Discussion: View Thread

Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

  • 1.  Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 09-15-2018 05:27 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-15-2018 05:26 AM
    My name is Owen Peters and I just joined this group.  I joined ASCE late last year because I want to return to the Civil Engineering field after several years away.  I'm looking for any advice on how to do this.  I have a BS degree in Civil Engineering Technology, but I don't yet have a Master's. 

    Owen Peters EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Santa Clara CA

  • 2.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 09-15-2018 11:05 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-15-2018 11:04 AM
    ​HI Owen:

    Well, the easy advice is get a job in the field and your in.  But, I get the sense from your post that maybe you are having trouble doing that and feel that your training and education is holding you back in some way and that maybe you are having trouble getting interviews for positions that you've applied for.

    Again, some easy advice is to get a clear idea of the position you want and, then, focus your continued training and education efforts to make yourself qualified to do the job in the way that makes you a profitable employee for the company you are hired by.  So, the harder look might start with asking: What positions are available to you where you are? Are you willing to relocate to find positions that are of more interesting to you and your qualifications are best suited for? Are you willing to continue training to obtain the skills needed for the available positions that most closely match your qualifications?

    As far as getting the interview, apply for the job that you have the qualifications the employer is looking for.  Your cover letter and Resume are important tools that help introduce you to a potential employer.  Make sure that they are working for you.  It is frequently useful to have someone else look at them and offer an opinion on how effective they are.

    There are other avenues outside of the traditional advertisement/application process.  I have found that the results are less certain, but, they can work.  The primary benefits of these approaches are to introduce yourself to colleagues who may be in a position to hire or recommend hire and develop a relationship with them.

    Maybe you could offer a little more information about what you see as the hurdles to getting "back in" and others would be in a position to offer some more specific advice?

    Bart Clark , PE
    Warren, CT

  • 3.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-11-2018 07:56 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-11-2018 07:56 AM
    Owen - welcome, check out this article I wrote for ASCE:

    Ask Anthony: How Do I Return to a Civil Engineering Discipline After a Hiatus?

    I hope it helps,

    Anthony Fasano P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineering Management Institute
    Ridgewood NJ
    (201) 857-2384

  • 4.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 09-16-2018 08:49 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-16-2018 08:48 AM
    Hi Owen,
    Good to hear that you are considering coming back to do Civil Engineering, However, your letter does not explain what was the reason you were out of employment for a long time. 

    Pat Clark has given you quite a few options to consider - especially, how willing and keen are you to accept an offer away from your residence, may be in remote places. 

    Have you considered volunteering or doing unpaid job for a company or organization? One of the way to get into the market is to consider this option, maybe for 6 months. Looking at your regularity of attending, keenness and work performance - the employer would be happy to consider offering a suitable position. If that does not work out, at least you have gained some experience and may be you can use it as your reference.

    Please ensure that your CV reflects your positive attitude. It may be a good idea to get it reviewed by an agent.

    Why not think about it? Wish you best of the luck in job hunting. 

    Pradip Parghi P.E., CPEng, F.ASCE
    Melbourne, Australia

  • 5.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-08-2018 09:49 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-08-2018 09:49 AM
    I was working at a small Civil Engineering company back in 1998/99, but the company was struggling financially and eventually went out of business.  I probably would have stayed there if the company had been doing well.

    I tried to find other Civil Engineering jobs, but most required more experience than I had. I eventually found admin jobs and steady employment for several years, but I decided after several years that I wanted to return to Civil Engineering.

    My plan is to find an entry-level position and then to take classes for my Master's Degree while working in the field.

    Owen Peters EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Santa Clara CA

  • 6.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-11-2018 01:57 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-11-2018 01:56 PM
    Hi Owen,

    I suggest that you take the additional classes required to obtain a BSCE, then possibly a MSCE or MCE. I am director of an MCE program. We accept only applicants that have a BS in some engineering discipline, because 46 state engineering boards require a BS as the minimum to qualify for a PE. In civil engineering, a PE is an important job qualification, so you would want to qualify for that license. We don't accept non BS students because even though they might get their MSCE/MCE, they would not be able to get licensed. We don't want to sell degrees, we want to provide something of real value to our students.

    Best wishes. 

    William Kirkham P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
    Director MCE Program
    The University of Kansas
    Overland Park KS

  • 7.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-27-2018 08:16 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-27-2018 08:15 AM
    I'm still trying to decide between going back to school for my MSCE, or just continuing trying to find entry-level Civil Engineering jobs.  Either way, I want to apply for more jobs.  I want to see if being out of the field for so long is a major barrier.  If so, would getting a Master's Degree or even just a BSCE be worthwhile?  What would be the advantages (like being eligible for internships) of going back to school.

    I've applied to a few entry-level positions already and been told that I wasn't a good fit.

    Owen Peters EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Santa Clara CA

  • 8.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-27-2018 11:09 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-27-2018 11:09 AM
    Hi Owen,

    I noticed that you gave Santa Clara as your location. It might be helpful to talk to an engineering school and see how many courses you would need to complete to earn a BSCE. I see that there is a Santa Clara University which offers BSCE and MSCE degrees. Maybe you should go talk to them? They may indicate that you do not have the background for an MSCE, which would eliminate one of your alternatives. Plus, they may tell you how much work you need to do to complete the BSCE degree. 

    Certainly continue to apply for jobs if you wish. You may find an employer that is willing to fund your degree (thought usually only after a period of employment). But it may also be of value in your job search to indicate that you are working a higher level degree so that you show that you are interested in improving your skills.

    Best wishes!

    William Kirkham Ph.D. P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
    Director MCE Program
    The University of Kansas
    Overland Park KS

  • 9.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 09-16-2018 05:06 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-16-2018 05:05 PM
    ​Hi Owen,
    I agree with Brat's advice. Currently, we have several openings in the Engineering Department of Palm Beach County, Florida. These openings are in the field of traffic signal design and traffic signal timing. Some require a PE, others require EI certification. While we prefer highly experienced candidates, some times, we take candidates with minimal experience provided they are deemed easily trainable. You may send me your resume if you are interested. We are located in West Palm Beach, the Atlantic coast of south Florida, just north of Miami.

    Motasem (Mo) Al-Turk, Ph.D., P.E.
    Traffic Engineering Division
    Engineering and Public Works Department
    Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners
    2300 N Jog Rd
    West Palm Beach, FL 33411
    (561) 684-4030

    Motasem Al-Turk Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Assistant Director
    Palm Beach County Government
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 10.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-17-2018 08:05 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-17-2018 08:05 AM
    Thank you, Motasem

    If you still have openings in the Engineering Department, I can send you my resume.  I am located in Santa Clara, CA - about 40 miles south of San Francisco.  However, I am willing to relocate.

    Owen Peters EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Santa Clara CA

  • 11.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-10-2018 09:45 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-10-2018 09:45 PM
    Welcome back to civil engineering!

    You said you last worked in a civil engineering firm in 1998/99, which is about 20 years ago. Civil engineering (and especially civil engineering technology) has changed substantially in the last 20 years.  As you are writing resumes and cover letters,  think like a potential employer. Why should they hire you over a new grad with similar experience who may be more up-to-date on some new technologies simply because they just learned it in school?

    Then, make that answer extremely clear when you are applying for jobs. The answer could be many things: a proven work ethic, easily trainable, great communication skills, etc. Think this through and be prepared <g class="gr_ gr_3829 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Grammar multiReplace" id="3829" data-gr-id="3829">with</g> solid reasons, as well as an honest, compelling explanation of why you are coming back to the field. You should expect that to come up in any interviews also.

    Even though the firm you worked for went under, if you have stayed in touch with anyone who worked there who is still working in civil engineering, ask them for advice about your options. Even if all you can remember are some names of peers who you worked with, you may be able to find them on LinkedIn and connect there. If possible, look specifically for someone who may have been impressed with your work ethic at the time, or that person who was always willing to lend an ear or give advice (if such a person existed). You could also reconnect with old college classmates from your major. Reconnecting with someone who already thinks positively of you will open doors the quickest. Is there an opening where they work for example, even if it's an internship position? Can they introduce you to anyone else? Ask them what they would they do if they were in your shoes?  

    Beyond the advice already given by other responders in this thread, get involved in your local ASCE chapter (attending meetings and such), and don't be shy about telling people your situation to see if they have any advice. I would also start researching/reading online/brushing up on new technologies. Yes, you'll get some training at your new employer, but showing some initiative to find some free online trainings, trials of common software, etc. will go a long way when it is brought up in an interview in showing a potential employer you are planning to be committed to civil engineering for the long haul. 

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 12.  RE: Need advice on re-entering civil engineering

    Posted 12-22-2018 09:24 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-22-2018 09:24 AM
    Hi Owen,

    I feel your dilemma as I went through it when I was looking for a job in Structural Engineering as a new immigrant to Canada. Employers needed to see Canadian experience, which I didn't have; and I couldn't have it unless I got a job. To break that circular dilemma, I offered working as a draftsman; but even that was a hard sell as they would say I'm overqualified for it (sounds familiar?). So, I had to express genuine interest in drafting as a means to understand the nitty-gritty details of how the engineering design fits together. It worked; and that was the beginning of the road in a firm that was worth the struggle. And in the process, I gained great respect from drafting and construction staff.

    Today, as a "Guide" volunteering for Professional Engineers Ontario, helping "Engineers In Training" get P.Eng. Licence, I offer the same advice as above: get a foot step in an engineering firm that has potential for advancement. Build your career FROM BOTTOM UP.  Not only that would help you break into a Civil Engineering career, but it will build it for you on solid ground.

    Good luck.

    Neil Kazen, M.Eng., M.Sc., P.Eng.
    Retired Structural Engineering Manager, Transportation Division, SNC-Lavalin
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada