Civil engineer overlooking a project site

Constructing the Future: 8 Top Civil Engineering Careers

Civil engineers help shape modern society by designing, planning and managing the construction of complex infrastructures such as bridges, roadways, and commercial developments. In the near future, the role of civil engineers will involve more than the application of technical skills and engineering principles to develop new infrastructures.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), civil engineering in 2025 will include an added societal pressure to contribute to a sustainable world and improve the global quality of life. To address these new responsibilities, engineers must learn how to integrate the latest technical innovations, apply sustainable approaches, use techniques that respect the natural environment, and become leaders in infrastructure-related public policy. It is both a challenging and exciting time to have a career in civil engineering.

Laying a foundation for a Civil Engineering career

A bachelor's degree in civil engineering is the foundation of a career as a civil engineer. Following a bachelor’s degree, ambitious civil engineers who want to further their occupations may consider earning a graduate degree. An advanced degree can elevate a civil engineer’s position, providing opportunities to take on leadership and specialized roles.

The online Master of Civil Engineering (MCE) degree offered by Norwich University offers civil engineers a competitive edge through courses that teach advanced engineering principles and leadership best practices. Students enrolled in this MCE program can tailor a concentration so curriculum aligns with their civil engineering career goals. Students can select from four fields:

  • Construction management
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Environmental/water resources engineering
  • Structural engineering

With enhanced technical skills, management abilities, and practical knowledge, MCE graduates become more qualified for a greater range of civil engineering careers.

Top 8 Careers in civil engineering

Structural engineer

Working closely with the construction industry, structural engineers play a key role in the development of new infrastructures. From buildings and bridges to dams and pipelines, engineers in this field are involved in all stages of a project’s life cycle, including preliminary design and final inspections. Often, structural engineers work closely with a project team to manage many aspects of the construction process. They may conduct regular meetings and site visits to ensure that a project is meeting environmental requirements, health and safety standards, and regulatory guidelines.

Structural engineers need deep knowledge of engineering mechanics, particularly when using different materials during the design and construction of new infrastructures. Students enrolled in the Norwich University MCE program examine the design of steel, timber structures, and the benefits of reinforced, prestressed, and precast concrete structures to prepare for this career path.

Structural engineers earn an average of about $90,000 annually, according to the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Salary Survey. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that demand for civil engineers, including structural engineers, is projected to grow by 11% from 2016 to 2026.

Geotechnical engineer

Geotechnical engineers specialize in the science of soil and rock and its application to new developments. Engineers specializing in this field typically work on the design, analysis, and construction of retaining walls, tunnels, roadways, embankments, and building foundations. Much of a geotechnical engineer’s time is dedicated to writing reports that detail soil characteristics and requirements to support a building or development.

In locations such as California that have significant seismic complication risks, a geotechnical engineer may report on seismic threats. The Norwich University MCE program explores earthquake engineering, soil mechanics, and soil stabilization to prepare future geotechnical engineers for complex geotechnical circumstances.

Geotechnical engineers earn an average annual wage of about $90,000, according to the 2017 ASCE Salary Survey. And the BLS forecasts that demand for mining and geological engineers is expected to grow by 8% from 2016 to 2026.

Environmental engineer

Environmental engineers help solve environmental problems and challenges. These engineers apply biology and chemistry theory as well as soil science to the areas of waste disposal, pollution control, recycling, and public health. Primary responsibilities include producing environmental investigation reports, developing environmental protection practices, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of environmental programs, and acting as counsel for environmental cleanup and remediation projects.

Engineers who specialize in environmental engineering must follow new and evolving environmental best practices. The environmental and water resource concentration available in the Norwich University MCE program reviews the latest concepts in the areas of environmental chemistry, ecology, biology, microbiology, geology, and soil science. Upon completion of these courses, students are well prepared for a successful future as an environmental engineer.

According to the 2017 ASCE Salary Survey, environmental engineers earned a median annual wage of $99,000. The BLS forecasts that employment of environmental engineers will rise 8% from 2016 to 2026.

Marine engineer

Marine engineers apply their civil engineering skills to the design, construction, and maintenance of marine facilities such as ships, submarines, sailboats, and aircraft carriers. Daily responsibilities for a marine engineer may include inspecting equipment, monitoring repairs and other operational activities, as well as preparing technical reports and cost estimates.

Marine engineers need excellent communications skills as these positions typically involve a significant amount of writing in the preparation of technical reports and cost estimates. For this reason, the Norwich University MCE program includes coursework that helps students improve written and verbal communication skills.

The BLS reports that marine engineers and naval architects earn a median salary of $92,560, with the job outlook in this field expected to increase by 11.5% between 2016 and 2026.

Engineering manager

Civil engineers with significant experience and knowledge can move into leadership roles, particularly engineering managers, that include senior-level accountabilities such as leading and managing engineering activities, reviewing projects for technical accuracy, and ensuring projects proceed on schedule and align with the organizational goals and strategy.

As leaders, engineering managers must develop an acumen of core business functions including finance and accounting principles, contracts, and insurance requirements.  The position also involves a human resources component regarding staff supervision and training, and managing personnel budgets. The Norwich University MCE program delivers advanced technical knowledge so students gain the leadership skills necessary to lead a team of engineers. 

The BLS reports that the median salary for architectural and engineering managers was $140,760 in 2018, and that employment of these professionals will increase by 13% from 2016 to 2026.

Design engineer

Design engineers are responsible for developing schematics, blueprints, and prototypes for the creation of products, equipment and structures. A key trait of design engineers is an extensive knowledge of design computer software and applications systems that support the different phases of project design as well as prototype testing and design evaluation.

Remaining current on the latest software programs is a critical requirement for design engineers. Individuals enrolled in the Norwich University MCE program work with the latest virtual design and construction software programs to bring this knowledge to their careers.

The average annual compensation of a design engineer is about $66,400, according to PayScale. And the BLS reports that demand for civil engineers, including design engineers, is projected to grow by 11% from 2016 to 2026.  

Water resource engineer

Water resource engineers focus on the development and maintenance of water resource management facilities that include wastewater treatment plants, drainage canals, irrigation systems, and hydraulic structures such as reservoirs, dams, and floodways. Engineers who choose this career path may conduct hydrologic and/or hydraulic analyses, design work, and evaluations as well as coordinate project teams, all relating to water resource projects.

When executing activities within water resource management facilities, water resource engineers must understand physicochemical and biological processes for water and water treatment. Students enrolled in the Norwich University MCE environmental and water resources concentration learn about physical, chemical, and biological concepts in wastewater treatment and applying these principles in their career. 

Water resource engineers earn an average of about $98,000 per year, the 2017 ASCE Salary Survey reports. And according to the BLS, employment of environmental engineering professionals is forecast to grow by 8% from 2016 to 2026.

Civil engineer

Instead of focusing on a niche such as environmental engineering, civil engineers can become generalists. Depending on the position, a civil engineer may plan, research, oversee, maintain, or construct infrastructure systems and projects such as buildings, bridges, and roads. Their responsibilities for these projects may include managing the initial design and planning phase, handling the permitting process, conducting material tests and analysis, overseeing construction operations, and ensuring the completion of repairs and maintenance.

Industry best practices require that civil engineers consider the social, economic, and environmental impacts of their projects. The Norwich University MCE program includes a capstone design project that requires students to anticipate the diverse impacts of a project before implementation. This provides graduates with firsthand experience immediately applicable to their career following graduation.

The 2017 ASCE Salary Survey reports that civil engineers earn a median annual salary of $93,000, and, according to the BLS, demand for civil engineers is projected to grow by 11% from 2016 to 2026.  


Learn More

Established in 1819, Norwich University introduced online educational programs in 1998 to support working adults and lifelong learners around the world. Norwich University Online offers relevant and applicable curricula that allow students to make a positive impact in their work and communities while pursuing new careers.

Norwich University offers exceptional learning opportunities that advance the knowledge, skills, and proficiency of civil engineers. The online Master of Civil Engineering program at Norwich University enhances technical knowledge, management skills, and engineering competence through a modern, practice-oriented education platform that fosters creativity and critical thinking for problem-solving and innovation.


Recommended Readings
Civil Engineering vs. Industrial Engineering
A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer
5 Civil Engineering Innovations That Help Buildings Withstand Earthquakes

"The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025", ASCE
Average Structural Engineer Salary, PayScale
“ASCE Salary Survey Results Reveal a Civil Engineering Industry In Demand”, American Society of Civil Engineers
Civil Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
"Geotechnical Engineering: The In-Demand, High-Pay, Easy-Entry Job You've Likely Never Heard Of", Forbes
Average Geotechnical Engineer Salary, PayScale
Environmental Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Marine Engineers and Naval Architects, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Employment Statistic, Marine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Engineers and Naval Architects, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Architectural and Engineering Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Design Engineer Salary, PayScale
Average Water Resource Engineer Salary, PayScale

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