After reviewing the data from our 8th Annual Civil Engineering Salary Survey, I started thinking about how many civil engineers believe that their duties and responsibilities warrant salaries equivalent with those of doctors and attorneys. They say that as licensed professionals responsible for public safety, they should be compensated on par with these and other highly esteemed professionals. So how do civil engineers compare? Our research indicates a median salary of $76,907, which falls in the range of upper middle income level jobs ($50,000 to $80,000), according to Salary.com, a widely recognized source of reliable information about employee pay levels.
According to Salary.com’s Basic Salary Reports, our civil engineering median salary is in line with that of a head obstetrics nurse, a school principal, and an executive chef at a casino. In the legal field, our median salary was more in line with that of paralegals than with attorneys. In the healthcare category, many types of nurses were listed, but no physicians. Many job titles for physicians, as well as attorneys, are listed in the $100,000+ category.
Some people say that civil engineers need more education to demand higher salaries. Just looking at the results of our survey, it is clear that advanced education does increase compensation.
While this discussion relates to current education and salary levels, the situation in 20 years will be very different, if proposals by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) are implemented. This year, the Committee on Uniform Procedures and Legislative Guidelines of the NCEES will present motions to put additional education requirements into the Model Law—the proposal is for 30 additional credits from an approved course provider(s) in upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level coursework—a move in line with the recommendations of the ASCE’s "Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century." If approved, more civil engineers will have advanced degrees, especially if they wish to pursue licensure. These changes should lead to better preparation for the increasingly sophisticated practice of civil engineering and equivalent education requirements to those of many other professions. Perhaps these changes will deliver the recognition and salary that many believe civil engineers deserve now.