Drainage Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 04, 2018

Explore the step-by-step process to become a professional drainage engineer. Learn more about what the career encompasses and how to move up in the field once you've gotten started.

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  • 0:00 Drainage Engineer Career Info
  • 1:02 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:33 Find Entry-Level Work
  • 2:41 Get Licensed

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Drainage Engineer Career Info

Drainage engineers are a type of civil engineer, and they specialize in water drainage systems. They typically work for municipal governments in fields such as storm water management, sanitation, or transportation, or they may find employment in the private sector. When designing drainage systems, engineers must analyze factors such as environmental impact, aesthetics, and project costs, and they must be aware of local laws governing drainage system construction. Because they spend much of their time on construction sites, they must be comfortable working outdoors in variable weather conditions.

These professionals should have mathematical skills, analytical skills, project management skills, and knowledge of construction materials, soil science, and AutoCAD. Drainage engineers are a category of civil engineers, and as a group these professionals earned a median annual salary of $82,220 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Civil or environmental engineering
Licensure Most states require professional engineers to be licensed
Key Skills Mathematical and analytical skills, project management, knowledge of construction materials, soil science, AutoCAD
Salary (2015) $82,220 (median for civil engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Prospective drainage engineers might consider a bachelor's degree program in civil or environmental engineering. These programs typically last four to five years and include courses in fluid mechanics, infrastructure construction, and wastewater treatment. Students may cover topics ranging from soil behavior to hydrodynamics. Programs also require learners to complete computer-aided design (CAD) courses to create and evaluate drainage models for roads, buildings and other facilities.

Find Entry-Level Work

After graduation, aspiring drainage engineers can seek entry-level positions. Here they may assist more experienced drainage engineers with designing flood control and storm drain systems. This may include researching construction materials, estimating road grading, and testing soil strength. Engineers may also be responsible for demonstrating their knowledge of environmental and building codes in order to ensure that projects comply with government standards.

As new hires gain experience, they may begin complex assignments such as designing erosion prevention systems and developing means to improve water quality. In order to do this, engineers may use CAD software and other specialized programs to design, analyze, and test construction materials, water flow, and drainage components. Engineers may also take on project management roles and be responsible for estimating labor, material, and transportation costs, in addition to creating budgets and timelines. Other duties may include designing graded roadways to optimize water flow and improving drainage systems that easily back-up.

Get Licensed

Drainage engineers are required to be licensed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Licensure requirements vary by state, but typically include an ABET-accredited bachelor's degree, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, gaining four years of experience working under a licensed professional engineer, and passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Those who successfully complete the exam become professional engineers (PEs). Depending on their state of residence, PEs may be required to complete continuing education units to maintain their license. Only licensed engineers may legally prepare, sign and seal engineering plans for public or private clients, so earning this license allows a drainage engineer to take on advanced engineering and project management roles with more autonomy.

Again, aspiring drainage engineers should earn a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or a related subject, gain experience through an entry-level job, move up in the field, and take a test to become a professional engineer.

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