Although not always required, an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is preferred for civil engineering technicians. It is best to seek programs that ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) has certified.
Prospective civil engineering technicians should take as many high school science and math courses as possible to prepare for programs in engineering technology after high school.
Employers generally want engineering technicians to have an associate’s degree from an ABET-accredited program, although the degree is not always required. Engineering technology programs are also available at technical or vocational schools that award a postgraduate certificate or diploma.
Courses at technical or vocational schools may include engineering, design, and computer software. To complete an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology, students also usually need to take other courses in liberal arts and the sciences.
Workers with less formal engineering technology training need to learn some skills on the job.
In contrast to civil engineering technicians, civil engineering technologists need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology to master and apply high-level principles of civil engineering in their work.
Critical-thinking skills. Civil engineering technicians, as assistants to civil engineers, must help the engineers spot problems to avoid wasting time, effort, and funds.
Math skills. Civil engineering technicians use mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Monitoring skills. Civil engineering technicians sometimes have to go to job sites and assess a project for the engineer. Therefore, they must know what to look for and how best to report back to the engineer overseeing the project.
Prioritizing skills. Pressures from deadlines mean that technicians must quickly see which types of information are most important.
Problem-solving skills. Like civil engineers, civil engineering technicians help design projects to solve a particular problem. Technicians must be able to understand and work with all the related systems involved in building a project.
Reading skills. Civil engineering technicians carry out plans and designs for projects that a civil engineer has approved. They must be able to understand all the reports about these designs.
Writing skills. Civil engineering technicians are often asked to relay their findings in writing. The reports must be well organized and clearly written.
Certification is not needed to enter this occupation, but it can help technicians advance their careers. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) is one of the primary organizations overseeing certification for civil engineering technicians.
Certification as a technician requires an exam and documentation, including a work history, recommendations, and, for most programs, supervisor verification of specific experience.
Certification as a technologist requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology. There is no additional exam for basic engineering technologist certification, but documentation, including a work history and endorsements, is required for advanced levels.
NICET requires technicians and technologists to update their skills and knowledge through a recertification process that encourages continuing professional development.
Civil engineering technicians can advance in their careers by learning to design systems for a variety of projects, such as storm sewers and sanitary systems. It is also useful for civil engineering technicians to become proficient at reading graphic plans of proposed utility projects, called profiles.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition