Career Outlook

A degree from the Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) program is the start of an exciting, promising career that can go in many different directions. CEE graduates work in the private sector or for local, state, or federal government; they may also become consultants or go into academia or continue to graduate or law school.

Job Functions and Skills Required

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze data to plan projects
  • Consider factors such as construction costs, government regulations, and potential environmental hazards in planning stages
  • Test soil and building materials
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures to industry and government standards
  • Participate in surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Environmental engineers typically do the following, the BLS says:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects such as water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and operations that convert waste to energy
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and ensure quality control
  • Monitor environmental improvement programs
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to ensure environmental regulation compliance
  • Advise private and public organizations about contaminated site cleanup

The BLS says the following skills are critical to a successful civil engineering career:

  • Ability to make decisions
  • Ability to solve complex problems
  • Leadership
  • Math, such as calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics
  • Project management
  • Writing and communication

Environmental engineers need these additional skills, according to the BLS:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Systems analysis
  • Teamwork

Civil engineers who sell their own services are required by every state and the District of Columbia to be licensed. This means engineers must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination  after graduating from an ABET-accredited engineering program, such as WPI’s.

Job Outlook

For civil engineers, the BLS predicts 19 percent growth over the 2010-20 period--about as fast as average. Career opportunities will come from aging infrastructure, as well as a growing population, which taxes water supplies and waste treatment plants.

The BLS forecasts 22 percent job growth for environmental engineers from 2010-20, faster than average. Contaminated site cleanup by the federal government, concerns about water use, and the need to comply with state and federal environmental regulations all will spur job growth in this area.