Plan for success: why civil engineering is a great career choice

engineering career paths

If you have a talent for STEM subjects, and are considering which career path will be right for you, have you thought about the advantages of a career as a Civil Engineer? According to recent statistics, only around 14% of Civil Engineers in the US are female, although this proportion is expected to increase substantially over the coming years.

What does civil engineering actually entail? It can be anything from designing, supervising construction, and being responsible for the maintenance of infrastructure projects. These can be in the public and private sector, and can include airports, road systems, buildings, tunnels, bridges, as well as systems for water supply and treatment.

But, what makes civil engineering a great career choice? If you’re ambitious, hard-working and ready for challenges, here are just a few of the reasons.

You’ll work on solving major challenges

Civil engineers are involved in finding solutions to some of society’s most urgent problems:  from creating ‘smart’ roads and buildings to reduce pollution and minimize global warming, to building the infrastructure of tomorrow – energy efficient and people-friendly buildings which can make cities better places to live and work.

You’ll use your creativity

Any major project is bound to be complex and problems will almost certainly arise.  As a civil engineer you’ll be using your creativity as well as your analytical skills to overcome obstacles and uncover new, sometimes innovative solutions.

You’ll bring a fresh perspective

The old stereotype of engineering as an exclusively male stronghold is dissolving fast. Many forward-thinking civil engineering companies welcome female talent into their organizations. Avoiding the danger of ‘group-think’ which can occur when only people of similar backgrounds and viewpoints work together, they welcome diversity, not only in terms of gender, but also of perspective. This means that from the moment you become involved, you will be listened to. Your ideas and questions bring strength to a team and will be welcomed by your colleagues.

You’ll work with talented people

There’s no doubt that to become a civil engineer, you need to be exceptional. Hard-working, focussed, highly-intelligent, with a rare blend of analytical and creative skills. And once you join the profession, people like this will be your colleagues. So, if you value an environment where you are mentally stimulated and challenged by others who share your passion, you’ll find it as a civil engineer.  In addition, you’ll find yourself working with a wide range of stakeholders. From clients to CAD designers, project managers, construction managers, architects-so your ability to communicate effectively will be constantly required.

You’ll earn respect

As mentioned above, civil engineering is a respected profession which involves constant interaction with others. You’ll be listened to, your opinions valued and your expertise will earn the respect of those you interact with. As you grow in experience, and take a more senior role or become the lead on more complex projects, potentially involving expenditure of many millions of dollars, your professional status will increase. Likewise, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself working with more experienced colleagues and contacts from whom you can learn and grow.

Your skills will be in demand

We live in an age of huge shifts in working patterns. Many traditional jobs, which were once believed to guarantee a secure career, are disappearing due to rapid advances in technology. This isn’t the case with civil engineering.  There is not expected to be any shortage of projects for the foreseeable future. Even at times when demand for new works slows down, existing infrastructure needs to be maintained and upgraded.  Opportunities arise in every part of the world. And civil engineers are in demand required. So, if you’ve always dreamed of travel as part of your career path, this can be something to consider.

Every day will be different

If you hate the idea of a career which doesn’t provide enough variety and stimulation for your restless mind, civil engineering is a choice which will provide endless variety. No two projects are the same, so you’ll be constantly faced with new challenges and new problems to solve.

Each new project is likely to involve a different group of stakeholders:  clients, construction teams, government representatives, as well as talented and creative colleagues with different areas of specialization.

You’ll be recognized as a professional

Becoming a successful civil engineer is not only about the daily work you do. Consider joining one of the many professional bodies, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Concrete Institute (ACI), or the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE).

Not only will they help you keep up to date with advances in their fields. They provide invaluable educational and networking opportunities.  Becoming actively engaged with this type of body can really boost your credibility and status within your chosen profession

You’ll have freedom to choose how you work

We’ve already mentioned the numerous opportunities that will be open to you as a civil engineer. While in the early stages, while you build your project portfolio you’ll most likely aim for a position in a reputable engineering firm.

However, once you have some good experience under your belt, you’ll have a number of employment options. Continue as an employee, or choose the freedom of being self-employed. Launch yourself as a consultant, perhaps start with the network of contacts you’ve built up. While you won’t have the security of a guaranteed salary, you will have the ability to choose the projects that interest you and the clients you want to work with.

One last thing!

Ah yes, we knew that we’d forgotten something!  The great news is that as a civil engineer, you can expect one of the highest starting salaries for graduates in any profession – from around $55k-$75K per year.  

When you consider that at present only around 22% of civil engineering degrees are awarded to women, it’s clear that you’ll need intelligence, talent and stamina to make the grade and join this elite group of professional. Go for it!