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Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Show Details

Duties

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a projectís economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft. Show Details

Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment such as broadcast and communications systems, from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS). Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware. Show Details

Duties

Electrical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products
  • Do detailed calculations to compute manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications
  • Direct manufacturing, installing, and testing to ensure that the product as built meets specifications and codes
  • Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions
  • Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget

Electronics engineers typically do the following:

  • Design electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications
  • Analyze electrical system requirements, capacity, cost, and customer needs and then develop a system plan
  • Develop maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment
  • Evaluate systems and recommend repair or design modifications
  • Inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure they meet safety standards and applicable regulations
  • Plan and develop applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems to improve technical performance

Electronics engineers who work for the federal government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in diverse technologies, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. They work on federal electronic devices and systems, including satellites, flight systems, radar and sonar systems, and communications systems.

The work of electrical engineers and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to do engineering tasks. Both types of engineers must also work with other engineers to discuss existing products and possibilities for engineering projects.

Engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers. For more information about this occupation, see the profile on computer hardware engineers.

Fire Inspectors and Investigators

Fire inspectors visit and inspect buildings and other structures, such as sports arenas and shopping malls, to search for fire hazards and to ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. They also test and inspect fire protection and fire extinguishing equipment to ensure that it works. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires by searching the surrounding scene and collecting evidence. Show Details

Duties

Fire inspectors typically do the following:

  • Search for fire hazards
  • Ensure that buildings comply with fire codes
  • Test fire alarms, sprinklers, and other fire protection and extinguishing equipment
  • Inspect equipment such as gasoline storage tanks and air compressors
  • Review emergency evacuation plans
  • Conduct follow-up visits when an infraction is found
  • Confer with developers and planners to review plans for residential and commercial buildings
  • Conduct fire and life safety education programs
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law

Fire investigators typically do the following:

  • Collect and analyze evidence
  • Interview witnesses
  • Determine the origin and cause of a fire
  • Process and document evidence, such as photographs and diagrams
  • Reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson
  • Confer with other specialists, such as chemists, engineers, and attorneys, to analyze information
  • Send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or an accelerant
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings

Unlike fire inspectors, many fire investigators have police powers and carry a weapon.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas. They look for issues that pose a wildfire risk and recommend ways to reduce the fire hazard. During patrols, they ensure that the public is following fire regulations and report fire conditions to central command.

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