Civil Engineering Technician

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Civil Engineering Technician


Civil engineering technicians work under the guidance of civil engineers to plan the technical details of buildings, road repairs, highways, bridges, buildings, dams, wastewater treatment systems and other similar structures. A civil engineering technician serves as the link between engineers and skilled craftspeople. Their work focuses on improving our existing infrastructure problems such as poor roads, aging sewer and water lines, congested airports and failing bridges.

Technicians adopt scientific, mathematical and engineering principles and theories in order to solve various technical problems in the areas of research and development, manufacturing, construction, sales, inspection and maintenance. Some technicians estimate constructions costs and suggest materials to be used in particular projects, while others survey land-sites, prepare sketches and drawings and monitor instruments used in different research studies.

There are three areas a civil engineering technician can choose to specialize in: research and development, quality control and manufacturing. While assisting in development and research, technicians often work in laboratories conducting scientific studies and research for civil engineers. They also participate in field surveys, inspections or technical investigations of topography, soils, drainage and water supply systems, road and highway systems, buildings and structures and provide their findings as data in engineering projects. Computers are commonly used to process laboratory test data and prepare computer-aided drawings. Quality control involves conducting inspections and is thereby related to research in that tests must be performed in order to determin the existing quality of certain civil engineering structures. Technicians are proficient at using transists, levels, density testing devices, and many other quality control test instruments. The manufacturing side deals more with hands-on design, development and even possibly production.

Civil engineering technicians may work independently or provide technical support in structural engineering, municipal engineering, construction design and supervision, highways and transportation engineering, water resources engineering and geotechnical engineering. While job titles and duties vary depending on the field of civil engineering where one chooses to be employed, civil engineering technicians generally prepare (or assist in preparing) designs, drawings and constructions specifications. It is a multi-faceted career because civil engineering technicians have the ability to work in different aspects of the profession.
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  Interests and Skills  
Civil engineering technicians are interested in mathematics, science and technology. They enjoy working with scientific equipment and computers and often like working outdoors. Technicians analyze information and design sketches in order to solve problems. Attention to details is an important trait to possess as well as working effectively under pressure with deadline situations. Since many engineering technologists assist in design and drawing projects, creativity and artistry are also desirable.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop and implement engineering designs and drawings from preliminary concepts and sketches
  • Prepare construction specifications, cost and material estimates, project schedules and reports
  • Conduct field surveys, inspections or technical investigations of topography, soils, drainage and water supply systems, road and highway systems, buildings and structures that provide data for engineering projects
  • Conduct inspection and testing of construction materials
  • Assist in planning and scheduling civil engineering projects
  • May supervise, monitor and inspect construction projects
  • Perform other technical functions in support of civil engineering practices
  • Prepare cost estimates and monitor project costs
  • Draft detailed dimensional drawings and designs layouts for projects and to ensure conformance to specifications
  • Ensure that safety and design specifications are followed and pollution control requirements are met
  • Respond to public suggestions and complaints
  • Calculate dimensions, square footage, profile and component specifications, and material quantities
  • This field provides indoor and outdoor workplace environments with both private contractors and public or governmental agencies. For those wishing to work in an office setting, opportunities exist for AutoCAD operators, estimators and designers. A laboratory setting offers hands-on scientific research and experimentation in soil analysis, material testing and inspection. Outdoor work opportunities include preliminary and construction surveyors, inspecting all types of civil projects and construction personnel in various capacities. A typical day can often include both indoor office or laboratory work and some outdoor fieldwork. It is important to note that some civil engineering technologists may be exposed to hazards on the job from chemicals, toxic materials or equipment.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Civil engineering technicians can work in either the public or private sector. They are usually employed with engineering consulting firms, construction companies, manufacturing and processing companies, trade contractors and public utilities as well as municipal engineering and roads departments and government ministries such as transportation, environment and natural resources.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Entry-level civil engineering technicians may begin their career by performing routine duties under the close supervision of an employer. They usually work in an engineering office helping to produce construction documents, or with a contracting firm helping to control the construction of an engineering project. As technicians gain experience, they are often given more responsibility and more challenging assignments, often with less supervision.

Certain technicians may eventually move into more managerial roles and become supervisors. Additional experience could lead to work as a building inspector, CAD operator, or a draftsperson for a municipal engineering department. Further advancement opportunities could include supervisory and project management positions. Possible career options for civil engineering technicians include employment as drafters, surveyors, cartographers, building and construction specialists, photogrammetrists and surveying technicians.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a one- or two-year college program in civil engineering technology is usually required for civil engineering technicians. A certification in civil engineering technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians and may be required for some positions.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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