Whenever you drive your car on the highway or take a flight from a nearby airport, these structures have been built by a civil contractor/engineer. A civil engineer is someone who can design and supervise large-scale construction projects. During one of these projects, a civil engineer is responsible for operating, maintaining, and constructing the project until it has been completed.
The types of projects that can be handled by a civil engineer include roadways, bridges, railroads, wastewater treatment facilities, and airports. Keep in mind that civil construction ensures that our environment is better protected from the waste that occurs when infrastructure isn’t updated. Poorly maintained infrastructure can cause accidents that are costly and potentially deadly. This article goes into detail about starting a career in civil engineering and what it takes.
Responsibilities of a Civil Contractor/Engineer
If you want to become a civil contractor or engineer, you will first need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in construction, civil engineering, or civil engineering technologies. With this degree in hand, you can start your career as a civil engineer. Keep in mind that entry-level positions in this field don’t come with a requirement for a license. In fact, you won’t need to earn a license until later on in your career.
Once you become a civil engineer, you should expect to earn a salary that ranges from $56,000-$145,000. The median annual salary is right around $88,500. The highest median salary for a civil engineer occurs when working for the federal government or a local government. In these positions, the median salary approaches $100,000. If you want to be a successful civil engineer, it’s important that you have the right skills for the job.
These skills include decision-making skills, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, writing skills, and organization skills. You should also have a firm understanding of advanced mathematics, which can involve the principles of trigonometry and calculus. Developing these skills and qualities is just as important as earning the right bachelor’s degree. Pairing a strong education with the right qualities is the key to long-term success in this position.
The requirements that you must meet to become a civil contractor or engineer vary depending on the state you live in. While you can obtain an entry-level position in the civil engineering industry without having a license, many states require that civil engineers earn a professional engineer license before they can provide their services to the wider public.
Careers in Civil Engineering
When you earn a degree in civil engineering, you’ll have the knowledge, skills, and education that can prepare you for any number of different engineering jobs. If you want to use your skills to work as a civil engineer, there are four basic types of careers that you can have in this field. These careers are known as specialties and are considered to be highly varied. The four types of careers available to you include:
- Construction engineers
- Structural engineers
- Transportation engineers
- Geotechnical engineers
A construction engineer is someone who manages sizable construction projects to ensure that they are finished by a set date and adhere to the correct building plans and specifications. Construction engineers are directly responsible for designing temporary structures that will be used during the construction process. Some of the other tasks that can be overseen by a construction engineer include communication, budgeting, and time management.
Structural engineers are responsible for designing and assessing large-scale projects, which can include dams, buildings, and bridges. The assessments performed by structural engineers are focused on determining if the structure is strong and durable.
Transportation engineers design, plan, maintain, and operate many different systems, which can include highways and streets. Some of the additional transportation-based projects that this type of engineer can work on include mass transit systems, harbors, airports, and ship ports.
Geotechnical engineers focus on making sure that the foundations for structures are sound. These structures can include everything from dams and streets to buildings and runways. If the foundation isn’t solid, the street or building could quickly degrade. Geotechnical engineers also design tunnels, slopes, and retaining walls.
Examples of Heavy Civil Engineering
When starting out as a civil engineer, you could choose to engage in heavy civil engineering, which involves the construction, design, and maintenance of physical and natural environments. Along with building structures, you could be responsible for handling mountain ridges, reservoirs, hillsides, and other natural environments. it’s important to understand how natural environments will interface with man-made structures. All heavy civil engineers must know about public impact, erosion control, grading, and legal regulations to properly manage a project of this scale.
While standard civil engineering can involve constructing public libraries and city halls, heavy civil engineering projects typically include the construction of:
- Wastewater treatment facilities
- Earthwork projects
These projects are necessary for the continued improvement of local, state, and federal infrastructure. Without these projects, the current infrastructure would continue to degrade to the point that bridges, roads, and other essential infrastructure would cease to be usable. When roads, bridges, and overpasses have been poorly maintained, it’s also common for vehicles to become damaged and for accidents to occur at a higher rate. Along with civil engineers, it’s common for civil construction companies and site surveyors to work on projects of this size.
How Construction Companies Can Succeed On Civil Engineering Projects
Because of the scale of most civil engineering projects, it can be difficult for construction companies to obtain the funding needed to complete these projects in a timely manner. It’s also important that construction companies are able to identify new opportunities when they are available. Keep in mind that adopting advanced construction techniques and technology could facilitate cost-efficient and timely construction.
1. Build Public-Private Partnerships
First, it’s highly recommended that you focus on building public-private partnerships that could assist you in getting the right projects in the future. These partnerships are referred to as P3 arrangements, which allow you to obtain approval for projects from state or federal authorities. Even though the civil project is authorized by one of these authorities, it’s typically financed and managed by a private company as opposed to public services.
By seeking a public-private partnership, there’s a higher chance that your project will be approved since governmental authorities won’t need to finance the project. At the moment, 35 states throughout the U.S. allow for P3 partnerships, one of which is California. One project that’s derived from this type of partnership is the George Deukmejian Courthouse that’s situated in Long Beach, CA.
2. Create Projects with Low Tax Investment
It’s also highly recommended that you create projects that have low tax-investment requirements. Even though the majority of U.S. citizens would like infrastructure to be improved, they don’t want their annual tax bills to be higher in order to cover project costs. This is another reason why a P3 arrangement would be ideal.
Since the money that’s used to fund the project will come from private investors, you might be able to avoid seeking funding from local taxpayers. At the moment, an I-270 expressway project is ongoing in Maryland. Even though it’s believed that this project will cost upwards of $9 billion, all of these costs are being funded by private investors in exchange for a small percentage of the collected tolls.
3. Explore New Digital Technologies
Before you become a civil engineer, keep in mind that heavy civil engineering projects are typically much more complex and time-consuming than standard ones. If you want to make sure that your entire team is able to remain on-point during the construction process, consider using the most advanced digital technologies at your disposal.
These technologies will allow managers, subcontractors, and stakeholders to communicate with one another while the project is ongoing. For instance, you could use software to store all of the meeting notes, documents, and construction plans that the crew will need to address during construction. Instead of making a formal request to obtain these documents, team members can log into the software and access any document or plan that they’re looking for. This approach to management should expedite construction and reduce the number of delays that occur.
4. Develop a Better Internal Process
While using the most advanced communication software and collaborating with the right people can improve your management of civil construction projects, you should also focus on improving your internal processes. It’s possible to make the site prep and design phases of construction much more straightforward without needing to spend a large sum of money on new technology.
For instance, you could use geotagging to determine the exact spots where construction photos were taken. If your project involves constructing a road in an area that doesn’t contain distinct visual markers, geotagged photos will show you where the structures should be placed, which lessens the possibility of costly construction mistakes.
If you want to be successful when working by yourself or for a civil engineering company, you’ll likely need to improve your internal processes and other facets of how you do business. By enhancing the technology you use and adopting better communication tools, you should win more construction bids and find it easier to make sure that your projects are completed under budget and on time.
Jason Somers, President & Founder of Crest Real Estate
With over 15 years of professional experience in the Los Angeles luxury real estate market, Jason Somers has the background, judgement and track record to provide an unparalleled level of real estate services. His widespread knowledge helps clients identify and acquire income producing properties and value-ad development opportunities.