Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They also help to plan, design, and build commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects.

Duties

Civil engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Read and review project drawings and plans to determine the sizes of structures
  • Confer with engineers about preparing plans
  • Use computer aided design software under the charge of engineers
  • Evaluate preconstruction field conditions
  • Observe project sites and evaluate contractors’ work to detect problems with a design
  • Test construction materials and soil samples in laboratories
  • Help to ensure that project construction conforms to design specifications and applicable codes
  • Develop plans and estimate costs for constructing systems and operating facilities
  • Prepare reports and document project activities and data
  • Set up and help maintain project files and records

Civil engineering technicians typically work under the charge of licensed civil engineers. These technicians generally help civil engineers by observing progress on a jobsite, collecting data, and completing routine reports to document project activities. Because they are not licensed, civil engineering technicians cannot approve designs or supervise the overall project.

Civil engineering technicians assume varied duties on the job. They sometimes estimate construction costs and develop specifications. Other times, they prepare drawings or survey land. They also may set up and monitor various instruments for traffic studies. These technicians’ duties often require familiarity with and use of various computer programs to design projects, collect and analyze data, prepare correspondence and reports, and manage file systems.

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Work Environment

Civil engineering technicians held about 73,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of civil engineering technicians were as follows:

Engineering services 43%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 28
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 16
Construction 2

Civil engineering technicians work in offices, where they help civil engineers plan and design projects. Civil engineering technicians also visit jobsites where a construction project is taking place, to collect or test materials or observe the project and act as a project inspector.

When civil engineering technicians visit the jobsite where a construction project is taking place, they may test materials, assist in surveying, or perform field observations in order to help ensure that the designs approved by licensed civil engineers are being built correctly and in a timely manner. Civil engineering technicians may work at several sites, using cars or trucks as a mobile office.

Civil engineering technicians frequently work in teams with civil engineers, surveyors and surveying techniciansconstruction workers, and others involved with projects.

Work Schedules

Civil engineering technicians usually work full time. When civil engineering technicians work at construction sites, their schedules may be subject to factors that affect construction, such as bad weather. In addition, their schedules vary with the length and completion of construction projects. Those who work mostly in laboratories to test construction materials have more stable work schedules, but may still experience schedule variations related to construction.

Education and Training

Although not always required, an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is preferred for employment as a civil engineering technician.

Education

To prepare for programs in engineering technology after high school, prospective civil engineering technicians should take science and math courses, such as chemistry, physics, geometry, and trigonometry. They should also have basic knowledge of the use of computers.

Employers generally prefer engineering technicians to have an associate’s degree from a program accredited by ABET, although a degree is not always required. Engineering technology programs are also available at technical or vocational schools that award a postgraduate certificate or diploma.

Courses at technical or vocational schools may include engineering, design, and computer software. To complete an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology, students also usually need to take other courses in liberal arts and the sciences.

Other Experience

Another path for prospective civil engineering technicians is to enter the occupation after gaining work experience in a related occupation, particularly as a drafter or a computer aided design (CAD) operator. A worker who begins as a drafter or CAD operator for an engineering firm may advance to a civil engineering technician position as his or her knowledge of design and construction increases.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification is not needed to enter this occupation, but it can help technicians advance their careers. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) is one of the primary organizations overseeing certification for civil engineering technicians.

Certification as a technician requires passing an exam and providing documentation, including a work history, recommendations, and for most programs, supervisor confirmation of specific experience. NICET requires technicians to update their skills and knowledge through a recertification process that encourages continuing professional development.

Advancement

Civil engineering technicians can advance in their careers by learning to design systems for a variety of projects, such as storm sewers and sanitary systems, or traffic signal systems. It is also useful for civil engineering technicians to become skilled at reading plans and profiles—the graphical depiction of proposed projects.

Civil engineering technicians can also benefit from increasing their knowledge of computer systems and applications; in particular, familiarity with word processing and spreadsheet programs, as well as geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS).

Personality and Interests

Civil engineering technicians typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a civil engineering technician, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Civil engineering technicians should also possess the following specific qualities:

Critical-thinking skills. As assistants to civil engineers, civil engineering technicians must help the engineers identify problems to avoid wasting time, effort, and funds.

Decision-making skills. Pressures from deadlines mean that technicians must quickly see which types of information are most important and which plan of action will help keep the project on schedule.

Math skills. Civil engineering technicians use math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Observational skills. Civil engineering technicians sometimes have to go to jobsites and assess a project for the engineer. Therefore, they must know what to look for and how best to report back to the engineer who is overseeing the project.

Problem-solving skills. Like civil engineers, civil engineering technicians help design projects to solve a particular problem. Technicians must be able to understand and work with all the related systems involved in building a project.

Reading skills. Civil engineering technicians carry out plans and designs for projects that a civil engineer has approved. They must be able to understand all the reports describing these designs.

Writing skills. Civil engineering technicians often are asked to relay their findings in writing. The reports must be well organized and clearly written.

Pay

The median annual wage for civil engineering technicians was $53,410 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,650.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for civil engineering technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals $60,510
Construction 55,420
Engineering services 54,430
State government, excluding education and hospitals
45,440

Civil engineering technicians usually work full time. When civil engineering technicians work at construction sites, their schedules may be subject to factors that affect construction, such as bad weather. In addition, schedules vary with the length and completion of construction projects. Those who work mostly in laboratories to test construction materials have more stable work schedules.

Job Outlook

Employment of civil engineering technicians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The need to preserve, repair, upgrade, and enhance the country’s infrastructure continues to increase. Bridges, roads, levees, airports, and dams will need to be rebuilt, maintained, and upgraded. Also, a growing population means that water systems must be maintained in order to reduce or eliminate loss of drinkable water. In addition, more waste treatment plants will be needed to help clean the nation’s waterways. Civil engineers must plan, design, and oversee this work, and civil engineering technicians will be needed to assist the engineers in these projects.

Civil engineering technicians also will find work assisting civil engineers with renewable-energy projects. For wind energy projects, these engineering technicians may assist in the development of a wind farm by helping engineers devise solutions to minimize project costs while accommodating for the unique dimensions and weight of wind turbines. For installation of solar power infrastructure, these engineering technicians make sure that civil engineers’ designs for foundations to hold up solar arrays are implemented correctly.

Job Prospects

Prospective civil engineering technicians may face strong competition for job openings. Civil engineering technicians learn to use design software that civil engineers might not have learned in their college curriculum. Thus, those civil engineering technicians who master that software, keep their skills current, and stay abreast of new software will improve their chances of finding employment.

For More Information

For more information about summer apprenticeships in civil engineering, visit

Pathways to Science

For more information about accredited programs, visit

ABET

For more information about certification, visit

American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians

National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)

 

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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