Civil Engineering Technicians

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Civil Engineering Technicians Do[About this section] [To Top]

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers to plan, design, and build the highways, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They also help to plan, design, and build commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects.

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 pre-construction 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
  • Collect data and prepare analyses
  • 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, performing some of the same tasks as the engineers. However, because they are not licensed, civil engineering technicians cannot approve designs or supervise the overall project.

Civil engineering technicians assume varied duties on the job. They sometimes estimate construction costs and develop specifications. Other times, they prepare drawings or survey land. They also may set up and monitor various instruments for traffic studies. These technicians’ duties often require familiarity with and use of various computer programs to design projects, collect and analyze data, prepare correspondence and reports, and manage file systems.

Work Environment for Civil Engineering Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Civil engineering technicians held about 74,000 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most civil engineering technicians were as follows:

Engineering services 40%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 28
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 18
Construction 4

Civil engineering technicians work in offices, where they help civil engineers plan and design projects. Civil engineering technicians sometimes visit the jobsite where a construction project is taking place, to collect or test materials or observe the project.

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 also may work at several sites, using cars or trucks as a mobile office.

Civil Engineering Technician Work Schedules

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 are still subject to schedule variations related to construction.

How to Become a Civil Engineering Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Civil Engineering Technicians near you!

Although not always required, an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is preferred for employment as a civil engineering technician.

Civil Engineering Technician Education

To prepare for programs in engineering technology after high school, prospective civil engineering technicians should take science and math courses, such as chemistry, geometry, and calculus. 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.

Courses at technical or vocational schools may include engineering, design, and computer software. To complete an associate’s degree in, students also usually need to take other courses in liberal arts and the sciences.

Important Qualities for Civil Engineering Technicians

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. Pressures from deadlines mean 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.

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.

Other Experience

Although an associate’s degree is preferred by most employers, prospective civil engineering technicians may enter the occupation after gaining work experience in a related occupation, particularly as a drafter or 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 improves.

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.

Advancement for Civil Engineering Technicians

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. 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 with increasing knowledge of computer systems and application, in particular familiarity with word processing and spreadsheet programs, as well as geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS).

Civil Engineering Technician Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for civil engineering technicians was $48,340 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,060, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,860.

In May 2014, 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 $55,160
Construction 53,860
Engineering services 47,860
State government, excluding education and hospitals 44,200

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[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of civil engineering technicians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

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 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.

Civil engineering technicians also will find work assisting civil engineers with renewable-energy projects. With regard to wind energy, these engineering technicians may assist in the development of a wind farm to minimize costs while also accommodating the unique dimensions and weight of wind turbines. For installation of solar power, these engineering technicians make sure that civil engineers’ designs for foundations to hold up solar arrays are implemented correctly.

States, however, continue to face financial challenges and may have difficulty funding all the projects that need attention.

Civil Engineering Technicians Job Prospects

Civil engineering technicians learn to use design software that civil engineers might not learn 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 for employment.

Employment projections data for Civil Engineering Technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Civil engineering technicians 74,000 77,600 5 3,500


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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