Civil engineers need at least a bachelor's degree to secure work; for advanced positions and more complex work, they often need a master's degree, and may need to obtain a license before practicing, depending on state requirements. Civil engineers undergo undergraduate preparation in courses such as math, engineering mechanics and systems analysis, statistics and fluid dynamics. They often supplement traditional academic studies with hands-on work in the field or in a lab.
In addition to a solid academic background, certain personal qualities make for adept civil engineers. Aspiring engineers should have sound mathematical and problem-solving skills. They rely heavily on mathematical concepts primarily in the areas of calculus and trigonometry, and other disciplines requiring analysis of data, designing and fixing problems. Engineers spend much of their time searching for solutions, which makes problem-solving skills essential. Therefore, they must have good analytical skills and be able to think logically.
Although they work primarily with objects and structures, engineers also need good communications skills. They take courses in writing to convey information in print, and generally exhibit sound leadership qualities, as they must make decisions virtually every day.
Some engineers work for firms or corporations, while others work for themselves. Self-employed engineers need a license in all states. They must also pass an exam called the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam.