Guide to getting a bachelor in civil engineering
Referred to as the world’s oldest engineering discipline, civil engineering focuses on the so-called built environment. Built environments have defined civilizations as far back as the Sumerians of Ancient Mesopotamia. The environments civil engineers helped create have transformed over the centuries, from dirt roads and aqueducts to highway systems, skyscrapers, and airports.
Modern built environments are increasingly complex. Civil engineers are employed in a wide range of industries, overseeing projects such as the construction of new roads and bridges. There are numerous other roles and specialties within the civil engineering field, from geotechnical engineering to water resources engineering.
To help you decide if a bachelor in civil engineering is right for you, we cover the essentials about this degree path and the careers that it makes possible. Find the ideal program for you by exploring our best schools for civil engineering.
What can you do with a bachelor’s in civil engineering?
Engineers who have recently earned their bachelor’s degree are usually qualified for entry-level positions. After 4 years’ work experience, civil engineering graduates can pursue licensure as professional engineers and eventually become qualified for higher-level roles such as team leader or senior engineer.
Should you get a bachelor’s in civil engineering?
Civil engineering is a field well-suited for those with strong mathematic, analytic, and problem-solving skills. Compared to other engineering disciplines, civil engineering tends to offer more opportunities to work on large-scale projects that impact hundreds or thousands of individuals.
Important considerations when choosing a degree include earnings and career stability. The chart below is a short-term earnings comparison between the entire bachelor’s degree market and the bachelor in civil engineering, 3 years after graduation.
Bachelor of civil engineering
The above is a longer-term estimate of degree performance. It is based on census survey data detailing people’s major, age, and salary.
The average wage of civil engineers increases with age at a rate comparable to that of all other bachelor’s degree holders, with a slightly lower dip in wages in the final years before retirement.
How to pick a bachelor’s in civil engineering
Choosing the right civil engineering program for you involves several factors. Here we touch on some of the most important things to consider.
Check whether the program is accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET). Enrolling in an ABET-accredited civil engineering program ensures you qualify for federal financial aid and future licensure. Accreditation also indicates that the program meets rigorous academic standards.
Consider the specific civil engineering concentration that you would like to study.
Common civil engineering concentrations include:
- Construction management
Construction management engineers are tasked with planning, designing, and managing both public and commercial construction projects.
- Environmental engineering
Environmental engineering is a civil engineering concentration that focuses on helping companies limit their environmental impact through a variety of innovative solutions to ecological issues.
- Geotechnical engineering
Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that focuses on the behavior of geological materials within engineered systems such as foundation engineering, ground improvement, and earthquake resistance engineering.
- Structural engineering
Related to construction management, structural engineering focuses on the design and management of both private and public infrastructure projects.
- Transportation engineering
Transportation engineering focuses on the design, construction, and maintenance of transportation infrastructures such as roads, railways, bridges, and airports.
- Water resources engineering
Water resources engineering focuses on the design, construction, and maintenance of water systems such as water treatment plants, supply systems, pipelines, and pump systems.
- Materials engineering
Materials engineering focuses on the design and application of new materials, helping organizations choose the ideal materials for whatever their civil engineering project happens to require.
The best bachelor in civil engineering programs
Find below our ratings of the comparative earnings, costs, and payback rates of civil engineering undergraduate programs.
How much does a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering cost?
The table below shows the average cost, earnings, and payback periods for civil engineering degrees from both public and private universities.
» Read: What is the ROI of your degree?
See above how cost and earnings vary depending on the type of institution. Payback refers to how many years it takes students to cover the median costs while earning the median salary. Payback is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of a high school graduate from the median earnings related to this degree.
Civil engineering degrees from public universities tend to be more affordable than private universities while still offering comparable earnings. This means that those who earn their civil engineering degree from a public university can expect a much shorter payback period.
Financial aid and scholarships for civil engineering students
Taking advantage of all available financial aid opportunities is an excellent way to lower the cost of earning a civil engineering degree. Financial aid for civil engineers can come in several different forms, including student loans, grants, work-study programs, need- and merit-based scholarships. As with any other degree program, the first step is to complete the FAFSA form available on the Federal Student Aid website. The FAFSA is used to determine how much need-based federal financial aid you are eligible for.
» Read: What are need-blind admissions?
To get started on your search for financial aid as a civil engineering major, use our scholarship widget below.
What to expect from a bachelor in civil engineering
The first 2 years of your bachelor’s are usually spent taking core courses in math and science. Junior and senior years are when you take specialized civil engineering courses.
What are the admission requirements for a bachelor of civil engineering?
The admissions requirements for civil engineering programs differ from school to school. Common requirements include a high-school GPA of 3.0 or higher and minimum scores on the SAT and/or ACT exams as set by the school of your choice.
How long does it take to get a bachelor of civil engineering?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering typically takes 4 years.
Civil engineering students are not required to complete an internship to earn their degree. With that said, signing up for internships can be a great way to build experience in the field.
After graduating with your bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, taking and passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is the first step toward earning your license as a professional engineer. The FE Exam is offered in several different versions that are geared toward various engineering disciplines. Civil engineering graduates typically take the FE Civil.
After passing the FE and gaining a minimum of 4 years of work experience, you are eligible to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam to become professional licensed engineers. While neither the FE nor the PE exam are absolute requirements for work in the field, civil engineering roles that serve the public almost always require licensure.
In 1905, Nora Stanton Blatch became the first woman to earn a degree in civil engineering after completing the civil engineering program at Cornell University.
What type of courses are there in a bachelor of civil engineering?
Civil engineering students take a wide range of mathematics and applied science courses, including physics, statics, dynamics, and thermodynamics. Some of the more specialized courses you can take as a civil engineering major include:
Working with water is a common requirement for civil engineers. In a fluid mechanics and hydraulics course, you can look forward to learning all about the movement of water and its interactions within various systems.
In a structural analysis course, civil engineering students can expect to learn how to calculate the various loads placed on a building or other structure in order to analyze the structure’s safety and durability.
Choosing the right materials is a vital component of structural design. In a materials engineering course, you can expect to learn all about the different properties of various building materials and how to analyze and design materials for specific applications.
Geotechnical engineering courses teach civil engineering students how to work with geological materials within engineered systems, focusing on disciplines such as building foundations, earthquake engineering, soil liquefaction, landslide stabilization, and ground improvement.
Civil engineers are often required to take on team leader roles within construction projects. In a leadership and business principles for civil engineers course, you can learn more about the human resources and financial side of project management to prepare you to take on leadership and decision-making positions as a civil engineer.
What type of degrees are there in civil engineering?
Depending on your college and university, the title of your bachelor in industrial and systems engineering may vary.
The most common degree titles include:
- Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng. or B.E.)
- Bachelor of Science (B.Sc. or B.S.)
- Bachelor of Science Engineering (B.Sc.Eng.)
- Bachelor of Engineering Science (B.Eng.Sc.)
- Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech.)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.)
Most of these titles are interchangeable, as long as they were earned at an accredited institution.
What type of careers can I have with a bachelor in civil engineering?
A bachelor in civil engineering is a highly versatile degree, opening doors to many different career opportunities. Engineering career paths typically follow a level progression, such as Level I, II, II, all the way up to the senior engineer level, letting you progress and move up as you gain experience.
After completing your bachelor’s, you can continue on to a master’s in civil engineering. This graduate degree prepares you for research and development, leadership, or academic roles.
FAQs about getting a bachelor’s in civil engineering
Can you become an architect with a civil engineering degree?
Civil engineering and architecture do overlap in some respects, but the fields are quite distinct. Architects focus on the art and science of designing buildings, while civil engineers have a much broader sphere of activities, many of which are related to building design.
Can you get a civil engineering degree online?
A significant majority – 99.1% – of civil engineering undergraduate programs are available in person only. The hands-on and lab work, in-person training, and group collaboration required for efficient learning mean engineering degrees are best completed on campus.
Do I need a PE license to be a civil engineer?
Licensure requirements vary by state, but civil engineers usually require licensure if they provide services directly to the public. A bachelor’s degree is often enough to get an entry-level position in the field. Completing the FE exam shortly after graduation allows you to qualify for the PE exam and license after 4 years of working in the field.
Do I need a license to teach engineering?
Certain states require a PE license to teach upper-level engineering courses, but it is not required nationally. Colleges and universities often require candidates to complete a graduate degree program before taking on an instructor position.
The ASCE, founded in 1852, is the oldest American engineering society. It represents more than 150,000 members across 177 countries.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors. They administer both the FE and PE examinations for engineers.
Obtaining a PE license is an excellent way to stand out in your field and open up a wide range of additional employment opportunities. The NCEES provides information about the PE exam, which can be taken after working in your engineering discipline for 4 years and previously passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.