RESTON, Va. — The 2020 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Civil Engineering Salary Report states that civil engineers' median pre-tax annual salaries in 2019 was $115,000, which is an increase from $109,000 reported last year. This follows the steady trend over the past few years: Base salaries have risen between 4%-6% per year from 2017-2020. Compensation for civil engineers has continued to rise each year in the last half-decade. Income information for this report was collected based off of 2019 W2 forms, offering a pre-COVID-19 look at salaries.
“This survey highlights the fact that prior to the pandemic, our profession was strong,” said K.N. Gunalan, Ph.D., P.E., president, ASCE. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed rocked the industry and every sector of the economy, the critical work of civil engineers has not stopped — from keeping the water and wastewater systems functioning; transportation systems, including roads, bridges, ports, and airports delivering goods and services to our door steps and electricity and telecommunication systems keeping us connected to the outside world as we have managed our day-to-day life and business in a largely virtual world.”
Data was pulled together from responses of ASCE members about their jobs, which includes job satisfaction and financial compensation. The typical median entry-level salary, according to the report, was $64,000.
The survey also finds increased earning potential is directly linked to attainment of advanced degrees and licensure:
• The median salary for civil engineers with a professional engineer (P.E.) license was $121,000, which is $31,000 higher than the median salary for those civil engineers who do not have any professional licenses or certifications.
• Those with a bachelor’s degree have a median salary of $106,000, up from $97,000 in 2019.
• Those with a master’s degree have a median salary of $119,679, up from $110,092 in 2019.
• Those with doctoral degrees have a median salary of $119,743, up from $116,500 in 2019.
The median annual salary for survey respondents who have a master's degree is nearly $14,000 more than that of respondents whose highest level of education attained is a bachelor’s degree.
Nearly nine out of 10 respondents are either very satisfied or satisfied with their overall job, slightly up from the eight out of 10 reported in 2019. Respondents also reported a higher level of satisfaction with their compensation in 2020 when compared to 2019. In 2020, 70% reported being very satisfied or satisfied with their compensation versus 67% in 2019. Those employed full-time continue to receive a broad array of health and insurance benefits, as more than nine in 10 boast employer-sponsored health insurance. Additionally, engineers working in the petroleum line of business reported the highest primary income at $144,750, while those working in geotechnical and structural earned the least.
Despite the overall continuous positive trend, the pay gap for women and underrepresented groups continues, but the gap did narrow when experience was factored in The median primary income for male respondents was $117,500 versus $95,000 for women, which is up from the $87,537 reported for women last year. White respondents are still earning the highest median income of $114,670, while Hispanic and African-American respondents earned median incomes of $103,500 and $100,360, respectively — up from $90,000 for Hispanic respondents and $91,500 for African-American respondents reported last year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the industry in 2020, but the larger trends seen in the salary report foreshadow a positive future for the profession.
“If anything, the pandemic has shown that our work is essential to maintaining public health, safety, and quality of life,” Gunalan said. “While the timing may be uncertain, we are looking forward to a future where the industry continues the positive trends we’ve seen of increased demand for the skills and expertise that civil engineers possess.”
The 2020 ASCE Civil Engineering Salary Survey results drew upon the data of 3,278 ASCE member participants. The typical respondent this year was a male in his early to mid-40s with a bachelor’s or advanced degree, holds a P.E. license, has approximately 19 years of professional experience, and supervises professionals and support staff. Insights Inc. prepared the summary report. For more information, or to see the full results, click here.