design, and teach.
Civil engineers can also find work as independent consultants for a variety of construction projects. They can consult for public and private enterprises or work alongside government, defense, or civil construction authorities. Consultant civil engineers usually provide services like site investigation, feasibility studies, problem solving, cost estimates, and construction scheduling. They also interact with a variety of professionals—architects, geologists, survey engineers, and others—to complete projects according to established standards. Civil engineers need to be good team players with solid technical skills.
Civil engineers usually possess bachelor's degrees in civil engineering. In order to be able to offer their services directly to the public, engineers must possess licenses. After obtaining licenses, they can use the Professional Engineer (PE) designation. To obtain a license, civil engineers should have Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) degrees and at least four years of relevant experience. Additionally, they should successfully pass relevant state examinations. Licensing ensures that individuals possess the ability and competence to practice as civil engineers.
Earnings and Benefits
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, entry-level annual salaries for civil engineers in the construction industry are about $47,750. Salaries usually vary depending upon individual skills, experience, and employers. Salaries also depend upon geographical locations and costs of living. Depending on the employer, benefits can include flexible hours, sharing of profits, retirement benefits, holiday, paid leave, and continuing education opportunities.
To summarize, the construction industry offers strong employment opportunities for civil engineers. Civil engineers can look forward to prosperous futures in the construction industry.