Civil Engineer Job Description:
In the work that I do as a civil/site engineer, I am responsible for researching existing site conditions for commercial and municipal design projects, designing storm water management systems that intercept and treat rain water before it is discharged into the public sewer, designing erosion and sediment control measures that maintain the stability of the ground cover (soil and plants) and scheduling and attending coordination meetings with local planning and regulatory agencies and other community stakeholders.
I am also responsible for preparing construction documents that the contractor will use to build or improve the project, issuing regular project progress reports and managing the project’s critical design and coordination issues. My work requires close interaction with building architects, landscape architects, mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineers, community stakeholders, property owners, developers, and local regulatory agencies.
How did you become a civil engineer? Was your first choice of careers civil engineering?
I’ve always had an interest in infrastructure and an affinity for math and problem-solving. At the encouragement of teachers and guidance counselors, I attended a specialized high school that offered advanced courses in math, science, and technology. After graduating, I applied to undergraduate civil engineering programs. The school I chose, Howard University, offered a four year undergraduate program. While a student, I attended career fairs regularly, became active in my professional organization – the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and took advantage of internship opportunities in the summer.
The career fairs allowed me to learn what job opportunities were available and which firms were leaders in the industry. My involvement in ASCE afforded me professional development and leadership opportunities, and my internships provided me with practical on-the-job experience. It was the elective college courses I took as a junior and senior sparked my interest in site development and transportation/transit improvement projects.
Do you recall any memorable moments from your civil engineering career?
As outreach director for the younger member group of my local ASCE section, I have had the opportunity to organize and facilitate many career outreach programs at public schools in my community. My most memorable moments are those in which the students, often 6-10 years in age, surprise me with their enthusiasm and the complexity of the questions. Through hands-on activities and question and answer sessions, I enjoy challenging them to successfully complete an activity and discussing with them what excites me about my job.
One of the events we host annually is an exhibit at the Discover Engineering Family Day Festival in Washington, DC. One year we had so many kids build straw towers that we ran out after 15,000 straws! I have since learned not to underestimate the problem-solving abilities of intelligent fourth-graders.
What advice would you give someone regarding civil engineer career info?
Because civil engineering is about community service, development, and improvement, the process of becoming a civil engineer begins first with a desire to improve the health, welfare, and safety of the public. Civil engineers are problem-solvers, meeting the challenges of pollution, traffic congestion, drinking water and energy needs, urban redevelopment, and community planning.
To practice as a licensed civil engineer requires a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from an accredited university, a minimum of four years of practical experience, and the passing of the professional engineering licensing examination for your jurisdiction. In civil engineering, as in any profession, your education never ends; to keep up with recent developments in the industry, you can pursue continuing education programs made available by universities and professional societies.
As far as average civil engineer salaries, what would you say is the typical civil engineer salary?
According to the Engineering Income and Salary Survey maintained by ASCE (the American Society of Civil Engineers), the average salary for a civil engineer with 3-4 years experience and some supervisory responsibilities is $55,083 in the Northeast.
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