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Lead Construction Engineer: Job Description & Requirements

Lead construction engineers apply the principles of engineering and construction to projects. These professionals may handle a variety of projects and work with private companies or government organizations. Becoming a lead construction engineer requires the completion of a degree program, work experience, and licensure.

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Lead Construction Engineer Job Description

Construction engineers oversee projects by combining their knowledge of engineering and construction methods with resource and human management skills. They analyze topographical studies and site plans to determine the safest and most efficient way to build a structure. Construction engineers may also be in charge of selecting the proper materials such as concrete and pilings.

Lead construction engineers need to be comfortable alternating between indoor and outdoor work environments. Lead construction engineers must be comfortable communicating design ideas because they will be working with other professionals including construction workers, architects, and urban designers. In some cases, they may be in charge of costs and keeping a project under budget, so budgeting skills can be helpful.

Employment Requirements

Lead construction engineers need a bachelor's degree in construction or civil engineering. Construction engineering programs provide the most relevant coursework but there are few of these programs available. Individuals may choose civil engineering programs, which are more numerous and teach many of the same concepts.

Both construction and civil engineering programs include non-engineering requirements in math and science. Math requirements consist of a sequence in calculus plus coursework in differential equations and statistics. Science requirements include a physics sequence and general chemistry. The engineering curricula include courses in structural analysis, materials, and thermodynamics. Construction engineering curricula have additional construction coursework such as construction methods and human resource management.

Programs should be accredited by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. According to ABET, many state licensing boards require applicants to have graduated from an accredited program (www.abet.org). As of November 2013, according to a program search on the ABET website, there were 14 approved construction engineering programs but more than 230 approved civil engineering programs.

Licensing Requirements

Individuals who wish to become lead construction engineers may need to be licensed. This process requires passing two exams administered by the National Council for Examiners of Engineering and Surveying. The first is the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which may be taken near the completion of a bachelor's program. Following four years of work experience, individuals may sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), civil engineers earned a median of $79,340 a year, as of May 2012. The same year, the BLS indicated that the median annual salary earned by construction managers was $82,790.

The employment of civil engineers is projected by the BLS to grow by an approximate 19% between 2010 and 2020, while construction managers may see job opportunities increase by about 17% during the same time frame. Both growth rates are consistent with the national average projected among all occupations.

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