Can a Construction Manager Become a Civil Engineer?

Published Categorized as Project Management
Civil Engineers as Construction Managers

Changing careers can be confusing and stressful, even if the career you intend to switch to is similar to your current job. Construction managers have some of the same duties as civil engineers, but there are also many key differences between the two regarding exactly how their projects are managed.

A construction manager can become a civil engineer with some additional education and training. While both careers involve overseeing construction projects, civil engineers work offsite, where they design the project’s initial planning and blueprints and give directions to construction managers.

To learn more about becoming a civil engineer as a construction manager, keep reading. We’ll cover the skills and education you’ll need to become a civil engineer, the day-to-day and long-term duties you’ll be expected to perform, and how the job differs from a construction manager position.

How To Become a Civil Engineer as a Construction Manager

Since civil engineers and construction managers share many of the same responsibilities, the prerequisites you’ll need for both jobs are also very similar. The high degree of overlap between the two makes switching from a construction manager career to a civil engineer position much simpler than becoming a civil engineer with no prior relevant experience.

The main requirement that differs between the two is the level of education required for the positions, though the specific major and degree you will need will vary slightly from employer to employer.

Construction managers are usually expected to have at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in construction management, civil engineering, or construction science. On the other hand, civil engineers are held to a slightly higher standard due to their extra responsibilities. They are more often expected to have at minimum a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree in civil engineering.

Once you’ve achieved the level of education required of you for the position, you’ll also have to be prepared to compete with many other highly skilled and educated candidates when applying for the job. Having a solid understanding of designing blueprints, building codes, and what materials are needed for various types of projects is essential when appealing to a potential employer.

What Skills Do Civil Engineers Need?

As we briefly touched on above, civil engineers are usually expected to have a higher and more specialized level of education than construction managers, with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in civil engineering being the norm. In many cases, they must also have a professional engineer’s license to practice their profession.

However, formal education and a license aren’t the only things you’ll need. Your experience with construction management will help, but you’ll also need to learn more civil engineering-oriented skills.

You can think of civil engineers as being a small step above construction managers on the corporate ladder.

The skills civil engineers need to have include the following:

  • Come up with detailed blueprints and building plans.
  • Understand building codes.
  • Determine suitable materials to use for their projects.
  • Give clear instructions to the construction manager.

The construction manager then takes this direction and oversees the project and its employees directly on site.

Civil engineering is also more math-heavy and isn’t as hands-on as construction management, so a high level of proficiency in arithmetic and analyzing data and statistics is necessary, too. Plus, engineers are often expected to oversee multiple sites from their main office and direct several different construction managers at a time, so multitasking and time management skills are crucial.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Civil engineers are basically construction manager managers.

A civil engineer develops the first steps and initial planning when designing and directing a construction project. They then ensure their directions are followed throughout the project by regularly communicating with construction managers, clients, and other employees.

Civil engineers generally have an offsite main office. Their job duties include the following:

  • Designing their construction projects’ blueprints
  • Deciding what materials to use
  • Dividing up employees to complete the job
  • Communicating with construction managers regularly for progress updates and to address any of their needs

They also must work according to designated building codes for various major public works projects and adjust the construction process accordingly to keep everything code compliant. In short, civil engineers oversee the big picture elements of planning a construction project, usually from a remote, offsite location.

How Are Civil Engineers Different From Construction Managers?

The most notable difference between civil engineering and construction management is the scale of the positions’ oversight. Although both careers involve managing construction projects, the ways in which they manage construction sites differ significantly.

Civil engineers usually manage construction managers. They design all of a project’s guidelines, decide what materials will be used, and determine the project’s scheduling and overall time frame.

Construction managers take those guidelines, blueprints, and other directions from the civil engineers on their projects and make sure the employees onsite execute them correctly and in a timely manner. They also typically have an on-site office where they are available to assist their team with the overall construction process with a more hands-on approach if needed.

How Much Do Civil Engineers Make vs. Construction Managers?

The overall salary for civil engineers varies depending on an individual’s experience, education level, and location, but generally, they make anywhere from $60,000 to as much as $100,000 or more per year, with the average salary being around $87,000.

Construction managers’ salaries can also vary slightly, but they can expect to make roughly $60,000 to $90,000 per year, with the average salary being approximately $80,000.

Additionally, both careers are currently in high demand and are considered very secure and stable long-term choices with low turnover rates.


If you’re a construction manager hoping to become a civil engineer, you likely already have many of the skills and much of the experience needed for the job. The two professions have a lot of overlap as far as the duties and education required.

However, civil engineering requires more in-depth planning, knowledge, and oversight of projects, while construction management is usually contained to managing only the construction process of a single site. If you want to become a civil engineer, you’ll need to obtain the education necessary and be willing to commit to more complex responsibilities.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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