Civil engineering is one of the oldest forms of engineering. Its principles go back to early human history when humans first started constructing shelters. Civil engineers help to design and plan buildings and infrastructure like roads, tunnels and bridges. A degree in civil engineering is a great starting point for working in a variety of other fields. In other words, there are many potential second careers for civil engineers to choose from and which can be both lucrative and personally rewarding.
Whether you are a new graduate just entering the workforce or a civil engineer looking for a career change, the list of civil engineering jobs below can help you to find your ideal career path.
1. Land Surveyor
Typical Salary Range: $60k-$70k
A land surveyor measures property boundaries for construction projects and records the results. This job is one of the most popular alternative jobs for civil engineers. As a result, many land surveyors hold civil engineering degrees. Both jobs require many of the same skills such as proficiency with computer-aided design (CAD) software, GPS systems and with engineering terminology. You will also need a civil engineer’s strong mathematical skills if you want to be a land surveyor. Keep in mind that one of the main parts of a land surveyor’s job description involves collaboration with civil engineers and architects so communication skills are important. Land surveyors work both in the field and in office environments.
2. CAD Technician
Typical Salary Range: $45k-$60k
Also known as a CAD operator, a CAD technician uses software to create 2D and 3D drawings for construction projects. You will take complex information and use it to produce diagrams for civil engineers and architects. Because CAD technicians interface with engineers regularly, a thorough knowledge of civil engineering terms and processes will be valuable for your employers. You should also have a basic understanding of building design. A CAD operator will need some of the same soft skills that civil engineers should possess like good time management skills, an eye for detail and the ability to communicate effectively.
3. Geotechnical Engineer
Typical Salary Range: $75k-$90k
All construction depends on the ground’s surface and what lies beneath it. A geotechnical engineer’s job is to investigate the geological formations and learn what impact they will have on construction projects. You will need a detailed understanding of soil and rock mechanics as well and the principles that govern construction. As a geotechnical engineer, your skills may be necessary to build residential and commercial buildings. They may also be useful for well-drilling and an understanding of how groundwater flows. Geotechnical engineering is a subspecialty of civil engineering, which means that many of the same qualifications will be valuable.
4. Urban Planner
Typical Salary Range: $65k-$75k
Urban planners work with local government officials to plan how land will be developed. They identify what communities need and develop solutions to meet those needs. They factor in both social and environmental concerns and may oversee projects and enforce zoning regulations. Because much of an urban planner’s duties will be construction-related and require you to work with civil engineers, a civil engineering degree will be particularly useful. Urban planners should be familiar with some of the same technology that civil engineers use including geographical information (GIS) systems. This job requires strong interpersonal skills as you will be interacting with engineering professionals as well as politicians and others from technical and non-technical backgrounds.
5. Structural Engineer
Typical Salary Range: $80k-$90k
Structural engineering is another civil engineering subspecialty. It is also sometimes described as one of the two main focuses of civil engineering, the other being construction engineering. Whereas civil engineers focus on a construction project’s design, a structural engineer’s role will be to inspect construction materials. You will be in charge of analyzing, constructing and maintaining structures for reinforcing or counteracting loads. Structural engineering is essential to the construction of safe infrastructures like buildings and bridges. A structural engineer will benefit a lot from a background in civil engineering. You will need many of the same hard skills such as familiarity with CAD software and strong mathematical proficiency. Civil engineering soft skills will be valuable here as well. You will need an eye for detail and solid communication/interpersonal skills.
6. Environmental Engineer
Typical Salary Range: $80k-$90k
An environmental engineer should have some of the same areas of expertise that a civil engineer uses to solve environmental problems. An environmental engineer’s job may involve remediating environmental conditions or they may be charged with protecting the environment with waste- and pollution-reduction strategies. Civil engineering skills will be useful as much of an environmental engineer’s work may be related to construction. They may design water reclamation facilities or implement plans for mitigating the environmental impacts of a construction project. As an environmental engineer, you may also be required to interact with civil engineers or others with a civil engineering background like geotechnical and structural engineers.
7. Construction Estimator
Typical Salary Range: $70k-$80k
A construction cost estimator’s job is to estimate how much time, money and materials a construction project will require. Your estimation skills will be essential to construction companies who need accurate estimates to bid on contracts competitively. Many employers will prefer to hire a civil engineer for this role. The job will require many of your civil engineer skills like the ability to read technical documents. You may be responsible for estimating the cost of the whole project or a single element of it. In addition to interacting with clients, you will also need to interact with engineers and architects as well as contractors.
8. Consulting Civil Engineer
Typical Salary Range: $90k-$105k
Also known as a civil engineering consultant, a consulting civil engineer will work with clients to provide advice and technical solutions on civil engineering projects. While the exact requirements of your role will vary from client to client, you will need a solid understanding of all aspects of civil engineering to carry out your job. A consulting civil engineer is an expert who will often be brought in to prevent or solve issues. You will need a high level of experience along with strong problem-solving skills and must be able to meet deadlines. As a consulting civil engineer, you may find work as an in-house consultant for a large architectural firm or contractor. work for a consulting firm Alternatively, you may choose self-employment. A flexible work schedule makes being a self-employed consultant one of the more attractive jobs for retired civil engineers.
9. Water Resources Engineer
Typical Salary Range: $50k-$80k
As a water resources engineer, you will be in charge of a water management facility’s systems and equipment. Your job description may involve the construction or maintenance of water resource control structures like dams, reservoirs and sea walls. Civil engineering skills like proficiency in soil science and familiarity with CAD software will be required by many employers. This job requires soft skills like the ability to work with a team and a keen eye for detail. Your responsibilities may include the submission of tender documents for construction as well as interfacing with contractors and government agencies.
10. Architectural and Engineering Manager
Typical Salary Range: $140k-$150k
The coordination of activities in an engineering company may be handled by an architectural and engineering manager. If you are a highly experienced civil engineer who is comfortable taking on a leadership role, this job might be ideal for you. An architectural and engineering manager will be heavily involved in the development of plans and designs. You will also select and assign staff for your firm’s projects. You will use your civil engineering experience to inform budget proposals and to make decisions about practices. As one of the leaders on construction projects, you will be supervising and communicating directly with civil engineers. You may also be called on to meet with clients to present bids to them as well as to explain technical information.
11. Technical Writer
Typical Salary Range: $55k-$75k
Are you looking for one of the more unconventional career options after civil engineering? A job as a technical writer might be worth considering, especially if you are a competent writer. A technical writer is sometimes referred to as a technical communicator. Your job will revolve around the preparation of instructional material and other complex technical documents. Your duties may include gathering and sharing information within your employer’s organization. You may write for engineers and other technically proficient consumers or simplify technical information for a more general readership. Other roles for technical writers include working on teams to improve designs and conducting research. As a technical writer, you can also freelance. Knowledge and experience in civil engineering are valuable if you want to specialize in construction and related fields. A freelance technical writer can choose how much work they want to take on, making this one of the better part-time jobs for retired civil engineers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of salaries can I expect from these alternative jobs?
A civil engineer’s median salary is a little over $87,000 per year according to 2019 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries for the alternative jobs on this list range from technical writers who earn slightly less with a median salary of around $72,000 to almost $145,000 on the higher end for architectural and engineering managers.
Will these jobs require additional qualifications?
Licensing in some of the alternative jobs above such as structural engineering varies by state and may not need additional qualifications beyond a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. For other positions like technical writer, a course can be useful but won’t be essential.
A civil engineering degree is a versatile qualification as you can see from the list above. It allows you to transition to various new careers with relative ease. If you decide that the pressures of working as an engineer are not for you, your mathematical knowledge and understanding of engineering principles can be valuable elsewhere. To help you choose the right option, consider the aspects of your current role that you most enjoy and look for the career that allows you to do more of them. Knowing what you want from your job is the first step in picking the right path.