North Central College students work on a civil engineering project.

How Much Do Civil Engineers Make?

Reviewed by Jacob Imm

Jan 26, 2022

Civil Engineer Salary: How Much Do Civil Engineers Make?

Whether you know it or not, you probably interact with the work of a civil engineer daily. But, what does a civil engineer do, exactly? Every time you cross a bridge or use public transportation, you experience the efforts of a civil engineer firsthand. These engineers design and build essential infrastructures across the country; without them, moving people and supplies from point A to point B would be impossible. Their job duties often get confused with architects, however when you look at civil engineering vs architecture you'll find they are quite different.

Civil engineers don’t just make a difference in their communities—they also make a competitive salary while doing so. This guide will provide an overview of the earning potential in civil engineering, including how to make more in the field.

Civil Engineer Wages by Education Level

So, how much do civil engineers make? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average wage for a civil engineer is $88,570 per year. But the exact answer is more nuanced than that.

As with all jobs, your wages as a civil engineer are contingent on several factors, including:

  • How much experience you have
  • Your location
  • Whether you work in the public or private sector
  • Your education level

This last factor—your education—is also the first step toward a career in civil engineering. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how your schooling can impact your earnings.

Bachelor’s Degree

If you’re wondering how to become a civil engineer, most civil engineering jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree from a reputable institution. After completing a typical four-year engineering program to earn your undergraduate degree, you’ll be eligible to apply for civil engineering jobs.

When you first join the workforce, you’re unlikely to earn the national average salary of $88,570 right away. Instead, you can expect to start toward the bottom 10th percentile of earners, making around $56,160/year according to the BLS.

As you gain experience in the field, you can work your way up to—and beyond—the average annual salary.

Master’s Degree

If you’re looking to gain a deeper understanding of civil engineering and improve your career options, it’s worth considering another two years of schooling to pursue a master’s degree. Holding a graduate degree can help you unlock higher wages and apply for more senior-level positions.

Civil engineers in the 90th percentile of earners (typically, those with a master’s degree and the experience that comes with it) can earn up to $144,810/year according to the BLS.

A master’s degree is also all-but-required to become an engineering manager. These high-level civil engineers coordinate a firm’s projects, earning an average salary of $149,530/year according to the BLS.

The Best States to Work in as a Civil Engineer

Another controllable factor that dictates your wage is your location. Because of variations in demand and cost of living, where you work can impact your salary.

According to the Occupational and Wage Statistics from the BLS, these are the top five highest-paying states for civil engineers:

  • California – The annual median wage in the Golden State is $113,200.
  • New York – On average, you can earn $105,210/per year in New York.
  • New Jersey – The Garden State pays civil engineers an annual median wage of $100,690.
  • Alaska – Head to Alaska, and you might take home an average of $100,160 per year.
  • Oklahoma – At $98,940/year, Oklahoma’s median wage for civil engineers is excellent.

Find out more about North Central College

Civil Engineering: Job Outlook

Civil engineering isn’t just a rewarding career path—it’s also secure, with plenty of room to grow. In fact, the BLS expects the field of civil engineering to expand around 8% between 2020 and 2030, with more than 25,000 new jobs available each year.

Best of all, civil engineers are needed nationwide. Anywhere you find roads, tunnels, and airports, you’ll find work in civil engineering.

Other Civil Engineering Jobs (with Salaries)

Of course, a civil engineering degree opens the door to working as a civil engineer. But the skills you’ll learn in college can also translate to other roles, many of which frequently interact with civil engineers.

With your civil engineering degree, you can apply for other rewarding, high-paying jobs, such as:

  • Surveyor – Surveyors split their time between the office and the field, measuring and marking property lines. On average, surveyors make $65,590/year according to the BLS.
  • Environmental Engineer – These engineers exist in the intersection between the environment and infrastructure, improving waste disposal and water management systems. The average annual salary in this field is $92,120 according to the BLS.
  • Urban Planner – Urban and regional planners analyze data to develop community land use plans, earning an average salary of $75,950 per year according to the BLS.

Begin Your Civil Engineering Career on the Right Foot

Your success as a civil engineer begins with your choice of college. Even in your early stages of applying to colleges, it’s vital to think several years into the future to maximize your earning potential.

Some schools offer accelerated pathways to a master’s degree in civil engineering. For example, at North Central College, you can take upper-level courses while pursuing your undergraduate degree. Through a partnership program with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Armour College of Engineering, you can learn the foundations of engineering at North Central College before specializing in civil engineering in your graduate program.

Apply today—you can walk away with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in as little as five years.

Jacob Imm is a communications specialist in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 11 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. 

 

Sources: 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 8). Civil Engineers: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, March 31). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020: 17-2051 Civil Engineers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172051.htm#st

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, March 31). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020: 17-2051 Civil Engineers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172051.htm#st.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 8). Architectural and Engineering Managers: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/architectural-and-engineering-managers.htm

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, March 31). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020: 17-2051 Civil Engineers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172051.htm#st.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 8). Civil Engineers: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 8). Surveyors: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/surveyors.htm.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 8). Environmental Engineers: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/environmental-engineers.htm

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 8). Urban and Regional Planners: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners.htm.