California Occupational Guides

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Summary 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 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. They may also work with specialists on problems, such as soil or ground water contamination, or energy development and conservation.

Green Economy: Green economy activities and technologies will most likely have an effect on tasks, skills, knowledge, and credentials of Civil Engineers. Some will assist with the research and design of sustainable materials. Others will work on projects within the renewable energy, construction, or transportation sectors. Civil Engineers are also involved in environmental protection.

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 on-site problems. Some Engineers may spend time on the road or traveling abroad while working on various projects. Civil Engineers may work alone or as part of a team of professionals and other workers.

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.

*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.

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 are also 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.

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Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Civil Engineers generally receive excellent benefit packages, including health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, and pension plans.

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.

How Do I Qualify?

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. Advanced computer skills are also vital to the Engineer's education.

Licensing by the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors is required of all consulting Civil Engineers and those responsible for approving plans, specifications and estimates, and reports.

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 and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Civil Engineers