Excelling in one’s chosen career is never easy, but in these difficult economic times, young civil engineering professionals face a particularly tough situation.
Several years of downsizing at AEC firms has enlarged the pool of experienced candidates for every position, and salary cuts and freezes have diminished the hoped for financial rewards from a career in civil engineering – at least temporarily.
The career challenges for civil engineers can start immediately upon graduating. This is evident in the results of the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) Salary Survey of the college class of 2011. The average starting salary for civil engineering graduates was $52,069, less than 1 percent greater than in 2010 (but better than the previous year when starting salaries had decreased) and at the bottom of engineering graduates surveyed. Electrical and mechanical engineering graduates averaged starting salaries of $61,021 and $60,345, respectively; petroleum engineering grads averaged $80,849.
Economic turmoil also has impacted graduates’ desires from potential employers, according to NACE. The class of 2011’s top five attributes of a job/employer are: 1) opportunity for personal development; 2) job security; 3) good insurance benefits; 4) friendly co-workers; and 5) high starting salary. Missing from the top-five list for the first time since 2008 is "opportunity for advancement."
"We’ve seen personal development moving up the list since the recession, suggesting that students recognize they may need to look for job satisfaction in other ways," said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.
Of course, it’s a two-way street; graduates need to provide more value to employers than just technical skills (see Mark Zweig’s column, "Making the most of a reputation for ethical behavior," on page 8). The top five soft skills sought by employers (all disciplines) participating in NACE’s Job Outlook 2012 survey are: 1) ability to work in a team; 2) ability to communicate verbally; 3) ability to make decisions and solve problems; 4) ability to obtain and process information; and 5) ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work.
Regardless of the current economic and job prospects, when young civil engineering professionals with high technical and soft skills take advantage of the opportunities for personal development offered by employers, great things can happen – for both. To recognize civil engineers 40 years old or younger working in the United States who have shown exceptional technical capability, leadership ability, effective teaching or research, and/or public service benefiting the civil engineering profession, their employers, project owners, and/or society, ZweigWhite developed the Rising Stars in Civil Engineering awards (see details on page 23 and online at www.zweigwhite.com/risingstarsaward). The nomination period opens Dec. 1 and ends Dec. 16, 2011. Nominees selected as Rising Stars in Civil Engineering will be featured in an article in the March 2012 issue of CE News.
Any private firm, public-sector agency (i.e., federal, state, county, or city), or educational or research institution may submit a maximum of five nominations. There is no charge for submitting nominations or for any engineer selected as a Rising Star to be featured in the CE News article.
Help us recognize those civil engineering professionals who are excelling in the early stages of their careers, strengthening and expanding the industry’s solid foundation established by those who preceded them.