When I began considering Civil Engineering as a career I had a lot of questions. Among those was how many years it would be until I could call myself an engineer. Today I’ve been a Civil Engineer for a few years and in this article, I’m going to explain all you need to know about how long it takes to become a Civil Engineer.
It takes about 8-9 years to become a licensed Civil Engineer. To complete a degree and begin working in Civil Engineering takes 4-5 years. After an additional 4 years of work experience under a Professional Engineer (PE), and passing the FE and PE exams, you can become a licensed PE yourself.
There are a few details that I can’t explain in the short answer above that I wish I’d known about when I began studying Civil Engineering over a decade ago. I’m going to share those with you in the rest of this article by breaking it down into the two major portions of time it takes to become a Civil Engineer.
4-5 Years of School
I really enjoyed my time in school even amid a few long nights studying for tests. It went by quickly for me, mainly because I didn’t spend a lot of time wishing it was over. I just tried to make the most of the time I had in school and I was done before I knew it.
To get your Professional Engineer’s license, your 4-year degree has to be from an ABET-accredited university. In other words, it has to meet the standards for engineering practice in a way that’s officially recognized.
To find out if your school is ABET-accredited, just search “[school name] ABET accreditation” on Google and you should find it pretty quickly. You can also find accredited schools and learn more at the link I posted above.
While I did have a good time during school, it wasn’t without its difficulties. I had to take over 120 credit hours and some of the classes were really tough. It will challenge you, but you’ll be glad you went through it. All the tedious problems you’ll solve for homework and exams will improve your problem-solving skills and set you up to be a great engineer.
My degree took five years because I wasn’t sure at first what I wanted to do. So I ended up taking a few more elective classes than I would have if I’d just started with Civil Engineering. But I don’t regret that at all! You may find yourself in the same boat and that’s nothing to be worried about. Take your time, you only get to be in college once.
The cost wasn’t too bad either because I went to a local university. You don’t have to go to any fancy school, those are overrated anyway. Just make sure it’s accredited, stick to something in the state you’re a resident in, and you’ll be able to get through school without too much debt. Or if you’re lucky like me, you can get Pell Grants to cover all of it and graduate with no debt!
4 Years of Experience
At first, it may seem like 8-9 years to become a Civil Engineer is a long time. But one thing that makes it easier is there is a huge difference between school and going into the workforce. It’s like you get a reset and your motivation to continue is back again.
Plus, at this point, you’re technically already a Civil Engineer, you’ll just be “in training” for a few years until you get licensed.
Once you’ve finished your 4-5 years of schooling you’re going to need to get a job working under a licensed Professional Engineer. When I graduated, Civil Engineers were in high demand enough that I didn’t have a problem getting a job right out of school. In most places that’s still true today.
The nice thing is that engineering firms know that you’re needing the experience to become a licensed Professional Engineer, so they’ll help you make sure that happens.
Another aspect of working in the field that I really liked was that it was pretty different from school. Most people will complain about how school doesn’t prepare you for the real world, and while that’s true, it’s not entirely bad. The newness of work is a nice break from the monotony of studying and other components of college life.
As with school, my work experience went by quickly because I wasn’t just thinking about the end goal. I got to celebrate small wins along the way, like the boost in my income after I graduated. I also really dove into learning all that I could about the aspects of Civil Engineering that school didn’t teach me, which was a lot of fun.
Around the time you finish school you’ll take the FE exam and become an Engineer in Training. Before you know it your four years of experience will be up and it will be time to take the PE exam. You can learn more about these exams and why they are necessary in this article I wrote about the differences between the two.
Once you pass the PE exam it’s only a matter of a couple of weeks at most to gather all of the required paperwork and submit your application to get your PE license. If you have everything ready, you may even be able to get it on the same day you find out you passed the PE exam like I did!
The 8-9 years it takes to become a Civil Engineer is a long time but it doesn’t feel that bad when you’re in the middle of it. There are lots of enjoyable moments along the way. And going through the effort and putting in all that time and money is definitely worth it to become a licensed Professional Engineer! I really enjoy being a Civil Engineer and I think you will too, just stick with it and see for yourself.