You might not think about the work they do, but civil engineers can play a big part in the quality of your life. These professionals design roads, bridges and civil works projects such as dams, and play an essential role in ensuring that buildings are designed safely. With this huge responsibility comes a relatively high salary -- though as with all jobs, the starting salary is on the lower end of civil engineers' potential pay scale.
Average Starting Salary
According to a survey published by the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE) in September 2013, civil engineering graduates earned an average of $58,000 as a starting salary. The results are based on a survey of recent graduates. On the lowest end of the scale, civil engineers earned a starting salary of $46,800. On the high end, recent graduates earned $68,900. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary for all civil engineers surveyed was $85,640 a year as of May 2013. The lowest 10 percent of earners -- which likely includes many of those just starting out -- made $51,810 or less.
Your Employer Affects Income
As with most professions, who you choose to work for can impact how much you earn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and NACE, civil engineers working for the federal government tend to earn the highest median wage. They were followed by those working in local government. Rounding out the top five were civil engineers working at architectural and engineering firms, followed by state government and finally non-resident building construction. NACE lists engineers working in manufacturing as the lowest-paid in the field of civil engineering.
Location Affects Income
Where you work can impact how much you earn as a starting salary. The BLS reports that the top-paying states for civil engineers in 2013 were Texas, Alaska, California, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Of the 10 top-paying metropolitan areas, four were in California and three were in Texas. In general, professionals living on the east and west coasts and in urban areas earn more than those working in the Midwest states or in more rural areas.
To become a civil engineer, you typically need at least a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, though many earn a master's degree to further their education and opportunities. A master's degree is one way to earn more money as a civil engineer, and more than one in five civil engineers has one, according to the BLS. Another way to gain credibility and to make yourself more attractive to employers is to earn a license as a Professional Engineer (PE) through the state where you live or work. For some engineers, such as those approving drawings or plans, it's a requirement. State licensing boards are supported by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Civil Engineers: Pay
- National Society of Professional Engineers: Why Get Licensed
- ONet Online: Summary Report for Civil Engineers
- National Association of Colleges and Employers: NACE Salary Survey
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Civil Engineers
- Photo Credit Sandra Gligorijevic/iStock/Getty Images
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