Civil engineers design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Many civil engineers work in design, construction, research, and education.
Civil engineers typically do the following:
Analyze long range plans, survey reports, maps, and other data in order to plan projects
Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning the stages of, and risk analysis for, a project
Compile and submit permit applications to local, state, and federal agencies, verifying that projects comply with various regulations
Perform or oversee soil testing to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
Perform or oversee surveying operations in order to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or descriptions of property
Manage the repair, maintenance, and replacement of public and private infrastructure
Civil engineers inspect projects to insure regulatory compliance. In addition, they are tasked with ensuring that safe work practices are followed at construction sites.
Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer, public works director, and city manager. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. Civil engineers work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians.
Civil engineers prepare permit documents for work on projects in renewable energy. They verify that the projects will comply with federal, state, and local requirements. With regard to solar energy, these engineers conduct structural analyses for large-scale photovoltaic projects. They also evaluate the ability of solar array support structures and buildings to tolerate stresses from wind, seismic activity, and other sources. For large-scale wind projects, civil engineers often prepare roadbeds to handle large trucks that haul in the turbines. In addition, they prepare the sites on the shore or offshore to make sure that the foundations for the turbines will safely keep them upright in expected environmental conditions.
Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.
Construction engineers manage construction projects, ensuring that they are scheduled and built in accordance with plans and specifications. These engineers typically are responsible for the design and safety of temporary structures used during construction.
Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). In addition, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.
Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as buildings, bridges, or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.
Transportation engineers plan, design, operate, and maintain everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ship ports, mass transit systems, and harbors.