How to Become a Traffic Engineer: Step-by-Step Guide
Here are the essential steps for becoming a traffic engineer (these will be covered in more detail below):
1. Excel at physics and math in high school
2. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering
3. Get work experience as a student
4. Get a job in your chosen field
5. Get professional certification
6. Advance into senior-level roles, management roles, or consultancy
Below we've expanded on these points, to give you a complete idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a traffic engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as a general job description & duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!
What Education Will I Need?
High School: Doing well in math, physics, chemistry and design studies will serve as excellent preparation for this career, and will help you qualify for engineering schools.
University: To become a traffic engineer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, with a strong focus on traffic or transportation engineering. Completion of a civil engineering degree often requires the completion of an internship, which the school may help you arrange.
What is a Traffic Engineer?
A traffic engineer is a civil engineering professional that specializes in the design, construction and maintenance of roads and highways. They must determine what kinds of roads are needed in order to allow traffic to flow smoothly, and find the most economical way to build and maintain them.
What Does a Traffic Engineer Do?
Traffic Engineers are responsible for designing safe and efficient roads. They plan traffic signals, intersections, overpasses and exits, with the aim of reducing accidents and enhancing transport efficiency. They also develop and implement traffic management schemes, study population projections, commercial development, and existing traffic data patterns to predict the roadway needs of the future.
What are a Traffic Engineer’s Job Duties?
Traffic engineers are typically responsible for the following tasks:
• Conducting traffic needs studies in order to determine how many trucks, buses and cars can be expected to use new roads
• Liaising with highway engineers and location engineers to determine the safest and most economical path for the new roads
• Carefully planning overpasses, exits, cloverleafs and rest areas
• Solving parking and traffic jam issues
• Choosing the most suitable public transportation routes
• Overseeing or implementing the timing of traffic lights
• Using statistical methods to analyze data about population, housing, commercial development, and existing traffic patterns
What Experience Will I Need to Become a Traffic Engineer?
Most entry-level traffic engineering jobs don’t require any work experience above what you gain as part of completing your undergraduate degree. Mid and senior-level roles however, often require 3-5 years of experience working in lower level roles, with progressive amounts of responsibility in those roles.
What Certification Will I Need?
You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of a public project and to supervise other engineers and technicians. You will also need to have a designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly.
If you are not licensed however, you can still work on engineering projects under the supervision of a licensed engineer.
Success Tip: Although you typically don't require you to be licensed for entry-level jobs, becoming licensed once you meet the necessary criteria is an excellent move for career advancment purposes.
What is the Salary of a Traffic Engineer?
Traffic engineers earn a median salary of around $82,000 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience and education, the specific region in which they work, level of responsibility involved in the job, and other factors.
More About Salary Levels
As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as a traffic engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:
• Your level of education
• Your level of experience
• The specific responsibilities of your job
• The size and type of your employer
• The region in which you work
• Many other factors
Unfortunately there are no salary figures specifically available for “Traffic Engineers” from reliable sources. We can however, get a good idea of what you could earn as a site engineer by looking at the salary level of workers in closely related occupations, such as “Civil Engineers”.
Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Civil Engineers occupational group earn an average salary of $98,342 per year. Unfortunately, no reliable salary information is available for the rest of Canada.
Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Civil Engineers occupational group is $82,220 per year.
Who Hires Traffic Engineers?
Traffic engineers are typically employed by local, regional (provincial/state) or federal government traffic and highways departments. They are also employed by private civil, transport and traffic engineering consulting firms, as well as educational and research institutions.
Traffic Engineer Job Opportunities
Traffic Engineer Jobs - Canada
Traffic Engineer Jobs - United States
What is the Work Environment of a Traffic Engineer?
The work environment for traffic engineers varies quite a bit, depending on what task they are working on. Their time is typically split between working at a project work site, working in an office in front of a computer, or in meetings with various project stakeholders.
They often work with a team that may include professionals from other engineering and scientific disciplines, contractors, project owners, architects, bankers, lawyers or government officials.
What is the Work Schedule of a Traffic Engineer?
Traffic engineers typically work full time, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 in 4 works part-time. Extra hours may be needed on occasion, to monitor progress on the projects, to ensure that designs meet requirements, and to guarantee that deadlines are met.
What are Careers Similar to “Traffic Engineer”?
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Traffic Engineer; they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities:
Scholarships for Becoming a Traffic Engineer
The "Majors in Our System" section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a Traffic Engineer. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our Civil Engineering Scholarships page.
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a traffic engineer:
• Job: “Traffic Engineer” (n.d.). The University of Australia - Newcastle Campus. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
• Occupational Profile: “Civil Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Civil Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
Please Note: Some information for this career guide was obtained from actual job postings, which due to their brief online presence, are not listed here.
Majors in Our System Relevant for this Career
We have career guides for over 60 majors in our system. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a traffic engineer. Click on the link(s) to see what else you can do with these majors!