Become a Resident Engineer: Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a resident engineer. Learn about the job description and duties and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in engineering.

Should I Become a Resident Engineer?

Resident engineers coordinate and oversee the design, development and construction of projects that may include roads and highways, bridges, buildings and other structures. They may also be called civil engineers. These professionals should feel comfortable working in offices, as well as on construction sites.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; master's for career advancement to management positions
Degree Field Civil engineering
Licensure Licensing required
Experience 4 years through Civil Engineering (CE) Intern or an Engineer-in-Training programs
Key Skills Visualization, reasoning, decision-making, problem solving, mathematics, operations analysis, project management; industry software, such as computer-aided design (CAD), map creation, project management, analytical or scientific software, spreadsheets
Salary (2014) $82,220 per year (Median salary for civil engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Employers generally prefer to hire resident engineers with bachelor's degrees in civil engineering. A Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering program focuses on principles of structural design and construction. Courses may include transportation engineering, structural theory, systems design, infrastructural planning, materials mechanics and dynamics. The BLS notes that prospective engineers should consider an engineering degree program accredited by the ABET (formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) since this is a requirement for later obtaining a license.

Success Tips:

  • Consider a specialized concentration. Engineering students may want to pursue an area of specialization when they enroll in a college degree program. Depending on individual interests and career goals, examples might include a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with a concentration in either structural engineering or building science.
  • Complete a college internship program. Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in civil engineering will want to consider participating in an internship program while still in school. Such programs provide the opportunity to acquire and develop industry skills and knowledge that can be counted by prospective employers as work experience.

Step 2: Obtain Professional Licensure

Resident engineers are required to earn state licensure through a licensing board. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers licensure for engineers in all 50 U.S. states. While requirements vary by state, licensure candidates are generally required to hold a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited school and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional association. Aspiring resident engineers may want to consider joining a professional association, such as the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Membership benefits include access to continuing education resources, an association newsletter, online job board, and opportunity to participate in local chapter meetings.

Step 3: Gain Entry-level Experience

To complete the licensure process, candidates generally must gain four years of experience as engineer interns (EIs) or engineers in training (EITs). In these entry-level positions, beginning engineers work under the supervision of experienced, licensed engineers. Large companies may pair this hands-on training with formal classroom education and seminars.

Candidates can later pursue the Professional Engineer (PE) license, administered by the NCEES after meeting the necessary requirements through a combination of additional work experience and education. After obtaining licensure, gaining experience and proving proficiency, resident engineers can take on advanced responsibility. They may be assigned to projects that are more complex and make design decisions. Some engineers move up to supervisory positions, in which they manage engineering teams. Others go on to serve as technical specialists in sales positions.

Step 4: Consider a Master's Degree

According to the BLS, some engineers within the industry have a master's degree. Continuing education at the graduate level may provide candidates with enhanced career prospects as well as make them eligible for advancement to management positions.

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