The Basics of Construction Engineering

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The Basics of Construction Engineering

Construction engineers fulfill many project duties. They work with different project types and can earn an impressive salary. Those salaries come with matching responsibilities, and, therefore, firms may look for construction engineers with special traits. Once employed, there are several career paths that a construction engineer may take – each with increasing responsibilities and earnings.

Construction Engineering Day to Day

On the job, a construction firm may hold a civil engineer responsible for several duties. A firm may hire a construction engineer to produce a structure. This can include planning the structure, designing the construction plans and overseeing the project build. The engineer normally begins the process by determining exactly what the client needs and making sure that the client’s vision is achievable. Next, the engineer will survey the proposed land and begin to determine what geographical modifications are necessary to support the structure. The construction engineer will then design plans for the foundation and structure. Finally, the engineer will manage the build through to its completion.

Construction Engineers by the Numbers

Construction engineering, a civil engineering discipline, can involve many structure types.

These may include:

  • Airstrips and airports
  • Automotive and pedestrian bridges
  • Building structures
  • Energy utility plants
  • Highway routes
  • Irrigation systems
  • Municipal dams
  • Municipal infrastructures
  • Railway systems
  • Shipping channels
  • Wastewater processing plants
  • Water pipelines
  • Water processing plants
  • Waterfronts

A construction engineer may specialize in architecture, structural design, transportation, coastal and ocean engineering or engineering geology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineers’ salaries can range from almost $53,000 to $130,000 annually. Construction engineers work in many settings in the public and private sector. In the private sector, engineers may work with residential or commercial projects. Working civil engineer numbers vary by state, with some states employing only 250 engineers and others with close to 40,000 working in a single state. These engineers work to keep structures working and safe for society.

Construction Engineer Work Responsibilities

An employer may need varied services from a construction engineer. The firm may need an engineer to offer technical project consultation, beginning with planning a structure and on to overseeing the build and making sure the project stays on schedule. The engineer may also direct and assist management in performing these duties. A firm may also need a construction engineer to act as a liaison with the many third-party firms committed to the project. The engineer may supervise third-party contractors’ work as well.

A firm may also hire an engineer to monitor project costs. In this instance, the firm requires that the engineer keeps all costs in line with the budget and records all unforeseen expenses. This includes making that sure that all workers use the available resources as planned. The engineer may also work with the procurement staff to obtain supplies and materials at or below the planned costs.

Another important engineering job duty is risk management. This job duty includes finding ways to mitigate risk. For a construction engineer, any event that may lead to litigation is a risk. From a project perspective, litigation is a threat to the budget and possibly the timeline. From a human perspective, all engineers work to make structures safe for society during and after the build. This includes the workers who construct the structure.

Educational Requirements for Construction Engineers

Construction engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. The engineer must have earned their degree from an accredited learning institution. Engineering hopefuls must learn skills such as math, statistics, engineering systems and fluid dynamics. They must also earn a professional engineer’s license in the state that they will practice. Engineering is a competitive field. Only twenty-five percent of engineers go on to earn their master’s degree. This distinction can help construction engineers gain the edge needed to outperform other competitors.

What Employers Look for in Construction Engineers

Various firms want construction engineers with soft skills. This may include an engineer’s commitment to a project. Firms may also look for engineers who understand how important diversity is in the workplace. Additionally, a firm may want indications that the engineer follows ethical guidelines.

An employer may also want an engineer who knows how to connect with people. It is important that a construction engineer has this trait, because ultimately people build structures – not plans. Therefore, a construction engineer also needs strong leadership skills as well as an analytical mind.

Construction Engineering Occupational Tracks

A construction engineer generally focuses on a specific discipline. Building construction engineers plan and erect residential and commercial structures. Transportation construction engineers may work on highway, railway, airport and waterway projects. Mechanical construction engineers may plan and install heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Electrical construction engineers may work with residential or commercial electric utility service projects. They may also plan and design the electrical infrastructure for an entire municipality.

Career Paths in Construction Engineering

A firm has several career paths that a construction engineer may pursue. A project engineer, or assistant project engineer, reports to the project manager in this entry-level construction engineer position. The superintendent construction engineer is a front line manager who oversees daily operations. A senior project manager focuses on project performance metrics such as scheduling and costs. On the executive level, the construction engineering vice president or operations manager oversees the assistant project engineers, superintendents and the senior project managers and acts as a liaison between the public, clients and third party contractors.

A construction engineer has many responsibilities and may work with just as many project types. Although construction engineering is challenging, an engineer’s salary is equally rewarding. To meet those challenges, construction firms want engineers who know how to work with people as well as numbers. The better an engineer is in balancing these two abilities, the higher they may rise up the corporate hierarchy.

Learn More

Civil engineers play a crucial role in engineering the structural solutions of tomorrow and plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructure essential to our modern lives. As a student in the online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program, you can enhance your quantitative decision-making skills and learn how to justify managerial decisions with data. You will also explore the capabilities of modern management technologies and discover how to successfully leverage these tools to maximize efficiencies in your projects and on your teams.