Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers plan and design the construction of highways, bridges, utilities, and other major infrastructure projects. They also help with commercial, residential, and land development.
Civil engineering technicians typically do the following:
- Read and review project blueprints to determine dimensions of structures
- Confer with their supervisors about preparing plans and evaluating field conditions
- Inspect project sites and evaluate contractors’ work in order to detect problems with a design
- Test construction materials—especially concrete—and soil samples in laboratories
- Help to ensure that projects conform to design specifications and applicable codes
- Develop plans and estimate costs for installing systems and operating facilities
- Prepare reports and document project activities and data
Civil engineering technicians must work under the direction of licensed civil engineers. These technicians generally help civil engineers, often doing many of the same tasks as the engineers. However, because they are not licensed, civil engineering technicians cannot approve designs or supervise the overall project.
Civil engineering technicians sometimes estimate construction costs and specify materials to be used. Other times, they prepare drawings or survey land. They also may set up and monitor various instruments for traffic studies.
Civil engineering technicians held about 73,100 jobs in 2012.
Civil engineering technicians work in offices, where they help civil engineers plan and design projects. The industries that employed the most civil engineering technicians in 2012 were as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||44%|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||29|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||18|
Civil engineering technicians sometimes visit the jobsite where a construction project is taking place, in order to test materials or inspect the project. They do this to help ensure that the designs approved by licensed civil engineers are being carried out correctly.
Civil engineering technicians keep schedules that closely resemble those of construction workers. Thus, weather might determine a schedule on a given day. In addition, schedules vary with the length and completion of construction projects. Those who work primarily in laboratories to test construction materials have more stable work schedules.
Although not always required, an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is preferred for civil engineering technicians. It is best to seek programs that are accredited by ABET.
To prepare for programs in engineering technology after high school, prospective civil engineering technicians should take science and math courses, such as chemistry and calculus.
Employers generally prefer engineering technicians to have an associate’s degree from an ABET-accredited program, 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.
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.
Although an associate’s degree is preferred by most employers, prospective civil engineering technicians may enter the occupation after gaining work experience in a related occupation, particularly as a drafter. A worker who begins as a drafter for an engineering firm may advance to a civil engineering technician position as his or her knowledge of design improves.
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 verification of specific experience. NICET requires technicians to update their skills and knowledge through a recertification process that encourages continuing professional development.
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. It is also useful for civil engineering technicians to become proficient at reading profiles—graphical plans of proposed utility projects.
The median annual wage for civil engineering technicians was $47,560 in May 2012. 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 $30,430, and the top 10 percent earned more than $71,800.
In May 2012, median annual wages for civil engineering technicians in the top three industries in which most of these technicians were employed were as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||$53,600|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||46,900|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||43,770|
Civil engineering technicians keep schedules that closely resemble those of construction workers. Thus, weather might determine a schedule on a given day. Those who work primarily in laboratories to test construction materials have more stable work schedules.
Employment of civil engineering technicians is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022.
The need to maintain and repair the country’s infrastructure continues to increase. Bridges need rebuilding, roads need maintaining, and levees and dams need upgrading. Moreover, a growing population means that water systems must be maintained 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. With regard to wind energy, these engineering technicians may assist in the development of a wind farm to minimize costs while also accommodating the unique dimensions and weight of wind turbines. For installation of solar power, these engineering technicians make sure that civil engineers’ designs for foundations to hold up solar arrays are implemented correctly.
States, however, continue to face financial challenges and may have difficulty funding all the projects that need attention.
Civil engineering technicians learn to use design software that civil engineers might not learn 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 for employment.
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