Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.
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 project’s 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.
Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.
Industrial engineers typically do the following:
- Review production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information to understand manufacturing and service methods and activities
- Figure out how to manufacture parts or products or deliver services with maximum efficiency
- Develop management control systems to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient
- Enact quality control procedures to resolve production problems or minimize costs
- Work with customers and management to develop standards for design and production
- Design control systems to coordinate activities and production planning to ensure that products meet quality standards
- Confer with clients about product specifications, vendors about purchases, management personnel about manufacturing capabilities, and staff about the status of projects
Industrial engineers apply their skills to many different situations from manufacturing to business administration. For example, they design systems for
- moving heavy parts within manufacturing plants
- getting goods from a company to customers, including finding the most profitable places to locate manufacturing or processing plants
- evaluating how well people do their jobs
- paying workers
In all these different projects, industrial engineers focus on how get the work done most efficiently, balancing many factors—such as time, number of workers needed, actions workers need to take, achieving the end with no errors, technology that is available, workers' safety, environmental concerns, and cost.
To find ways to reduce waste and improve performance, industrial engineers first study product requirements carefully. Then they use mathematical methods and models to design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements most efficiently.