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Isn't This a Civil-ized Career!

by Luke Greiner and Mark Schultz
September 2015

Civil engineers "design, construct, supervise, operate, and maintain large construction projects and systems, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Complementing them are civil engineer technicians who work with licensed civil engineers and help with the planning and designing of infrastructure projects and also help with commercial, residential, and land development. Given the scope of these occupations and the skills and knowledge required of advanced tools and technology (see O*Net for further details) education beyond high school is clearly required. In Southwest Minnesota 99 percent of engineering vacancies, including Civil Engineers, and 100 percent of Engineering Technician vacancies require post-secondary education according to DEED's Job Vacancy Survey (JVS). Traditional Civil Engineers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree while technicians need at least an associate degree.

Many of the courses in civil engineering and civil engineering technician programs in educational institutions located in the Southwest Planning Region are technical and advanced. The four-year plan for a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Minnesota State University, Mankato, includes many courses in calculus, chemistry, and physics, in addition to a multitude of civil and mechanical engineering classes in computer-aided drafting, statics, thermal analysis, fluid mechanics, and structural analysis. Civil engineering technicians can also expect to enroll in difficult and technical courses in surveying, GPS/GIS, and inspection/design and mathematics, according to the diploma/certificate program at South Central College. It may be advantageous for individuals to prepare for their college-level experience in high school, junior high school, and even elementary school. This illustrates the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs.

Data from DEED's Occupation Employment Statistics (OES) tool show that education pays off, with median wages in Southwest Minnesota for civil engineers over twice as high as those across all industries and over one and one-half times higher for civil engineering technicians (Table 1).

Table 1: Median Hourly Wages in Southwest Minnesota - 2009-2010 cohort
Occupation Employment Median Wage
Total, All Industries 177,030 $15.48
Civil Engineering 150 $36.53
Civil Engineering Technicians 180 $26.54
Source: DEED's Occupational Employment Statistics

DEED's Graduate Employment Outcomes (GEO) tool tracks graduates in educational programs after graduation. Table 2 shows that graduates in civil engineering and civil engineering technician programs are consistently earning higher median hourly wages regardless of the number of hours they worked. Table 3 shows annual wages for full-time, year-round employment in these two fields.

Table 2. Median Wages One, Two, and Four Years After Graduation - 2009-2010 cohort
Instructional Program One Year After Graduation Two Years Four Years
Graduates Median Hourly Wage Median Hourly Wage Median Hourly Wage
Civil Engineering - Bachelor's 115 $20.09 $23.08 $26.49
Civil Engineering - Graduate 52 $26.12 $29.44 $34.59
Civil Engineering Technician - Certificate 29 $16.74 $21.49 $24.38
Civil Engineering Technician - Associate's 37 $18.13 $19.68 $22.38
Source: DEED's Graduate Employment Outcomes (GEO) Tool
Table 3: Percent Working Full-Time and Annual Median Wages
Instructional Program Second Year After Graduation Third Year After Graduation Fourth Year After Graduation
Graduates with Reported Wages in MN During the Year Annual Median Wage Percent of Employed Grads Working Full- Time Year-Round Full-Time Year-Round Median Wage Percent of Employed Grads Working Full- Time Year-Round Full-Time Year-Round Median Wage Percent of Employed Grads Working Full- Time Year-Round Full-Time Year-Round Median Wage
Civil Engineering - Bachelor's 73 $39,357 56% $46,012 68% $51,125 82% $54,778
Civil Engineering - Graduate 28 $49,854 46% $61,693 68% $61,908 60% $68,661
Civil Engineering Technicians - Certificate 25 $34,308 40% $57,630 52% $53,105 67% $52,286
Civil Engineering Technicians - Associate's 28 $34,381 54% $40,997 75% $45,650 77% $51,141
Source: DEED's Graduate Employment Outcomes (GEO) Tool

These higher-than-normal wages are a direct result of the relatively high demand for workers with civil engineering skills and knowledge. DEED's Occupations In Demand program assigns demand categories based on a variety of metrics including job vacancies, unemployment insurance claims, seasonality in the occupation, and total employment. Civil engineers and civil engineering technicians are ranked a three out of five star demand rating in Southwest Minnesota. This demand translates to a more robust job market for recent graduates seeking employment.

As shown in Table 3, the percent of individuals working full-time year-round varies based on educational program and level of degree earned. While the lower percentages for some programs/degrees may be startling, the GEO data tool does not track individuals who leave the state. For Civil Engineers with a bachelor's degree, 4 percent continued their education and did not have wage records while another 32 percent had unknown employment outcomes. Those Civil Engineers with a graduate degree saw 13 percent continuing education, and 33 percent had unknown employment outcomes. No technicians with a certificate went on to further their education, and 14 percent were unknown. Fourteen percent of technicians with an associate degree continued their schooling, and the status of 11 percent was unknown. It can reasonably be assumed there are more individuals working full-time year-round that are not reported in the GEO tool.

Designed for Success

Knowing what industries are employing graduates from specific programs provides insight on wages, job opportunity, and employment stability for graduates. Until the release of the Graduate Employment Outcomes tool last year it was impossible for current and prospective students to know what industry is actually employing graduates of their selected program.

We know that about 55 percent of civil engineering graduates with either a bachelor's or graduate degree are employed in the Professional and Technical Services industry, followed by 12 percent in Construction. After two years, graduates who become employed in the Professional and Technical Services industry have median wages of $25.48 per hour, while graduates working in Construction make $24.09 per hour.

The graduates of the civil engineering technology programs are also employed mainly by the Professional and Technical Services industry, but by a much smaller margin of 35 percent. Public Administration employs 29 percent while Construction employs 16 percent of graduates. Civil engineering technicians employed for two years earn median hourly wages of $19.88 in the Professional and Technical Services industry, $25.12 in Public Administration, and $20.99 in Construction.

After students graduate and start their career journey, they will find the civil engineering-related industries to be relatively stable in Southwest Minnesota. The most common industries for employment of recent graduates can be broken down into two categories:

  • The Professional and Technical Services industry covers a broad swath of smaller industries ranging from law offices and graphic design to advertising and research and development, but it also includes NAICS 5413, Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services. The Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services subsector is most certainly responsible for hiring nearly all of the graduates employed in the Professional and Technical Services industry.
  • The Construction industry is also a one of the main employing industries of civil engineering program graduates, with the most relevant subsector of Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction. Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction consists of four industry subsectors: Utility System Construction, Land Subdivision, Highway, Street, and Bridge Construction, and Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction . In Southwest Minnesota data are not disclosed for land subdivision and other heavy and civil engineering construction subsectors because of confidentiality laws.

Figure 1 illustrates employment trends in the three main industry subsectors that provide employment for recent graduates.

Figure 1:

The Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services industry provides the most relevant insight for graduates of civil engineering programs because of the high percentage of graduates who are employed in the industry and relatively focused scope of the industry in civil engineering. With 11 more jobs in 2014 than in 2007 this industry has fully recovered from the recession and has grown by 1.5 percent.

The Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services industry has enjoyed faster than normal growth during the recovery and continues to expand employment, adding 18 new jobs in Southwest Minnesota in the last year alone.

After shedding more than 360 jobs during the recession the Heavy and Civil Engineering industry has lost another 74 jobs since the recovery but in the last year has begun adding jobs again. Every subsector of Heavy and Civil Engineering with disclosed data has added employment in the last year, including 41 new jobs in Highway, Street, and Bridge construction and 19 new jobs in Utility Construction.

A projected 7.4 percent increase in civil engineering jobs is expected through 2022. As mentioned, many individuals who obtain their education in civil engineering find work in a variety of other employment sectors. The architecture and engineering sector as a whole is projected to see 560 openings during this time frame, and construction is predicted to add an additional 2,070 openings. These industries will provide many opportunities to gain employment and experience for civil engineers and technicians.

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