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Difference Between Civil & Mechanical Engineering

Civil and mechanical engineers both work within the engineering field and design things that are constructed. This article compares the focus of their work, education requirements, anticipated income and current job outlook of these professions.

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Comparing Civil Engineer to Mechanical Engineer

Since civil engineers and mechanical engineers need the same level of education and earn comparable salaries the key differences between these professionals lies in the focus of their work. They rely on many of the same skills to develop design plans, prepare budgets and oversee production or construction as needed, but civil engineers focus on constructing structures and community infrastructure needs, while mechanical engineers design mechanical products.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Civil Engineer Bachelor's degree $83,540 8%
Mechanical Engineer Bachelor's degree $84,190 5%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Civil Engineer vs Mechanical Engineer

Civil engineers and mechanical engineers create design plans for the projects they're working on. They also need to be able to determine the expected costs related to their project, and may oversee work on their projects. Civil engineers are responsible for building things like tunnels and highways, while mechanical engineers focus on mechanical products. Mechanical engineers may work with smaller items, such as medical devices, or they may work on mechanical systems in buildings, such as power generators.

Civil Engineer

Anyone who has driven over a bridge or road has benefited from the work of a civil engineer. These engineering professionals help design and oversee the construction of infrastructure projects that connect communities. To start a career as a civil engineer it's necessary to have a license and bachelor's degree. Those who are interested in advancing their career will need to complete a master's degree as well. Civil engineers must be decisive and capable of leading a number of professionals to ensure that projects stay on budget, follow design plans and comply with regulations.

Job responsibilities of a civil engineer include:

  • Meet with clients to discuss project goals and needs
  • Review applicable regulations
  • Secure building permits
  • Develop a design plan for the project
  • Develop a proposed budget for the expected costs of a project
  • Monitor construction

Mechanical Engineer

A license and bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering is typically required to work as a mechanical engineer. These professionals focus on designing mechanical items, such as power tools, or machines such as elevators. While mechanical engineers may benefit from some creative talents to help them come up with design plans, they also need to be able to work as an effective part of a team. They need to be able to assess a problem and determine how to solve it. Although they spend a great deal of time working in an office environment, they may also visit factories or other venues where products they've designed are being manufactured.

Job responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include:

  • Identifying project goals for products they're designing
  • Creating a design plan
  • Constructing prototypes
  • Assessing their work for design flaws or other issues
  • Alter design plans to eliminate flaws
  • Collaborate with other professionals to finalize design plans

Related Careers

Since civil engineers design structures they may also be interested in working as architects, because architects design buildings. Electricity engineers are involved with designing and constructing electrical products, and those considering a future as a mechanical engineer may want to consider this as another career option.

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