Civil engineers are responsible for so much of our modern innovations and infrastructure – think of every bridge you’ve driven across recently, every road you’ve meandered down, and every airport you’ve flown out of. Civil engineers are behind all of those projects.
But there are many other players involved in the design, planning, and execution of our nation’s infrastructure. Wherever you might find a civil engineer, you’re likely to find a civil engineering technician as well.
So, who are civil engineering technicians and what do they do? In this article, we’ll cover this lesser-known career within the field of civil engineering. We’ll break down a civil engineering technician’s job requirements, educational level, pay rate, and more. By the time you finish reading, you might just be ready to start your career in the field of civil engineering!
What Does a Civil Engineering Technician Do?
Civil engineering technicians are behind-the-scenes workers in the civil engineering industry. They help civil engineers plan, design, and build both infrastructure and development projects in the private and public sectors alike.
Wherever you find a civil engineer, there’s likely a civil engineering technician or technologist working close by. Civil engineering technicians work both on-site and off-site. In the office, they may help civil engineers plan and design projects. On a job site, they may be working to collect samples, test materials, or observe activities in the role of a project inspector.
Some additional specific duties of civil engineering technicians may include:
Reading and reviewing project plans to size structures
Conferring with licensed civil engineers to prepare plans
Developing plans and estimating costs for construction and operation
Using CAD (computer-aided design) software for drafting
Surveying in the field
Collecting data on site conditions
Testing construction materials and soil
Observing project sites to monitor construction progress
Preparing reports and documentation
Maintaining project files and records
One of the largest responsibilities of civil engineering technicians is to help licensed civil engineers improve their designs or incorporate new technology. While civil engineering technicians are not licensed engineers, they can still hold leadership roles and advance within the field.
What Is the Difference Between a Civil Engineer and a Civil Engineering Technician?
There are many differences between civil engineers and civil engineering technicians including job responsibilities, education requirements, pay grades, and more. The most prominent difference, however, is related to licensure.
Civil engineers must pass two exams (the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Professional Engineering exam) in order to gain their official licenses. Civil engineering technicians are not required to have licenses and therefore they cannot approve designs or oversee an entire project. This is especially relevant in the public sector, where rules around licensure are often much more stringent.
Overall, civil engineering technicians typically perform a lot of the background work that powers the large-scale projects civil engineers are responsible for. They’re expected to be technology experts, and they often use software for project design, file management, data analysis, and report preparation.
Another key difference between the two occupations is the expected education level. Civil engineers typically need at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering or a closely related field. Many civil engineers also go on to pursue advanced degrees, such as a master’s degree or a Ph.D., as well as additional licensures.
Civil engineering technicians, on the other hand, generally need only an associate degree to enter the field. Many employers prefer to hire engineering technicians who have a degree from an ABET-accredited institution. ABET is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
There are also some high schools that offer technical and vocational programs that award a certificate or diploma in engineering technology. No matter where you choose to get your degree, any aspiring civil engineering technician will need to take courses in science and math, with a special emphasis on physics, geometry, chemistry, and trigonometry.
You will likely also get hands-on experience that will help you in subjects such as engineering and design. Some employers do require a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Technology, but this is much less common.
One other difference between civil engineers and civil engineering technicians is their pay rates. In part because of the different educational expectations and levels of degree held, civil engineers often make more than their civil engineering technician counterparts. The exact difference between their pay can vary but usually begins at about $30,000 annually.
Do Civil Engineers Make More Than Civil Engineering Technicians?
Yes, civil engineers typically make more than civil engineering technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a civil engineer is $88,050 annually. That amounts to about $42.33 per hour.
In contrast, the median salary for a civil engineering technician is $58,320. That means there’s about a $30,000 difference between the average salaries of the two occupations. Civil engineers are generally paid more because they have increased job duties, more leadership responsibilities, and usually carry more degrees and licensures.
What Is the Median Salary for a Civil Engineering Technician in the United States?
The average median salary for a civil engineering technician in the United States is $58,320 annually. Within the field, however, there is significant variation. The highest-paid subsector within the civil engineering technician occupation was comprised of those engineers who worked on public works projects for local government. That group made an annual average of $61,190, an increase of $2,870 over their career average.
The top 10% of civil engineering technicians made even more than that. Their average pay clocked in at $79,650, nearly 37% higher than the average for the career as a whole. The bottom 10% of civil engineering technicians made 38% less than average, coming in at around $36,550 per year.
Depending on the area in which you work and the company you’re a part of, your pay as a civil engineering technician can certainly vary. Make sure to advocate for yourself and show off your skills so that you can get paid according to your ability and experience.
What Is the Median Hourly Pay for a Civil Engineering Technician in the United States?
The median hourly pay for a civil engineering technician in the United States is $28.04 per hour. That’s about $14.29 per hour less than civil engineers themselves make. The hourly estimate is calculated based on the median annual pay for a civil engineering technician of $58,320 – a respectable salary.
The median salary in the United States overall is $54,132 per year. Civil engineering technicians make more than that, putting them above the average in terms of salary. Plus, the minimum hourly wage in America is just $7.25 per hour, and civil engineering technicians make almost double that amount.
More often than not, civil engineering technicians work full-time. These positions are often salaried jobs that are paid on a biweekly basis rather than on an hourly basis. That’s a plus because you’re guaranteed to have work. You won’t have to be constantly fighting to get more hours. With a salaried position, you normally get paid 26 times per year.
How Many Civil Engineering Technician Jobs Are There?
As of 2021, there were 66,300 civil engineering technician jobs in the United States. In other words, the number of civil engineering technicians in the country could populate a large suburb. While that number isn’t predicted to change much in the coming years, there will still be demand for new civil engineering technicians as older ones leave the workforce.
What Is the Job Outlook for Civil Engineering Technicians?
The job outlook for civil engineering technicians is expected to be about 0% over the next several years, which means we’ll see a steady employment rate with about 6,500 job openings each year.
For the most part, those job openings will come from the need to replace existing civil engineering technicians. Job openings may arise when individuals transfer to different occupations, finish additional training to move up to a civil engineering position, or exit the labor force (for example, retiring).
Across all jobs in the United States, there is expected to be a 5% growth rate on average. As we stated earlier, the civil engineering technician occupation growth rate is expected to be 0%. In other words, the number of civil engineering technicians working in the U.S. is predicted to remain the same over the next 10 years.
Our country’s infrastructure continues to grow older, however, and civil engineering technicians play an important role in maintaining and upgrading that infrastructure. There are plenty of airports, levees, bridges, roads, and dams that will need to be rebuilt in the coming years. Plus, the government recognizes that need.
In 2021, President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allotted about $550 billion toward infrastructure projects including roads, bridges, and water infrastructure. The outlook for jobs in the water treatment branch of civil engineering will be especially high, as there is an ever-growing need for wastewater treatment to cleanse the nation’s waterways and increase access to potable water.
There is also increased interest in civil engineering projects related to renewable energy. For example, the U.S. wind turbine industry supports over 120,000 jobs, including many related to civil engineering. There are now over 89,000 wind turbines in the country, and the government continues to fund studies investigating other renewable energy sources.
Civil engineers are the ones behind executing all of these projects – they’ll be planning, designing, and overseeing this important work. Civil engineering technicians will be around to assist the civil engineers in making these important strides.
That said, it is important to note that improved software programs and drafting tools have changed the field of civil engineering technicians dramatically. Because individuals are able to do work faster and be more productive with the software tools available for civil engineers, the field is no longer growing. This explains its predicted 0% rate of change in the next decade.
While not as well known as the occupation of civil engineering itself, the role of a civil engineering technician is a crucially important one when it comes to building, maintaining, and updating our nation’s infrastructure. With their robust involvement in both the public and private sectors, civil engineering technicians are the men and women behind the scenes who are powering it all.
Without the hard work and dedication of our country’s 66,000 civil engineering technicians, our society simply wouldn’t be where it is today. Civil engineering technicians support the work of civil engineers on every level. They ensure projects get completed on time, on budget, and with precise quality and execution.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ins and outs of the civil engineering industry, we can help. Take a look at our informative blog to discover even more fascinating topics that will get you excited to be involved in our field.