Building a Career in Construction Engineering

As a professional discipline that involves infrastructure design, planning, construction, and management, construction engineering practitioners could best be described as problem solvers. They are a vital cog in creating the bridges, dams, airports, highways, railroads, and utilities that will best meet the community's needs and best suit the specific environmental conditions.

Competent construction engineering requires an understanding of the life cycles of the various types of infrastructure. Thus, engineers not only must have a complete knowledge of math and physical science, but they also must have the ingenuity and imagination to put technical challenges into perspective and find creative solutions. Other assets needed include astute people management, and good communication, time management, and analytical thinking skills.

Obtaining credentials as a construction engineering specialist will require the completion of a college or university degree program. Those entering the design field will need to follow their schooling with licensing as a professional engineer (PE). It takes four years of post-graduate work to become licensed.

Schools that have been accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission or the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology will offer a mix of curricula in engineering design, construction management, and engineering mechanics as well as in basic science and mathematics. Most entry-level posts only require a bachelor's degree. However, graduate studies will allow the student to go into more depth in specific areas of construction and obtain degrees  in such topics as engineering management, civil engineering, or business administration.

Construction engineering should not be confused with construction management, though some of the functions will overlap, depending on the project. A construction engineer can sit for the PE license, while a site manager cannot. Construction managers are more focused on the management of people and the processes needed to complete a particular project. Engineers, including civil engineers, will take those elements into account, but will be more focused on design work.

Entry level work can depend on the career track the budding construction engineer is planning. Designers, for example, typically will be assigned as support personnel to project managers and will help with design concepts and scopes as well as developing estimates of the cost for planning and construction.

Those pursuing more of a construction management career can look for starter positions as assistant project engineers. Here, they will take on the responsibility of developing purchasing requisitions as needed, of processing change orders, taking meeting minutes, and writing budget reports. As noted before, construction management jobs typically do not require a PE license, though obtaining one may give the applicant an advantage when dealing with employers since they will be qualified to approve temporary designs for structures. Visit our website for more information.

Experienced construction engineers will be called upon to survey the area where a project is to be built to ensure that governmental codes and environmental issues are considered. They then must prepare a cost estimate taking into account the costs of labor, site preparation, materials, equipment, and any testing that needs to be done.

Job prospects are expected to grow by about 20 percent through 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes work on electrical systems, commercial housing, business building, and mechanical systems as well as on infrastructure.