Study Civil Engineering in the USA

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By Deshan Mendis
Last updated on August 10, 2023

If you are interested in pursuing a civil engineering degree in the US, this guide helps you understand typical university requirements and your future career prospects.

Six international students in safety overalls and facemasks at a work table discussing with each other

Earning a degree in civil engineering from a US university helps you pursue rewarding careers across a variety of industries. If you are a passionate problem solver who wants to make a real global impact, civil engineering may be the career path for you. 

International students will find many top-ranking US universities that are ideal places to pursue a degree in civil engineering. Read on to learn more about the field of civil engineering and how to get started on your degree!

What Is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering is the study of how everything in our environment is built — from roads to bridges, airports and dams, civil engineering is all about planning and building our future world. Civil engineers shape the landscapes of cities and countries, often through infrastructure. While this work comes with immense responsibility, civil engineering is highly rewarding, as your efforts are reflected in the environment around you.

Civil engineers come from many different backgrounds and do much more than design buildings and bridges. Career possibilities span a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, power generation, and many more.

Civil engineers work with complex planning processes, so it is important to develop skills that allow you to design, develop, and connect infrastructure. Depending on what you want to specialize in, you may be responsible for designing new systems or maintaining and improving existing ones.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in civil engineering, the first step is to consider the future outlook of the industry and roles in this field.

The Future of Civil Engineering

From 2020 to 2030, the number of civil engineers employed in the US is expected to rise by 8%, which is the same rate as the national average for all jobs. Additionally, over the next decade, there are expected to be an average of more than 25,000 opportunities for civil engineers per year.

There is rising demand for civil engineers who can manage projects to construct, repair, and upgrade bridges, roads, dams, airports, and other structures, as the present infrastructure in the United States becomes increasingly obsolete.

With the expanding population in the US, water systems need to be properly maintained to reduce or even eliminate problems (e.g., leaks, eroding pipes, etc.). New waste treatment facilities are also required in order to keep the country’s water resources clean and safe. Civil engineers play a key role in improving these types of systems as technology advances and cities develop.

Renewable-energy initiatives such as solar and wind are also projected to increase in the years ahead, and these require civil engineering work. As new projects are approved, civil engineers will become increasingly involved in supervising the building of wind farms and solar arrays, both at home and abroad. 

As civil engineering is such a broad field, you can explore multiple specializations for your professional career. Often, your key civil engineering skills will transfer across different roles. Pursuing a civil engineering degree at a US university gives you the chance to build these in-demand and versatile skills in a supportive environment where you can access valuable opportunities for professional growth.

Top-Ranked Civil Engineering Programs at Shorelight Universities 

Shorelight universities offer civil engineering degrees where you can learn from industry experts and develop the hands-on experience that employers seek out in new hires. You can also access state-of-the-art facilities, workshops, and many opportunities to develop skills and work experience while you study.

By pursuing a degree in civil engineering, you will learn how to:

  • Develop key technical competencies

  • Communicate effectively 

  • Obtain and maintain professional registration(s)

  • Participate in and/or lead as an engineering team member

  • Meet realistic project schedule deadlines and budget constraints consistently

  • Grow professionally through continuing education, graduate school, activities in professional societies, and/or community involvement

  • Make decisions that include ethical and societal considerations

  • Demonstrate critical thinking skills

Additionally, Shorelight universities are international-student friendly, offering a world-class education with dedicated support services from before you apply all the way to your graduation. Exclusive services include F-1 visa assistance, academic support, guidance on choosing the right civil engineering program, and more.

Here are a few civil engineering programs at top-ranked Shorelight universities:

Cleveland State University

The Bachelor of Civil Engineering program at Cleveland State University’s Washkewicz College of Engineering provides students with a solid background in structural, geotechnical, water resources, environmental, and transportation engineering. 

Civil engineering concentrations include: 

  • Environmental engineering

  • Geotechnical engineering

  • Structural engineering

  • Transportation engineering

  • Water resource engineering

U.S. News & World Report ranks Cleveland State’s undergraduate engineering department as a Tier-1 program (2020), highlighting its hands-on learning approach and emphasis on urban sustainability.

Ranked among the top 100 universities in USA Today, Cleveland State University partners with world-class hospitals, Fortune 500 companies, government research centers, and cultural institutions to provide students with academic, research, and job opportunities. 

While studying, students also have the option of participating in the university’s Cooperative Education Program, which integrates classroom studies with paid work experiences. Completing three to four semesters of co-op often results in employment with government agencies, industrial manufacturers, consulting firms, and other private engineering enterprises.

Alumni from the Washkewicz College of Engineering have gone on to work for corporations and government organizations around the world. Chief executive officers and senior engineers, researchers and innovators, business owners and entrepreneurs, and academics and authors make up this esteemed group.

University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)

Students who pursue an undergraduate major in civil engineering at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) can look forward to studying structural engineering, urban planning, coastal preservation, transportation engineering, water-resources management, and more. Through the program, you can also learn the specifics of designing structures while considering natural disaster resistance and planning.

UIC’s College of Engineering, ranked #79 for undergraduates and #69 for graduate students, emphasizes cutting-edge education, independent research, and hands-on learning. 

Along with a civil engineering major, you can choose to pursue any of the following concentrations:

  • Computer science

  • Construction engineering and management

  • Environmental and water resource engineering

  • Geotechnical engineering

  • Materials engineering

  • Structural engineering

  • Sustainability 

  • Transportation engineering

UIC also offers internship opportunities throughout the year. The Guaranteed Paid Internship Program (GPIP) places students in paid positions in one of 42 UIC research labs and other university departments, so you gain work experience and expand your professional network to fast-track your career after graduation.

As a UIC Engineering student, you can join a variety of student-run organizations including professional-development and community groups, including:

  • Alpha Eta Mu Beta (AEMB) — AEMB is the National Biomedical Engineering Honor Society. AEMB recognizes those who have excelled in the biomedical engineering field, and encourages further excellence and learning through networking, service opportunities, training, and leadership.

  • Alpha Kappa Psi — Alpha Kappa Psi, with 200,000+ members ranging across all majors, offers a diverse group of eager young professionals. It is considered the premier developer of principled business leaders.

  • American Society of Civil EngineersThe society provides opportunities for students to interact with professional civil engineers and fellow civil engineering students. Members also get the chance to attend engineering conventions and conferences.

Apart from joining student groups, undergraduates can also gain experience from UIC alumni who act as mentors for new students. They also evaluate design projects at the annual expo, where seniors in engineering showcase their creativity, ingenuity, and innovative spirit to the entire UIC community and the city of Chicago.

University of South Carolina (UofSC)

The University of South Carolina is a world-renowned, high-impact research university devoted to a superior student experience and innovation in learning, research, and community involvement. Students at UofSC’s College of Engineering and Computing are taught how to develop new technologies through hands-on learning, including designing and building new applications at the IBM Innovation Center. 

The first two years of your civil engineering major develop a foundation in mathematics, computer programming, the physical sciences, and basic engineering sciences, as well as liberal arts courses.

UofSC’s civil engineering specializations are:

  • Environmental engineering

  • Geotechnical engineering

  • Structural engineering

  • Transportation engineering

  • Water Resources engineering

Unique to UofSC is the Capstone Design experience. It pairs teams of students with a project sponsor to address real-world problems that involve multiple facets of civil engineering. Students master the ability to manage, plan, and execute engineering projects while working on a team.  

The College of Engineering and Computing also offers alumni mentoring programs, a great way to learn from experienced professionals about how to excel in your degree and discover opportunities after graduation. 

Once you have a degree in civil engineering from a prestigious US university, you can qualify for a variety of lucrative careers.

Global Entry-Level Civil Engineer Salary Examples 

As civil engineering careers require advanced skills and knowledge, many offer competitive salaries and lucrative career development opportunities. Here are several civil engineer salary  examples for new professionals pursuing entry-level civil engineering careers in the US, China, India, and Brazil.

Construction Engineer

Average US Salary: $62.3K

Average China Salary: ¥247k

Average India Salary: ₹425k

Average Brazil Salary: BRL 121,898

Environmental Engineer

Average US Salary: $58.5k

Average China Salary: ¥267k

Average India Salary: ₹304.2k

Average Brazil Salary: BRL 93,39

Structural Engineer

Average US Salary: $62.3k

Average China Salary: ¥246k

Average India Salary: ₹304.7k

Average Brazil Salary: BRL 101,859

Surveying Engineer

Average US Salary: $54k

Average China Salary: ¥147k

Average India Salary: ₹397k

Average Brazil Salary: BRL 111,033

Water Resources Engineer

Average US Salary: $60k

Average China Salary: ¥244k

Average India Salary: ₹595k

Average Brazil Salary: BRL 80,191

Salary info sourced from Payscale, Glassdoor, and

After you graduate, you can pursue further training or job opportunities in the US through Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows you to train and work in the US for up to 12 months after completing your degree. By earning a degree in civil engineering, a STEM-designated area of study, you may also be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension which gives you an additional 24 months to work in the US. 

Now that you have an understanding of your career prospects as a civil engineer, here is how to take the first step and apply for your civil engineering degree program.

Apply for a Civil Engineering Degree at a Shorelight University

To get accepted to any US university as an international student, you must first complete a set of mandatory requirements, which may include preliminary exams to assess your language skills and suitability for your chosen degree. Universities frequently require:

  • English-Language Proficiency Scores — Test results determine whether you may benefit from additional English as a Second Language courses.

  • Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) — These courses offer students an excellent preparation for college through challenging coursework. Achieving these certifications will help you stand out to your university of choice.

  • Academic experience in courses related to your degree — For a civil engineering degree, you may need to complete high school subjects such as English, mathematics, science, and social sciences. If you are entirely new to the field of civil engineering, some universities may offer starting courses to build your fundamentals. Once complete, you can then officially begin your civil engineering program courses.

Some programs may also require specific standardized admissions tests before you apply, so be sure to research these requirements carefully. Additionally, each university typically requires school transcripts, recommendation letters, and essays to be submitted with your application, so be sure to prepare these ahead of time to avoid delays.

Studying civil engineering in the US gives you the chance to explore a dynamic and rewarding career path and can help you stand out to employers in the US and around the world. With the help of your Shorelight advisor, work toward your degree in confidence, knowing assistance is available every step of the way!

Shorelight can help you study at top-ranked programs in the US >