Is a Civil Engineering Degree Right for You?
Civil engineering is the perfect fit for people who like to see the results of their hard work unfold before their eyes in the form of structures that society uses every day — like roads, bridges, buildings, and airports. Students seeking an online bachelor’s degree in civil engineering should have an appetite for advanced math and science, as this is the framework for all engineering course work. Civil engineering is a solid bet for problem solvers who like to take on large projects, organize those projects by breaking them into manageable parts, and create data-driven designs based on scientific principles.
Advice for Earning Your Civil Engineering Degree Online
Prospective students should be aware that no online civil engineering bachelor’s program is delivered 100% online and that most online programs are tailored for part-time students. The nature of the curriculum calls for campus-based labs, and most programs will ask that your exams be proctored at an approved site. This doesn’t mean online programs aren’t flexible for working adults, but it does mean that any course work that takes place on campus requires a great deal of advanced planning with your employer. Students should also be aware that attending a civil engineering program part-time can make their degree take more than six years to complete, which is a significant time commitment. We strongly encourage students to only enroll in online civil engineering programs that are accredited by ABET.
Online civil engineering programs build on a strong foundation of math and science, with courses in calculus, statistics, chemistry, and physics. Following these are courses in engineering concepts like statics and dynamics, fluid mechanics, and materials engineering. Civil engineering labs are incorporated into every program, as is one or more design projects. Other courses you may need to take include:
- General Surveying
- Structural Mechanics
- Soil Mechanics
- Transportation Engineering
- Steel Design
Common Career Paths
Though the most common career path for civil engineering students is that of a civil engineer, more options are available to students. They can decide to find employment in construction fields or teach future civil engineers, provided they earn a graduate degree. Some specific options are outlined below. Keep in mind that salaries vary depending on your level of experience, the size and type of your employer, and the region of the country you live in.
- Expected Growth: 19%
- Average Annual Salary: $82,710
Civil engineers are best known for designing and inspecting public works like roads, bridges, water/wastewater systems, and public transportation systems. They also play a major role in planning and budgeting for these large-scale projects. Civil engineering specializations include geotechnical engineers who are concerned with foundations, structural engineers, and transportation engineers. A minimum of an ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a civil engineering specialty is required, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above employment growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.
Civil Engineering Technician
- Expected Growth: 12%
- Average Annual Salary: $48,480
Civil engineering technicians are responsible for helping civil engineers design and implement projects. They read blueprints, estimate how much projects will cost, and write reports. Though they cannot supervise projects, they are able to help plan and evaluate their progress. While the BLS explains that only an associate degree is required qualify for a technician position, working as a technician is a good starting point for future civil engineers, as it provides valuable field experience. The job outlook and salary figure provided above were drawn from the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 25%
- Average Annual Salary: $58,740
Surveyors use specialized equipment to determine the boundaries of land, airspace, and water, but are best known for establishing property lines for legal purposes. They prepare plots, maps, and reports based on their measurements and reviews of historic property boundaries, and frequently work with civil engineers, construction managers, landscape architects, and city planners on large-scale design projects. A bachelor’s degree is typical for such positions, and while bachelor’s programs in surveying technology are fitting for the position, related degrees in civil engineering or forestry are also applicable, the BLS explained. The above job growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 17%
- Average Annual Salary: $93,900
Construction managers direct construction projects from start to finish, supervising the progress of construction workers on site and reporting back to clients on the progress of their work or any unexpected setbacks. They may specialize in a specific type of construction, such as residential, commercial, or industrial buildings, or manage public works projects, like roads, bridges, or schools. While a bachelor’s degree is not always required to obtain positions in the field, bachelor’s degrees in areas like construction science, architecture, or engineering are becoming increasingly important, the BLS explained. The above job outlook and salary average for construction managers were provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 9%
- Average Annual Salary: $129,350
Engineering managers direct the work of engineering teams, set goals for their team, and make sure that the engineering work being done under their watch is done correctly. These managers also submit budgets for their department and hire staff to work on engineering projects, among other tasks. Engineers typically do not advance to careers in management until they have acquired many years of experience, but a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in engineering is typical for the position, the BLS explained. The employment growth projection and salary figure provided above was taken from the BLS.