How to Become a Civil Engineering Technician
Civil engineering technicians prepare reports and document project activities and data.
Although not always required, an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is preferred for employment as a civil engineering technician.
To prepare for programs in engineering technology after high school, prospective civil engineering technicians should take science and math courses, such as chemistry, physics, geometry, and trigonometry. They should also have basic knowledge of the use of computers.
Employers generally prefer engineering technicians to have an associate’s degree from a program accredited by ABET, although a degree is not always required. Engineering technology programs are also available at technical or vocational schools that award a postgraduate certificate or diploma.
Courses at technical or vocational schools may include engineering, design, and computer software. To complete an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology, students also usually need to take other courses in liberal arts and the sciences.
Critical-thinking skills. As assistants to civil engineers, civil engineering technicians must be able to help the engineers identify and solve problems; to develop infrastructure plans; and to help agencies avoid wasting time, effort, and funds.
Decisionmaking skills. Pressure from deadlines means that technicians must be able to quickly discern which types of information are most important for the work at hand, and which plan of action will help keep the project on schedule.
Math skills. Civil engineering technicians use math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work. For this reason, they need to be familiar with algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
Observational skills. Civil engineering technicians sometimes have to go to jobsites and assess a project for the engineer. Therefore, they must know what to look for and how best to report back to the engineer who is overseeing the project.
Problem-solving skills. Like civil engineers, civil engineering technicians help design projects to solve a particular problem. Technicians must be able to understand and work with all the related systems involved in building a project.
Reading skills. Civil engineering technicians carry out plans and designs for projects that a civil engineer has approved. Thus, they must be able to understand all the reports, plans, and documents describing these designs.
Writing skills. Civil engineering technicians often are asked to relay their findings in writing. They must be able to write reports that are well organized and clearly written.
Another path for prospective civil engineering technicians is to enter the occupation after gaining work experience in a related occupation, particularly as a drafter or a computer aided design (CAD) operator. A worker who begins as a drafter or CAD operator for an engineering firm may advance to a civil engineering technician position as his or her knowledge of design and construction increases.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Certification is not needed to enter this occupation, but it can help technicians advance their careers. The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) is one of the primary organizations overseeing certification for civil engineering technicians.
Certification as a technician requires passing an exam and providing documentation, including a work history, recommendations, and for most programs, supervisor confirmation of specific experience. NICET requires technicians to update their skills and knowledge through a recertification process that encourages continuing professional development.
Civil engineering technicians can advance in their careers by learning to design systems for a variety of projects, such as storm sewers and sanitary systems, or traffic signal systems. It is also useful for civil engineering technicians to become skilled at reading plans and profiles—the graphical depiction of proposed projects.
Civil engineering technicians can also benefit from increasing their knowledge of computer systems and applications; in particular, familiarity with word processing and spreadsheet programs, as well as geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS).