Each large public work takes shape from detailed plans created by civil engineers. These professionals apply science and mathematics to the design of bridges, tunnels, dams and other large-scale projects that must last and function well for many years and remain safe for the public.
College graduates choosing the career of civil engineering enjoy salaries higher than those in many other fields. About 254,130 civil engineers work in the United States, according to a May 2011 estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they earn approximately $50,000 the first year after college graduation. By 2020, the number of civil engineers in the United States is expected to expand by 19 percent, about the same amount as in other professional disciplines.
A new graduate may choose to work on transportation and get involved in the construction of a harbor, an airport or highways. First-year compensation in transportation is about $49,000 on average, according to August 2012 statistics from Indeed.com. Geotechnical engineers leverage their knowledge in natural science to devise the best ways to dig a tunnel, anchor a building and retain soil and rock. They earn annual incomes averaging $55,000 in the first year. Structural engineers, who focus on stress-resistant structures such as dams, bridges and tunnels, enjoy an average $63,000 of first-year annual wages.
Civil engineering tends to be a full-time position. About half the engineers report to companies working on architectural projects, where they earn the industry average. The federal government employs about 5 percent of civil engineers and offers first-year compensation 18 percent higher than the industry average. State governments hire 13 percent of civil engineers and pay the industry average starting salary. Cities and other local governments pay their first-year engineers about 7 percent more than the average.
The industry acknowledges the value of a postgraduate degree. Civil engineers with doctorate degrees start their first jobs with an average annual income of $58,000. Entry-level civil engineers typically report to a more experienced engineer. Because they work for someone already licensed by the state, they don't need a license themselves.