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Civil Engineer vs. Structural Engineer – Which Path is Right for You?

Last Updated on April 21, 2023 by Admin


When choosing a career in engineering, it’s essential to understand the differences between various disciplines. Two closely related fields are civil engineering and structural engineering. While they share some similarities, distinct differences make them unique career paths. In this post, we will dive deep into civil and structural engineering to help you decide which path is right for you. We’ll explore the roles, responsibilities, required education, job prospects, and salary expectations for each profession. We will also present the differences between the two fields in a tabular format for easy reference.

Civil Engineer vs. Structural Engineer: The Basics

Civil engineers and structural engineers both work to design, build, and maintain infrastructure projects. However, their roles and responsibilities differ in key ways.

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Civil engineers focus on a broader range of projects, such as roads, bridges, dams, and water treatment facilities. In contrast, structural engineers concentrate on the stability and integrity of building structures, ensuring they can withstand various loads and environmental factors.

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When exploring the engineering world, it’s important to consider factors such as salary and job prospects. The structural civil engineering salary often competes with that of architects, but there are distinctions in their roles and responsibilities.

To better understand these fields, consider enrolling in civil and structural engineering courses that cover a wide range of topics, including civil and structural works.

These courses will equip you with the knowledge needed to pursue rewarding civil and structural engineering jobs in various industries.


In the ongoing debate between civil engineer vs structural engineer salary, it’s crucial to understand that factors such as experience, location, and company size can influence earning potential. Ultimately, both professions offer unique challenges and opportunities, making them desirable choices for aspiring engineers.

CriteriaCivil EngineerStructural Engineer
Focus AreaA broad range of infrastructure projectsStability and integrity of building structures
EducationBachelor’s degree in civil engineeringBachelor’s degree in civil or structural engineering
CertificationProfessional Engineer (PE) licenseStructural Engineer (SE) license (in some states)
Job ResponsibilitiesDesign, plan, construct, and maintain infrastructureDesign and analyze building structures for safety
Work EnvironmentConsulting firms, government agencies, constructionConsulting firms, construction companies, architecture
Median Salary (2023)$89,089$97,500
Job Outlook (2020-2030)8% growth11% growth

Education and Certification

To become a civil engineer, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Likewise, structural engineers typically hold a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, with some specializing in structural engineering during their studies. Both professions require a Professional Engineer (PE) license to practice independently. Additionally, some states require structural engineers to obtain a Structural Engineer (SE) license.

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Job Prospects and Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for civil engineers is projected to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030, while the structural engineering field is expected to see an 11% growth in the same period. This growth is primarily due to the need for infrastructure improvements and the increasing demand for sustainable and resilient designs.

In 2023, the median salary for a civil engineer was $89,089, while the median salary for a structural engineer was $97,500. Salaries for both professions can vary depending on experience, education, location, and industry.

You can also look at this Civil Engineering Salary Guide to learn more about the latest civil engineering salary trends in 2023.


Soft Skills and Personal Traits

Both civil and structural engineers need a combination of technical knowledge and soft skills to excel in their careers. Here are a few key soft skills and personal traits that can benefit professionals in both fields:

Communication: Civil and structural engineers must communicate their ideas and findings effectively to clients, team members, and other stakeholders. This includes written and verbal communication skills and presenting complex information clearly and concisely.

Problem-solving: Engineers often face challenges and must think critically to develop innovative and effective solutions. This involves assessing and analyzing various aspects of a project and making data-driven decisions.

Teamwork: Engineering projects typically involve collaboration between multiple professionals, including architects, contractors, and other engineers. Working well with others and contributing to a team’s success is crucial.

Attention to detail: The work of civil and structural engineers directly impacts public safety, making precision and attention to detail essential. Engineers must carefully review plans, calculations, and designs to meet industry standards and regulations.

Adaptability: Engineers must stay current with new technologies, materials, and best practices in their respective fields. This requires the ability to learn quickly and adapt to changes in the industry.

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If you’re preparing for a civil engineering job, check out our Civil Engineering Interview Guide, featuring 300 essential questions and answers to help you excel in your upcoming interview.


Civil and structural engineering offers rewarding careers in designing, constructing, and maintaining vital infrastructure projects. When choosing between the two, consider your interests, education, career goals, and personal traits. Civil engineering might be the right fit for you if you’re drawn to various projects and enjoy the broader aspects of infrastructure design and planning. On the other hand, if you’re fascinated by the intricacies of building structures and their ability to withstand various forces, structural engineering may be a more suitable career path.

Regardless of which discipline you choose, civil and structural engineers play a critical role in shaping our built environment and ensuring the safety and sustainability of our communities. By understanding the differences between these fields and considering your skills and interests, you can make an informed decision and embark on a fulfilling and successful career in engineering.

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Is a civil engineering career better than structural engineering?

It depends on personal interests and career goals. Both civil and structural engineering offer rewarding career paths, each with unique challenges and opportunities.

Can a civil engineer transition to a structural engineering role?

Yes, a civil engineer can become a structural engineer with additional education, training, or experience in structural engineering principles and design.

Does structural engineering fall under the umbrella of civil engineering?

Yes, structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering, focusing on the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads.

When can a civil engineer be recognized as a structural engineer?

A civil engineer may be recognized as a structural engineer after gaining relevant experience, completing additional coursework or certifications, and demonstrating proficiency in structural engineering concepts and design.

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