Civil engineers leave their marks on the faces of our cities more than we know. Every building, road, bridge, sewage system - any public works project has likely passed the scrutiny of a civil engineer. These individuals are responsible for designing and overseeing large-scale construction projects, and largely shaping our hometowns into what they are today.
The field of civil engineering is projected to grow 19% over the next ten years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is good news for the 232,000 professionals currently employed in America as of May 2012. The median salary for civil engineers is $73,940 across the U.S. This can range from $37,700 in the metropolitan area of Aguadilla, Isabela, and San Sebastian in the Puerto Rico to $115,130 in Tucson, Arizona.
To aid civil engineers looking for the best cities to work, we've reviewed data from about 350 cities across three important metrics: median salary, cost of living, and location quotient (methodology and sources located after the table).
Select Best Cities for Civil Engineers
At the top of our list is Pueblo, Colorado, a city of 108,000 residents. The city has embarked on large scale investments in private and public developments within the city center such as the Arkansas Riverwalk and updating the Main Street Bridge. Through the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority, the city aims to identify and stimulate urban areas with redevelopment. With these initiatives, it is no surprise that the city topped our list. Civil Engineers here earn a median salary of $85,580 with the city boasting the fourth highest concentration of this profession in the States.
Beaumont - Port Arthur, TX
Grabbing the #2 spot on our Best Cities list is the metropolitan area of Beaumont and Port Arthur in Texas. The metro area employs about 440 civil engineers, who earn a median salary of $89,950. The two cities are centered around the oil and petrochemical industries, and recently hosted the launch of Golden Pass's new Liquified Natural Gas terminal, a project that is estimated to add 45,000 jobs across various industries over the next five years. Making its way through the House of Representatives is the Water Resource Development Act, which authorizes the deepening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
Augusta-Richmond County, GA
The metro area of Augusta and Richmond County scored well across all three measures to rank as the #5 best city for civil engineers. There are about four times as many civil engineers here as a percentage of all jobs compared to the average American city. Civil engineers in this area earn a median salary of $89,350, and with a cost of living index of 91, their earnings can be stretched further. Georgia governor Nathan Deal hopes to attract international firms to the state to re-establish itself as a manufacturing center. Civil engineering firms based in this metro area include W.R. Toole Engineers and Johnson, Laschober & Associates, P.C.
Baton Rouge, LA
In the ninth spot is Baton Rouge, LA. As of publication, there were at least eighteen jobs in Baton Rouge, LA for civil engineers that had been posted since August 2013. Civil engineers number 1,090 in Baton Rouge, and pull in a median salary of $94,800 (28% more than the median salary nationwide). The city's miles of riverfront and low-lying agricultural lands, proximity to the coastline, and a humid subtropical climate expose it to hurricanes and other natural disasters that require the services of civil engineers.
Johnstown, PA, a city with an urban population of 69,000, is a valley located in the Allegheny Mountains. The city has a storied foundation in civil engineering: its engineers helped carve passageways and canals through the imposing Allegheny Mountain range that enabled the expansion to and settlement of the West. Of special note are the Horseshoe Curve of the Northfolk Southern Railway and the Inclined Plane, billed as the world's steepest vehicular incline or funicular. Today, its resident civil engineers make a median salary of $72,340 at one of the lowest cost of living index numbers on our top cities list.
Top Twenty Best Cities for Civil Engineers
|Rank||City||Median Salary||Location Quotient||Jobs||Cost of Living|
|2||Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX||89,950||1.42||440||82|
|4||Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA||82,570||1.51||50||84|
|5||Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC||89,350||3.91||1,560||91|
|8||Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||96,560||1.92||10,050||93|
|9||Baton Rouge, LA||94,800||1.52||1,090||93|
|11||Idaho Falls, ID||82,240||1.83||180||90|
|13||Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach, FL||90,430||2.19||300||98|
|15||New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA||88,520||1.38||1,420||93|
|20||Yuba City, CA||93,610||3.31||240||107|
These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.
1. What can civil engineers earn in the city?
We ranked the best cities for civil engineers based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.
2. How affordable is it to live in this city?
Now that we have the median salary, we’ll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost of living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 85, such as Pueblo, CO, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 15% cheaper compared to the average city.
3. What is the location quotient for civil engineers in the city?
A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of civil engineers in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for a civil engineer's services.
1. Median Salary: Cities with the highest median annual salary, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data as of May 2012
2. Cost of Living: Cities with the lowest cost of living, with data sourced from Sperling's Best Places COL Calculator. Data as of July 2013
3. Employment: Cities with the highest location quotient metrics, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data as of May 2012
Photo Courtesy: Flickr / royluck