Does This Describe You?

• You want to make a visible difference in communities.

• You want a career that will both challenge and reward you.

• You’re creative and enjoy designing/building things.

• You want a career that provides opportunities to work in various (areas?).

• You’re good at working through and solving complex problems individually and in a team.

If you answered yes to some of these, civil engineering might be the perfect job for you!

What is a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers apply their expertise in problem-solving to find the most effective, innovative, and safe ways to design, construct, or operate various kinds of projects. They are involved in areas of planning, designing, constructing, and repairing roads, highways, dams and reservoirs, water and wastewater collection systems, and various supporting buildings.

Civil engineering is a diverse field with many different specialized areas that you can be involved in. Some potential areas of practice are:

• Land Development

• Structural

• Water and Wastewater Resources

• Transportation

• Construction

• General Civil

As an engineering consultant, you could expect to work with clients from municipal governments, provincial governments, Indigenous groups, and private industries, providing advice and services to help your local communities shine.

Civil engineering isn’t just an office job, either! Civil engineers get the opportunity to see and visit a wide variety of construction sites. These range from new building developments to building highways in rural communities. You also get to meet and work with diverse clients. During heavy construction seasons, EITs are given first-hand experience and take on lots of the construction site work, which sometimes results in working long hours and weekends. This is typically only a few months out of the year, and outside of that, engineers have a more consistent schedule. Once you become a designated professional engineer, you will still be expected to conduct site visits, but you will spend much less time in the field. Field visits occur in most seasons, so you should be prepared to work in all conditions, from hot summer days to cold rain and snow. There can also be safety hazards on site, so it’s important to be aware of these hazards and wear safety gear.

How Do You Become a Civil Engineer?

Your engineering journey can begin as early as high school. It is encouraged that you take classes to aid you in the engineering program. Courses typically include biology, physics, chemistry, and either foundations or pre-calculus math. Depending on the institution, admission may require you to take some of these courses up to the Grade 12 level.

The typical timeline of an engineering degree is 4-5 years, with many students doing a year-long co-operative education term during their degree. Many universities and community colleges offer first-year engineering classes, but only a select few offer the full bachelor’s program. In British Columbia, this includes:

• The University of British Columbia

• The University of British Columbia Okanagan

• The University of Victoria

• The University of Northern British Columbia

• British Columbia Institute of Technology

If you are open to travelling outside of British Columbia for your education, there are schools in most provinces that offer an accredited bachelor’s in civil engineering.

During your studies, you have the opportunity to work and gain real-world experience through a cooperative education program. It is recommended that you complete at least one co-op work term during your studies. Through the cooperative education program, you can create professional relationships and practical skills that will set you up for success once you graduate from your program.

Make sure you keep your grades up, especially during your first year, as civil engineering programs can be very competitive. Join your local student engineering society or connect with a study buddy to stay on track!

What Can You Expect as a Civil Engineer?

After graduating from an accredited university, you are able to register with your province’s engineering association and work on projects as an EIT, or “Engineer in Training.” In B.C., we have Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, which is also known as EGBC.

If you complete three co-op work terms during your university education (with a total of 12 months of working), then you have the option to complete your EIT training in three years instead of four. If you are planning on taking the three years for your EIT training, make sure it is relevant to the area of engineering you’ll be working in.

As an EIT, you will be working with guidance from people holding designations as Professional Engineers (P. Eng). They will advise you on projects and provide support. You will experience all the steps involved in a project, such as design planning and visits to the job sites to ensure that construction matches the designs from the engineers.

Once you have completed four years as an EIT, you are eligible for designation as a Professional Engineer. Once eligible, you must apply with your province’s engineering association, have your work experience approved, and pass an ethics exam. Obtaining your P. Eng comes with exciting new opportunities, such as approving design plans, but also comes with a layer of risk and accountability as you are now responsible for the designs you approve.

Civil engineers can expect to start at $60,000–$65,000 per year as an EIT. Engineers can quickly increase their salaries as they gain experience, with engineers with a P. Eng designation expecting to make around $90,000 per year. The most skilled engineers can even earn as much as $165,000 annually. These salaries will vary based on location and industry. Additionally, job prospects for civil engineering are strong, with the industry expected to exhibit strong demand over the next decade. You can learn more about salaries and career outlooks on WorkBC’s website.

Final Thoughts

Civil engineering is a career with never-ending opportunities and the ability to create positive impacts in communities. If you would like to discuss a career in civil engineering consulting or would like more in-depth information, please reach out to us at and we would be happy to meet or chat with you!