Mastering the Art of Engineering
Love playing with Legos and building massive forts? Want a high paying job with plenty of job openings? Civil Engineering may be the right fit for you! One of NCI’s top engineers dishes the scoop on engineering, life and higher education.
What Civil Engineers Do:
Manage construction projects and get them built on time.
Make sure foundations are solid, analyze how structures interact with the earth.
Design and assess buildings, bridges and dams.
Plan, design, operate, and maintain streets, highways, airports, ship ports, mass transit systems, and harbors.
Learn About Engineering at NCI
A Growing and Thriving Field
Considering becoming an engineer, considering getting your masters? If you are looking for a job with huge potential for growth and a high salary, look no further than Civil Engineering! Computer, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering may all be flashy, but growth levels for these jobs fall well below those for Civil Engineers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth for the engineering field is over 140,000 new jobs from 2016 to 2026, and of those jobs, the highest level of growth is anticipated for Civil Engineering, beating out Mechanical Engineering by over 10,000 jobs (1)!
As if that was not enough, engineering jobs in general consistently rank as the top field to rake in the dough. As a whole, these jobs had an average salary of $91,010 in 2018 which is more than twice the median wage for all workers, and that number is only projected to rise (2).
Many undergraduates flock to computer, software and chemical engineering for their high entry level salaries, yet these jobs have some of the lowest levels of potential growth – and the market is now over-saturated with new, entry level candidates vying for a limited number of jobs (1).
Mean Annual Salary
New Jobs Projected
The Scoop on Civil Engineering
Civil Engineering has and continues to be a lucrative, stable career. Engineering jobs in general consistently rank as the top field to rake in the dough. As a whole, these jobs had an average salary of $91,010 in 2018 which is more than twice the median wage for all workers, and that number is only projected to rise (2).
Many undergraduates flock to computer, software and chemical engineering for their high entry level salaries, yet these jobs have some of the lowest levels of potential growth – and the market is now oversaturated with new, entry level candidates vying for a limited number of jobs (1).
The result is an increasingly competitive market for computer science, leaving even the best and brightest desperately trying to start their career. In contrast, the often overlooked field of Civil Engineering is hiring, and offers a high Median Entry-Level salary of $59,230, and a Mean Annual Salary of almost $92,000 (2,3)!
Two of the top industries of employment for engineers also hire the largest percentage of Civil Engineers to fill those jobs, with Engineering Services employing over 146,800, and Federal and State and Government Entities employing over 76,100 Civil Engineers in 2016 (1). With a job outlook of 11% projected growth (4), this career path offers job security (there will always be roads and bridges to fix), a high starting salary and less competition for entry into the field.
So, what’s the catch? As with any advanced field of study, the path to becoming a Civil Engineer requires skill, diligence and hard work – not to mention admission into some of the most competitive undergraduate programs in the country.
In addition to obtaining a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, students must also receive a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam, and then pass another rigorous test, the Professional Engineering (PE) Exam, after four years of work under a licensed engineer (4).
Luckily for those considering the field, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) recently voted not to require a master’s degree, however, they did vote to include an official NCEES position statement supporting additional engineering education beyond a bachelor’s degree (5).
Should Civil Engineers obtain a Masters? The NCEES says yes. Due to rapid advances in the field of engineering, NCEES believes that additional education will become increasingly important in ensuring that new graduates are prepared to enter the professional practice of engineering (5).
A Masters Degree
Other argue that additional schooling beyond an undergraduate degree can help civil engineers gain an advantage in the hiring field by imbibing them with advanced skills in communication, decision making, problem solving and task delegation (6). They also posit that the deeper focus on individual subjects in graduate school will give engineers with a Master’s degree leverage for climbing the ladder in their field of study, and expose them to a greater degree to trends in industry globalization, renewable energy sources and new technological advances (6).
However, there is something to be said for experience on the job. Additional schooling costs time and money, and for many students who are already burdened with significant student loans – adding another $30,000 or more to their debt should not be taken lightly. If jobs are available which don’t require additional schooling, starting work right after graduation might be the right way to go.
While the decision hinges largely on an individual’s short and long-term career goals, past experience and internships, as well as the local and global job market, knowing the pros and cons of both sides can help paint a clearer picture of next-steps post graduation.
- Torpey, E. (2018, February 22). Engineers: Employment, pay, and outlook : Career outlook: U.S. bureau of labor statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/engineers.htm
- Michigan Technological University. (2019). 2019 Engineering salary statistics: Engineers get top pay. Retrieved from https://www.mtu.edu/engineering/outreach/welcome/salary/
- Pay Scale. (2019). Salary comparison, Salary survey, search wages. Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018, April 13). Civil engineers: Occupational outlook handbook. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm
- NCEES. (2014, August 25). NCEES approves revised approach to education initiative. Retrieved from https://ncees.org/ncees-approves-revised-approach-education-initiative/
- Ohio University. (2018, March 29). 5 Benefits of a master of science in civil engineering degree. Retrieved from https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/blog/5-benefits-of-an-msce-degree/
An Engineer’s Insight
Adam Moncznik, a Senior Project Engineer on NCI’s bridge team, chose a streamlined program at the University of Michigan where he was able to obtain his master’s degree in a year after completing his undergraduate work. Read on to learn more about Adam, his career path, and his thoughts on the importance of obtaining a master’s degree in light of the current job market and trends in the engineering field.
Adam Moncznik, PE
Senior Project Engineer
Graduated From: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Degree(s): MSE/BSE Civil Engineering
Year(s): 2009, 2008
Becoming A Civil Engineer
Adam is no stranger to education. Having obtained both a BSE and a MSE in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan, Adam has spent a lot of time in the books! Here’s his take on higher education for Civil Engineers.
Why did you decide to pursue a master's in Civil Engineering?
I felt that getting a master’s degree would make me more marketable to employers and it would give me more knowledge going into the field of Civil Engineering. Also, Michigan has a program where if you qualified in terms of grades you could complete a master’s degree in one year, which was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Are there scholarships available for most programs, or do you have to pay out of pocket?
There are scholarships available if you seek them out. I was able to get one that covered about half a semester’s worth of tuition. I also know of others who were able to do research during their graduate year and got grants for their education.
Do you believe that the cost (either in terms of time, money or both) of attending is recouped in a higher long-term salary and more career opportunities for engineers?
I believe that research bears out that a college education, especially in the STEM fields, provides a higher salary and more opportunities long term. In my case I came out of school the year the Great Recession started so I believe not just having a bachelor’s degree but also a master’s degree was vital to getting into the field.
What is your advice to students considering getting a masters in Civil Engineering?
I would encourage those students to take the opportunity if they can afford it. It’s not necessary (yet) but I enjoyed the experience and the extra learning. I took some more specific classes during my master’s year such as foundation engineering and masonry design that have been very useful in my career.
Do you feel your degree has helped you to advance in your job? How, in what ways?
I think that the master’s degree was a part of advancing. The extra knowledge helped put me ahead of where I would have otherwise been and allowed me to focus on learning on things besides the basics.
What did you learn in graduate school that you did not learn as an undergraduate?
One of the classes I was able to take in graduate school was foundation engineering. As a bridge engineer designing footings, piles, drilled shafts, and retaining walls is a critical part of the job. Any time we do a foundation design I am recalling things I learned in that class. Having the textbook from it helps too. I took a class on composite materials as well. In that class we learned about the fundamentals of how two dissimilar materials can work together. This additional knowledge from college was a big boost when I started at NCI since composite concrete bridge decks are commonplace.
How long was the program – was it harder/easier than your undergraduate work?
The sequential graduate/undergraduate studies (SGUS) program at the University of Michigan allows you to double count some of your senior year coursework and allows you complete a master’s degree in one year. To me, the graduate work came more naturally than undergraduate work as it was focused on practical things I was going to use in the Civil Engineering field rather than just general college course work.
What is the application process like? Is more/less competitive than undergraduate?
When I applied to the SGUS program, the main criteria for acceptance was grades. So long as you met the grade point average requirement and were enrolled in a qualified program you would be accepted. The application consisted of the standard graduate school application form and getting professor recommendation letters. The SGUS program did not require taking the GRE or any other graduate exam.
How many schools/where did you apply to?
With the SGUS program I did not need to apply to any other schools besides Michigan since I knew I’d be accepted into the program; that was a big stress reliever.
Do you think graduate school made it easier to pass your PE exam?
In my experience the PE exam is largely based on experiences gained while performing real-world engineering work. I think without the base knowledge I gained in college it would have been impossible to pass, but I think actually doing engineering work is where I gained the skills to pass the PE exam. The benefit of getting my master’s degree is that it reduced the number of years I had to wait to take the PE exam by one.
What aspects of engineering do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy the design side of things and working with the other engineers in our office to complete projects. Teaching others things that I have learned is one of the great benefits of working at NCI.
How has your role at NCI grown and changed since you arrived?
I started out at NCI as an entry level bridge engineer where I was involved with drafting plans and doing designs. Since then I have become a Senior Project Engineer where I mentor others, review plans and reports, and perform designs. I still hop into Microstation or AutoCAD though to help out and keep things on track.
Where are you originally from/how did you end up in Indiana?
I am originally from Farmington Hills, Michigan. I moved to Toledo, Ohio after graduating from college to begin my career at NCI, meet my wife, and start our family. We then moved to Minnesota where we were able to see sights like the St. Anthony Falls and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. After battling the cold for a year and a half, we moved to Indiana where we currently reside.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Hobbies: Watching baseball, football, and basketball. Reading, playing video games, and bike riding.
What is your family like?
We are just a typical family. We love spending time together, playing games, reading, and exploring new places. Our favorite thing to do for vacation is to take cruises.
When did you first want to become an engineer?
I think it was just something I fell into naturally. I remember in kindergarten telling the teacher I wanted to be a home builder. I don’t think I was too far off!
What are some of your favorite project?
The Ann Arbor Stadium bridges project was a fun one since it was one for the first ones I worked on out of school. There was a lot of personal connection with it since I spent my college years in Ann Arbor. I also enjoyed the bridge inspections we did in Cleveland since those were very large structures that had a lot of unique features and interesting environments to work in. The inspection we did of the Veterans Glass City Skyway in Toledo was also a fun once since that’s a bridge I’ve used quite a few times and I got to see up close how it worked.
Do you have any advice for people considering engineering as a career?
Make sure that you enjoy what you do. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I enjoy the variety of projects we get to work on.
Originally from Farmington Hills, MI, Adam has lived and worked in Ohio, Minnesota and Indiana. One of three children, he enjoys watching sports, reading , playing video games and riding his bike. Read on to learn more about the man behind the master’s and his job at NCI!
Adam's Top 14
Everything you always wanted to ask, but didn’t think to, about Adam’s……
Life as an Engineer
Who would you most like to swap places with for a day?
Someone who is on a tropical vacation that day!
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Pizza House pizza in Ann Arbor.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
One time, we went on a short notice trip to the North Dakota/South Dakota border.
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
Michigan. There’s lots of things to do there for vacation, and a lot of nostalgic things since I grew up there.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I’m not a big fan of traffic jams.
What is your favorite family tradition?
Making a big meal for Thanksgiving.
Who is your least favorite superhero?
Superman since he is overpowered.
What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?
I can list all the presidents in order from memory.
If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been, where would you go?
Falkland Islands since it is so remote and not a lot of people get to go there.
Which four individuals, living or dead, would you like to eat dinner with the most?
George Washington, Julius Caesar, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs
Who inspires you?
Miranda, my wife, is an inspiring person who is creative, smart, and funny.
What’s the last book you read?
A biography of the Roman Emperor Augustus.
What are you passionate about?
What is your favorite movie?
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Adam is not the only NCI employee doing amazing things. Check out the articles below to learn more about our talented team!