Civil Engineering Technicians
|Quick Facts: Civil Engineering Technicians|
|2017 Median Pay||$51,620 per year
$24.82 per hour
|Typical Entry-Level Education||Associate's degree|
|Work Experience in a Related Occupation||None|
|Number of Jobs, 2016||74,500|
|Job Outlook, 2016-26||9% (As fast as average)|
|Employment Change, 2016-26||6,600|
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Civil Engineering Technicians Career, Salary and Education Information
What Civil Engineering Technicians Do
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.
Civil Engineering Technicians
Duties of civil engineering technicians
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.
Work Environment for Civil Engineering Technicians
Civil engineering technicians held about 74,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of civil engineering technicians were as follows:
Engineering services: 42%
State government, excluding education and hospitals: 29%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals: 17%
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 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.
How to Become a Civil Engineering Technician
Although not always required, an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is preferred for employment as a civil engineering technician.
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.
Critical-thinking skills. As assistants to civil engineers, civil engineering technicians must be able to help the engineers identify and solve problems; to develop infrastructure plans; and to help agencies avoid wasting time, effort, and funds.
Decisionmaking skills. Pressure from deadlines means that technicians must be able to quickly discern which types of information are most important for the work at hand, 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. For this reason, they need to be familiar with algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
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. Thus, they must be able to understand all the reports, plans, and documents describing these designs.
Writing skills. Civil engineering technicians often are asked to relay their findings in writing. They must be able to write reports that are well organized and clearly written.
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.
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.
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).
salaries for Civil Engineering Technicians
The median annual wage for civil engineering technicians was $51,620 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.
In May 2017, 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: $58,720
Engineering services: $52,270
State government, excluding education and hospitals: $45,090
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 for civil engineering technicians
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.
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.
Employment projections data for Civil Engineering Technicians, 2016-26
Employment, 2016: 74,500
Projected Employment, 2026: 81,100
Change, 2016-2026: +9%, +6,600
Careers Related to civil engineering technicians
Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.
Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.
Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth's surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors and cartographers and photogrammetrists.
Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Civil Engineering Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineering-technicians.htm