What is civil engineering?

Civil engineers plan, design, construct and help maintain and optimize the operation of structures and facilities like treatment plants, pipelines, bridges, roads, canals, pump stations and dams.

Civil engineering is all about creating, improving and protecting the environment in which we live. Civil engineering, which was originally defined simply to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering, provides the facilities for day-to-day life and work.

What do civil engineers do in the water and wastewater industry?

BAYWORK agencies have gathered profiles, photos and videos of civil engineers working in the water/wastewater industry, to give you an idea of what they do, how they feel about it, and how they got there. These case studies will take you behind the scenes at some of the Bay Area’s utilities.

“I enjoy the responsibility of supervising a group of engineers. I take pride in that what my group does directly supports Operators and their ability to deliver water to 2.5 million people.”
Annie Li , San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Profiles and videos of civil engineers in the water/wastewater industry
NameProfileVideoVideo 2
Aaron BakerProfile Video  
Jimmy DangProfile Video  
Hemang DesaiProfile  
Adam FefferProfile Video  
Christopher HakesProfile Video  
Katherine HaydenProfile Video  
Ben HongProfile  
Ravi M. KachhapatiProfile  
Annie LiProfile Video  
Phyllip NguyenProfile Video  
Gary OheaProfile  
Ed OyamaProfile Video  
Chris PachmayerProfile Video  
Juan Renteria  Video en español
Nohemy RevillaProfile Video  
Medi SinakiProfile Video  
Bessie TamProfile Video  
Bill TuttleProfile Video  
Jaclyn YeeProfile  
Civil engineers plan, design, build, and maintain the systems necessary to provide safe, clean drinking water and then take it away again for treatment.

They can design, build, and help maintain and successfully operate structures and large facilities such as dams, pipelines, tanks, reservoirs, pumping stations and treatment plants for water and wastewater. They must consider many factors during a design or optimization process, from the construction costs and expected lifetime of a project to governmental and environmental regulations and potential natural hazards, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Engineers may also work with specialists on problems, such as soil, or ground water contamination, or energy development and conservation. Civil engineers need to focus on sustainable engineering practices to make sure the natural environment’s integrity is maintained while meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations.

Structural engineers are also civil engineers and specialize in the selection and design of materials for a building, bridge and other facilities. Within the water industry, they are concerned with all aspects of a structure and its stability.

Environmental engineers are trained in water quality, water treatment, wastewater management, air pollution control, protecting ecosystems, solid waste management, and related fields.

Some of their responsibilities in the water sector include:

  • design and help maintain dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, pumping stations, pipelines, water treatment plants, and other parts of the water supply, delivery and treatment system;
  • design and help maintain sewer systems, wastewater treatment plants, water reclamation plants and outfalls for the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater;
  • help a water/wastewater agency and its community decide what to build and where to build it;
  • work with environmental engineers and resource planners on cost estimates and planning studies;
  • make sure the plans agree with policies and requirements;
  • prepare drawings and graphs that explain technical information to people with different levels of knowledge;
  • use computer models and spreadsheets;
  • monitor progress and inspect work; and
  • prepare technical reports and presentations for other professionals and the public.
Salary range

The median wage in 2011 for Civil engineers in California was $93,434 annually, or $44.92 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less*.

Educational requirements

A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering is generally the minimum educational level required for a position as a civil engineer. Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in design, mathematics, physical and life sciences, and hands-on laboratory classes. An Engineer-In-Training Certificate is also highly recommended.

High school students planning to become civil engineers should take college preparatory courses such as English, mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer science, and mechanical drawing or computer aided design courses.

In California, the number of civil engineers is expected to grow much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for civil engineers are expected to increase by 15.8 percent, or 6,600 jobs between 2008 and 2018. In California, an average of 670 new job openings per year is expected for civil engineers, plus an additional 710 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 1,380 job openings*.

Where can I learn more about civil engineering?

*Source Employment Development Department – Civil Engineers in California for all civil engineers, not just the water and wastewater industry

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