T Nation

Any Civil Engineers?


I got my BSCE back in '02, and I have been working as a site civil engineer since then.

For about the last year or so, I've become kind of burned out from doing this type of work. So much of it is tedious and boring to me.

Anyway, I was curious to see if there are any other people here that are civil engineers, and have a job they enjoy doing.

Ive spent some time considering going back to school - things that I might consider are an MBA, masters in mechanical engineering, or possibly architecture. However, before I go that route, I know there are several different fields that civils can work in (structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, water management, etc) - and so Id like to try at least one other branch of C.E. before making a major career change and/or going back to school.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!


ur not alone, but im on he other side of the boat, i graduated in 01 with a BS in Mechanical Eng. BUT worked thru school in Civil Eng firms(why? i dont know) and eversince i graduated i've been working for Arch or Civil Eng. i work for a Land Surveying-Land Planning-Land Development type company here in San Diego, CA. im very pleased at what i do, its great $$ and experience, i would definitly recommend going for a MS in Civil, i cant ( no schools around here have any good Civil programs), DO NOT i repreat DO NOT go into Mecanical Eng. unless u live in the midwest ( they have all the good Mech eng. related companies). so far of what i have seen CA is good if ur into Civil, electrical or programming. NOT mechanical.
i hope this helps, go for the MS, u can never loose when it comes to getting a higher education.


I started out my career in civil engineering. I received my masters degree in environmental engineering. It was ok but not great earning potential unless you started your own consulting firm.

I worked at Exxon (in Everett, MA outside of Boston) during my undergrad and moved out to California to do my masters degree and ended up working at Texaco in Universal City. I was an environmental project manager overseeing the cleanup of about 20 service stations with leaking underground storage tanks.

After 2 years I was laid off as there was not a strong push by the California environmental agencies to force oil companies to spend more and more money for what was a contained problem at most service stations.

I moved to a consulting firm where I would try to get work from people like me in my previous position. We'll oversee groundwater monitoring for you, we'll dig holes, analyze dirt samples, write reports to be submitted to the agencies, etc.

After a year and half of that, I was sick of it. So I moved into a project management role for Fluor Daniel. They're the largest engineering and construction firm in the world. I would oversee/manage IT resources on 300-person projects that would be responsible for designing an oil refinery in Thailand (for example).

After 2 years of that, the dot com world came a calling and moved into a sales engineer role (i.e. technical sales role). I've been doing that ever since in one capacity or another and I would not go back to Civil/Environmental Engineering.

I didn't go back for any more formal schooling to make this transition. I did attend a brief stint (few weeks) of technical classes to get some technical certifications to validate my technical knowledge. This helped move me into the SE role I'm in today. I hope this helps.


All engineers need to get the hell out of the office and into the field. You can't do much cooped up in an office, and it's a heck of a lot more interesting out there in the real world. The engineers I work with (civil/mechanical/petroleum engineers) that have no spark of life left in them are the dolts that sit in their cubicals all day and have no contact with the field work going on. I think they are intimidated by the contractors/union crew workers. Anyhow, to make your job more interesting, get the hell out of the office on occasion ! Look at your project from the field guy's point of view. See the world !!


I am an ME, and I agree that field work is good for all engineers. I work in manufacturing, and I'm probably in the factory doing hand-on stuff 1/4 of the time. Also listening to the mechanics and operators of the machines helps me be a better engineer.

Plus sitting in a cube is boring and fattening.


Thanks for the replies.

Colombian - you said you enjoy what you're doing. What specifically is it that you do at the firm you're working at? I work at the same type of firm, and I suppose there's a chance you do something different - different department perhaps.

Randman - sounds like you have quite a diverse resume! The sales engineering thing sounds interesting to me. What type of product do you sell? Does it involve you having to cold-call a lot of people? I dont want to turn this into 20 questions - but I'm interested to know more about what your job entails - like do you help customers determine which of your products would best fit their needs?

Magyar & got_beer - I think Id be considerably happier at my job if I got out to the field more. However, we have a different department that takes care of construction management/inspection, so my managers dont see any need for me to be out there.

On another note - I know some people that work for construction management companies, and although they make a lot more, and they're out in the field more, I hear they get stuck working horrible hours. So I'm not sure it's for me...gotta have time to workout! :slight_smile:


I'm a high school student looking to major in engineering... and I know I don't want to major in civil engineering... (I've done research in it at a university before)

but I'm looking into majoring in Mechanical Engineering... any engineers want to tell me if their job is fun or boring?


I sell enterprise software that helps companies automate their supply chain or trading partner communities (customers and suppliers). The sales executive [aka Account Executive (AE)] is resonsible for developing the business (i.e. cold calls). Your job is to be the technical expert or software expert or industry expert or all three.

You will help uncover opportunities once the AE secures meetings with prospects. What are their business needs? What are their pain points? Once you find these out, you match one of the products you sell that will help solve these business pains. You may demonstrate the product's capabilities customized to their business, respond to Request For Proposals, answer technical questions, etc.

Your job is to tailor your message based on your audience. You need to be comfortable with public speaking, have good writing skills, and a capacity to take complex concepts and communicate them in ways that others can understand. Ultimately this results in sales if your effective.

A software sales engineer is great way to earn a living. You don't have as much upside potential as an AE but you also don't have as much risk. If the AE misses a few quarters of quota, he's out on his ear. As long as you are doing a good job, however, it is less likely that you will be laid off. Of course, if your company is missing sales quarter after quarter everyone needs to worry.

I'm making more doing this than I would have ever made as a civil/environmental engineer. It also requires some travel depending on the company or territory. It's not that easiest thing to break into though if you have no software experience but it can be done. I did it. How I did it is another thread altogether.


I should also add that you don't have to break into the software field to become a sales engineer. There are sales engineers selling civil engineer type products and services as well as mechanical sales engineers. It's just that software sales engineers typically make the most money.

You'll have some type of base salary and then a certain percentage upside in the form of bonuses or commissions depending on how much your AE, or region, or company sell on a quarter to quarter basis. Obviously your a key component to help make those sales happen.

One more thing, you need to evaluate your own skill set to determine if this is a good fit. You need good analytical skills as well as people skills.


I am an ME, and my job is to continually improve a manufacturing process. This involves both working with machinery, as well as statistical analyses of the produced ware. I wouldn't say it's fun, but it's not boring.

Engineering is hard compared to other majors. If you want to do it, I think you'll do fine, but be prepared to work harder then nearly all non-engineering majors.


I am civil engineer in Alaska. Been with the same firm for 4 years now. I don't mind it too much although being in Alaska, we get to work on some pretty unique projects and I am always getting to visit pretty interesting places.

As far as getting burned out....I can understand. I don't wake up excited to do engineering, but the $$$ is good and it beats a lot of other fields. Ultimately I am more of an entrpenuer and have been branching out into a few businesses and real estate but the civil engineering is a great backup that has been stable through the years.


dude i was in ur same boat, BUT i made a mistake, i studies ME instead of CE, depending on where u are one or the othe is better paid, both fields are great and have alot to offer, choose one that u feel u have better knowledge or at least a better feel.luckly i got a degree in ME but a hell a lot of experience in CE, so i can go either way.


Colombian - you said you enjoy what you're doing. What specifically is it that you do at the firm you're working at? I work at the same type of firm, and I suppose there's a chance you do something different - different department perhaps.

i get to visit interesteign site, i do alot of land design, land development, big and small scale, i get to see some wierd shit too, here in San Diego, theres way toooo many people with alot of $$$$ and wierd ideas, and its our job here to make them come alive.


u are sooo freakn right, i was going over my schools courses in the diferent fields (www.eafit.edu.co) and noticed that ONLY mechanical engineering has the crazy semester, i.e. the average semester i did was 27 credits ( the max was like 29), to graduate i needed to complete the course that had a total of 276 credits (11 semesters) while all the other Engineer's had only around 180-190 credit to graduate, they really raped us, damn, no wonder my brain is all messed up


Mechanical Engineers design weapons, Civil Engineers design targets.


My husband is a ME - he sits in front of a computer for ten hours a day, in a tiny cubicle. We live in Michigan, and his job is totally reliant upon the auto industry, which is a bad, bad thing.

He gets laid off every summer due to lack of work, and when the jobs do come in in the fall, they make him work 60 - 70 hour weeks because the salesmen make ridiculous promises to the customer regarding timelines.

With the financial state of the Big Three and their suppliers, take my advice and avoid any field that has anything to do with the auto industry.


I have been a civil/environmental engineer for 17 years. I've worked for design consultants and construction companies. Most of my work has been cleaning up contaminated sites, but within that specialty every project is different and you get to do something new constantly. There is a world of difference between design consulting and construction. When I was managing construction projects, I travelled constantly for about 7 years. The work was very satisfying and I got to see a lot of the world, but it was very demanding. I basically ate, slept, and worked and did nothing else. It's great for a while and gives you irreplaceable expertise, but you can't do it forever. If you decide to try to have a life and scale back the work hours, you'll easily be replaced because there will always be someone else who is willing to kill themselves. But don't get me wrong, those 7 years had some of the best times of my life.

There's going to be a lot of civil/environmental work in the future as our planet accommodates the growing population. You'll be able to choose what type of role you want (designer or constructor or hybrid of the two)- each has it's pros and cons. One thing is for sure if you want a good career in civil/environmental: you're going to travel. You have to go to where the projects are, they don't come to you.