Civil engineers are an important part of any functioning society, working on city design and infrastructure. They assist in the construction of everything from sewer systems to dams to tunnels, in addition to helping plan the creation of public transportation systems. They are also vital in overseeing demolition work and other phases of the construction process. Civil engineers are employed in designing, building and repairing airports, skyscrapers, and homes, as well as the roads, highways, and streets that connect them.

Outside of construction, civil engineers are often employed by governments, research companies, universities, and architectural design firms. There are over a quarter million civil engineers working in the United States today. As new infrastructure replaces the old, the industry will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Most civil engineering positions require a minimum of a B.S. in science or mathematics. Most of the time curriculum is geared toward basic studies in the first two years with more field-specific study in the latter half. Employment with a company or public firm generally requires a state license. The license itself typically requires a certain amount of work experience as a prerequisite to taking the exam.

Civil Engineers and Asbestos

As civil engineers are involved in the demolition, repair, and construction of city infrastructure, it is not surprising that they are at an increased risk to contract an asbestos-related disease. Many buildings that date back to the 1970s have walls, floors, roof shingles and ceilings that are laced with asbestos. Civil engineers who work in road design are often exposed to asbestos dust as well, as older roads are typically made of gravel and rock that contain the hazardous mineral. Even simple roadwork and resurfacing could potentially unleash a cloud of asbestos into the air, making it a risk not only for the construction workers but the civil engineers overseeing the project.

Prior to the 1970s, many of these risks were undocumented or simply unreported. Companies fully aware of the potential risks often did nothing to prevent their workers from exposure to the materials. In addition, many civil engineers were completely unaware of the hazards they encountered while overseeing both construction and demolition projects, as symptoms for asbestos-related diseases are slow-acting and difficult to detect. Only today are these workers learning the catastrophic consequences of this exposure, many decades after their engineering projects ended.

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