A civil engineer’s training should continue throughout his or her entire career. An effective engineer realizes that continuing education is the key to success. In college an engineer gains an ability to learn that will last throughout life, while at the same time absorbing the basic knowledge and skills that every engineer must master. On-the-job experience, gained through co-op assignments, internships, or summer jobs, is a vital factor in making a young engineer credible to potential employers. Gaining professional licensing is often important to career advancement. Becoming marketable means having the skills and experiences beyond the basics, perhaps through leadership in student or community organizations, plus having the ability to communicate one’s unique qualifications clearly.
Engineering students usually select their field in the first or second year of college. At the same time that you are coming to grips with the fundamentals of engineering, you should also pay attention to the broader issue of learning to learn a skill you will need to master if you are to continue to develop as an engineer — communication. It is important to develop your writing and speaking skills. It is a good idea to get involved in campus activities that let you develop as a person as you learn to be an engineer.
Co-ops and Internships
Civil engineers will tell you that co-ops, internships, summer jobs, or any other way to gain experience in the field of your choice, will help you land a first job. More importantly, it will give you a chance to find out what you like to do and are good at doing.
Anyone looking for a job has to get comfortable with the idea of selling one’s strengths. Whether it is a deep specialization or a broad background, you will need to demonstrate how you willhelp an employer. Marketing includes both a profound knowledge of the product (yourself) and the buyer (the employer). When you find a match between your interests and their needs, the chances of success are high.
Every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories have laws regulating the practice of professions including law, medicine, and engineering. These laws protect the public health, safety, and welfare by insuring that those receiving licenses to practice have at least met certain requirements of competence, ability, experience, and character. Licensure laws vary from state to state and are exclusively under the control of the individual state legislatures. But generally, the licensure laws for professional engineers require graduation from an accredited engineering curriculum followed by approximately four years of responsible engineering experience, and finally the successful completion of a written exam. Some states may waive the written exam on the basis of education and experience, but the trend is toward an examination requirement.
While not the only way to get ahead, graduate training can provide the critical depth of training some specialties require. The best sources of information about grad school are your professors and other practicing engineers.