Detailed Guide for Civil Engineers in California
May also be called: Bridge Engineers; City Engineers; Design Engineers; Project Engineers
Specialties within this occupation include: Geotechnical Engineers; Hydraulic Engineers; Structural Engineers; Transportation Engineers; Wastewater Engineers
What Would I Do?
Civil engineering is one of the oldest disciplines in engineering, dating back to about 4000 B.C. However, it was not until the 18th century when the term Civil Engineer was introduced. Through the ages, Civil Engineers* have helped to shape the infrastructure of the world. Modern life would be quite different if it was not for the Civil Engineer.
Civil Engineers plan, design, and supervise the construction and maintenance of airports, bridges, buildings, dams, irrigation projects, power plants, roads, tunnels, and water supply and sewage systems. They must consider many factors during the design process, from the construction costs and expected lifetime of a project to governmental and environmental regulations and potential natural hazards, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Engineers may also work with specialists on problems, such as soil, or ground water contamination, or energy development and conservation. Most Civil Engineers also focus on sustainable engineering practices to make sure the natural environment’s integrity is maintained while meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations.
Geotechnical Engineers specialize in recognizing soil types. They determine soil strength for building footings, bridge abutments and piers, and also design retaining walls. They study and analyze the soil and the underlying rock layers that may affect construction. They are especially concerned with how structures will withstand natural disasters, such as earthquakes or landslides.
Hydraulic Engineers design and oversee the construction of projects relating to the control and use of water, such as canals, levees, and reservoirs. Other projects include flood control, water conservation, and soil drainage. Engineers perform calculations and estimation on the rate of water flow and how this might affect their projects. They also gather and analyze water-use data to forecast water demand.
Structural Engineers plan, design, and oversee the construction of many different types of structures, including bridges, buildings, and tunnels. They perform calculations to determine pressures, stresses, and strains that each part of a structure will experience during its life span. Engineers also inspect unsafe structures to evaluate options, and determine solutions.
Transportation Engineers design and develop plans for surface transportation projects according to established engineering standards and State and federal construction policy. These projects include new transportation systems or parts of systems, such as airports, high speed rail lines, highways, bridges, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and drainage structures. Engineers supervise the maintenance or repair of transportation systems or system components. They provide oversight for projects during construction as well as completed transportation projects to ensure safety and compliance with design standards and State and federal regulations, such as environmental regulations. In addition, Transportation Engineers ensure compliance with federal and State environmental documents related to transportation projects.
Wastewater Engineers design or oversee projects involving the disposal of wastewater and sewage. Engineers conduct water quality studies to identify and characterize water pollutant sources. They provide technical support to government agencies on water resource or treatment issues. Engineers prepare environmental documentation for water resources, regulatory program compliance, data management and analysis, and field work. They may also be involved with the research and design of anaerobic digesters, which treat organic waste and convert it into biofuel.
Tools and Technology
Civil Engineers use a variety of tools in the course of their work, including computers, distance meters, levels, tape measures, traffic counters, and software, such as analytical or scientific, computer-aided design (CAD/CADD), project management, and word processing.
Civil Engineers will play an important role in the emerging green economy. Some will assist with the research and design of sustainable materials used for construction or energy-efficient structures. They will work within the renewable energy generation sector, developing and designing projects that use renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. In addition, Civil Engineers will work in the green construction sector, using green technologies to design new structures or retrofit existing ones. They will work in the transportation sector, developing and designing new ways to reduce the environmental impacts of various transportation projects. Engineers are also involved in environmental protection, such as remediation, air quality, and climate change adaptation.
Green economy activities and technologies would most likely have an effect on Civil Engineers. The advancements in technology may cause changes to the work and worker requirements, such as new tasks, skills, knowledge, and credentials.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.
Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Direct or participate in surveying to lay out installations or establish reference points, grades, or elevations to guide construction.||Visualization|
|Conduct studies of traffic patterns or environmental conditions to identify engineering problems and assess potential project impact.||Complex Problem Solving|
|Analyze manufacturing processes or byproducts to identify engineering solutions to minimize the output of carbon or other pollutants.||Systems Analysis|
|Manage and direct the construction, operations, or maintenance activities at project site.||Administration and Management|
|Provide technical advice to industrial or managerial personnel regarding design, construction, or program modifications or structural repairs.||Engineering and Technology|
|Develop or implement engineering solutions to clean up industrial accidents or other contaminated sites.||Critical Thinking|
|Inspect project sites to monitor progress and ensure conformance to design specifications and safety or sanitation standards.||Systems Evaluation|
|Direct engineering activities ensuring compliance with environmental, safety, or other governmental regulations.||Law and Government|
|Estimate quantities and cost of materials, equipment, or labor to determine project feasibility.||Judgment and Decision Making|
|Identify environmental risks and develop risk management strategies for civil engineering projects.||Deductive Reasoning|
|Investigate or test specific construction project materials to determine compliance with specifications or standards, such as safety or environmental standards.||Quality Control Analysis|
|Test soils or materials to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations, concrete, asphalt, or steel.||Building and Construction|
|Design transportation systems or structures using sustainable materials or products, such as porous pavement or bioretention structures.||Operations Analysis|
|Compute load and grade requirements, water flow rates, or material stress factors to determine design specifications.||Mathematics|
|Plan and design transportation or hydraulic systems or structures using computer assisted design or drawing tools.||Design|
|Analyze survey reports, maps, drawings, blueprints, aerial photography, or other topographical or geologic data.||Inductive Reasoning|
|Prepare or present public reports on topics such as bid proposals, deeds, environmental impact statements, or property and right-of-way descriptions.||Written Expression|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Visualization||The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.|
|Complex Problem Solving||Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.|
|Systems Analysis||Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.|
|Administration and Management||Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.|
|Engineering and Technology||Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.|
|Critical Thinking||Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.|
|Systems Evaluation||Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.|
|Law and Government||Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.|
|Judgment and Decision Making||Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.|
|Deductive Reasoning||The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.|
|Quality Control Analysis||Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.|
|Building and Construction||Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.|
|Operations Analysis||Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.|
|Mathematics||Using mathematics to solve problems.|
|Design||Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.|
|Inductive Reasoning||The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).|
|Written Expression||The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.|
Civil Engineers work in a variety of settings, including office buildings, laboratories, and industrial plants. They may spend time outdoors at construction sites, facilities, businesses, and other locations, overseeing projects or solving onsite problems. Some Engineers may spend time on the road or traveling abroad while working on various projects.
Engineers make heavy use of technology, which means they spend considerable time sitting at a desk working on a computer, which may cause eyestrain. When working at job sites, Civil Engineers must be trained in proper safety procedures to avoid risk of injury caused by uneven ground, large machinery, noisy equipment, and heavy traffic.
Many Civil Engineers work a standard 40-hour week. Tight schedules or last-minute problems may require the Engineer to work longer hours, evenings, or weekends to meet deadlines.
Most Engineers are not members of unions. However, some Civil Engineers who are employed by State or local governments may belong to a union, such as Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG).
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of Civil Engineer may appeal to those who enjoy working outside, tackling practical, hands-on problems, and finding answers to those problems using a variety of sources. Civil Engineers must be able to organize, analyze, and evaluate technical data to solve detailed engineering problems. They must be skilled in designing projects of various sizes.
Civil Engineers must be able to work alone or as part of a team. Effective oral and written communication skills are critical. Engineers usually convey information to interested parties on a range of technical topics, such as design reviews.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2016 for Civil Engineers in California is $101,175 annually, or $48.64 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Civil Engineers generally receive excellent benefit packages, including health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, and pension plans.
What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits? Of the 477 employers in California, almost all provide medical insurance and vacation, and most provide dental insurance, sick leave, retirement plan, life insurance, and vision insurance benefits to Civil Engineers who work full-time.
|Percent of Employers Who Provide|
Specific Benefits by Time Base
|Paid Time Off Bank||30%||6%|
Of the 445 employers surveyed who responded in California, who provides medical benefits, almost all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Civil Engineers.
|Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical |
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
|Portion Paid by Employer:||Full-Time||Part-Time|
|Half or more||34%||45%|
|Less than Half||9%||39%|
What is the Job Outlook?
With the increased focus on environmentally sustainable business practices, the expected ten-year growth rate for the occupation of Civil Engineer is expected to have increased job opportunities. However, like many occupations, employment may be sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Civil Engineers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Civil Engineers are expected to increase by 12.2 percent, or 5,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 500 new job openings per year is expected for Civil Engineers, plus an additional 1,210 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 1,710 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
A bachelor's degree in civil engineering is generally the minimum educational level that employers will consider for a position as a Civil Engineer. Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in design, mathematics, physical and life sciences, and hands-on laboratory classes. In addition to the core classes, which often reflect civil engineering basics, coursework may also include a focus on environmental, geotechnical, structural, transportation, or water resources. Advanced computer skills are also vital to the Engineer's education.
Many employers require at least four years of experience in Civil Engineering and a professional engineering (PE) license. However, larger companies and public agencies may offer entry-level engineering positions for college graduates and provide them with formal classroom or seminar-type training. Entry-level Engineers, while under the direction of a licensed Engineer, gain knowledge and experience and are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Once an Engineer is licensed, they no longer require the approval of a professional overseer and can approve documents directly.
Early Career Planning
High school students planning to become Civil Engineers should take college preparatory courses such as English, mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer science, and mechanical drawing or computer aided design courses. Students would also benefit from participating in extracurricular science or engineering programs geared toward middle and high school students, such as Odyssey of the Mind; Science Olympiad; and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs.
Some colleges and universities help students find work-study programs or internships. Internships are usually paid and are an opportunity for the sponsoring organization to recruit future employees.
While continuing education is currently not a requirement for maintaining a PE license, most Civil Engineers stay current with changes to building codes and regulations, such as the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). Engineers must also keep up to date with environmental laws and the latest technological improvements in their field to properly do their jobs.
Licensing and Certification
Civil Engineers who approve engineering documents, whose work may affect the public welfare, or oversee less experienced Engineers, must obtain a professional engineering (PE) license. The license must be renewed every two years.
To become licensed, Engineers must first pass the Engineer-in-Training or Fundamentals of Engineering examination which requires at least three years of coursework from a college or university offering an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), or three years of engineering-related experience. The next step in the process is to pass the professional examination which requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited institution, along with two years of eligible engineering experience. Engineers without a bachelor's degree in engineering must possess six years of eligible experience. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
There are a variety of certificates available for Civil Engineers, such as Certified Measurement and Verification Professional, Certified Stormwater Manager, and Project Management. These certifications are offered by various professional organizations. Certification can demonstrate to an employer skills and knowledge beyond that needed for licensure in California. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
- Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Civil Drafting, Civil Engineer, Civil Engineering, Construction Engineering, and Engineering.
- Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
Civil Engineers work in a variety of industries and in many different locations. Most Engineers in State and local government work in transportation and public works departments. The largest industries employing Civil Engineers are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Architectural and Engineering Services ||44.6%|
|State Government ||17.5%|
|Local Government ||16.3%|
|Nonresidential Building Construction ||4.3%|
|Federal Government ||2.1%|
What Employers Say...
The Employment Development Department surveyed 477 employers in California which employ 3,917 Civil Engineers. Here's what they had to say:
About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and some employ part-time Civil Engineers.
About Work Experience: Of the 477 employers surveyed in California, all require new hires to have prior work experience as Civil Engineers. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.
|How Much Work Experience|
Do Employers Require?
|More than 5 years ||24%|
|25 to 60 months ||40%|
|13 to 24 months ||30%|
|1 to 12 months ||19%|
About Recruitment: Of the 477 employers surveyed in California, almost all indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while some indicate it is easy to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Civil Engineers.
About Hiring: Of the 477 employers surveyed in California, most expect the number of Civil Engineers they employ to remain stable during the coming year.
|Expect Employment to Increase ||17%|
|Expect Employment to Remain Stable ||71%|
|Expect Employment to Decline ||12%|
About Vacancies: Of the 477 employers surveyed in California, 49 percent hired Civil Engineers during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 80 percent filled existing vacancies, 37 percent filled newly created positions, and 12 percent filled temporary assignments.
Finding a Job
Direct contact with employers is a traditional means to finding a job as a Civil Engineer. College placement offices, company recruiting events, job fairs, and online job search sites are also good places to look. Career associations sometimes offer job openings on their Web sites. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Civil Engineers.
- Civil Engineers
- Consulting Engineers
- General Contractors, Engineering
- Geotechnical Engineers
- Government, City
- Government, County
- Government, State
- Power Engineers
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
As new Engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a staff or team of Engineers and technicians. Some may eventually become engineering managers or enter other managerial or sales jobs.
A graduate degree is essential for engineering faculty positions and research and development programs. Many Engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technologies and broaden their education. Some high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as Engineers.
Below is a list of occupations related to Civil Engineers with links to more information.
|Civil Engineering Technicians||Profile|
|Health and Safety Engineers, Except Mining Safety Engineers and Inspectors||Profile|
|Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers||Profile|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.