How to Become a Public Works Supervisor

How to Become a Public Works Supervisor: Career Path Guide

Would you like to work in a field that involves supervising infrastructure related projects and people? Do you want to play a major role in public works projects, such as power and potable water delivery? Does the thought of splitting time between the office and the outdoors appeal to you? 


If you’ve answered “yes” to the above questions, then becoming a public works supervisor may be the perfect career choice for you.


So read on below; we’ll give you a brief intro as to what you’d be doing and what you need to do to get there!



Education You’ll Need

The education you’ll need largely depends on the requirements of the employer. For example, some employers will require that you simply have a high school diploma, combined with years of experience in your department, while others will require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in your field of operation.


Alternatively, some employers will accept (or in some cases prefer) that you have an education in a field such as public administration or business management, as these areas are also relevant to this career.




Work Experience You’ll Need

Regardless of your education, most employers will want to see that you have familiarity with the working processes of your department. Because of this, many will require that you work your way into the supervisory role, from a role of lesser responsibility. 


This isn’t always the case however, some public works supervisors get right into their position out of the gate, provided they have a post-secondary education related to the area in which they work.



Public Works Supervisor Job Description

A public works supervisor is responsible for supervising the construction of the transportation and utilities infrastructure of a municipality. For example, they might coordinate the operation of:


• The construction and maintenance of roads and municipal drains

• Solid waste management, recycling, and landfill sites

• Wastewater collection and treatment

• The provision of potable water 

• The provision and contracting of hydro services and street lighting


In larger municipalities, they will likely have a specialized area that they oversee, whereas in smaller municipalities, they may be responsible for multiple, or all, areas.


Public works supervisors must also ensure that all work performed under their supervision adheres to all applicable established safety standards and regulatory requirements, and with budgetary restrictions in mind.



Public Works Supervisor Job Duties

Although the specific duties you would perform can vary from job to job, you would likely be responsible for the following:


• Supervising the work of operations employees

• Evaluating completed projects to ensure all work conforms to applicable safety standards, building codes and legal guidelines

• Identifying and reporting any deterioration, repair and maintenance needs to superiors

• Evaluating road conditions and submitting recommendations for corrective measures

• Participating in sidewalk repair, street maintenance and storm water drainage projects

• Operating a variety of manual and electric construction equipment and tools

• Responding to emergency situations in order to repair damage and prevent injury

• Maintaining current knowledge of materials and equipment used in street maintenance and storm water drainage work

• Contacting residents and business proprietors within the area to be affected by construction or repair in order to explain to them why the services will be shut off and for how long



Basic Requirements

To become a public works supervisor, you typically need to meet the following minimum requirements:


• A clean criminal records check 

• A clean driver’s abstract

• A high school diploma

• Fluency in the dominant language of your region



Is This Career Right for You?

If the following traits describe you, then you’re probably a great fit for working in this occupation:


• You’re skilled at building positive working relationships at all levels of an organization

• You’re an effective and collaborative team builder who values and rewards contribution

• You exercise a high degree of initiative, independent judgment and action

• You have the proven ability to plan, review and supervise, both directly and indirectly, a range of employees

• You are willing to take accountability for the results of your team

• You enjoy working outdoors, and are willing to do so in a variety of weather conditions 



Who Employs Public Works Supervisors?

Public works supervisors are employed by public works departments in all levels of government (municipal, provincial/state and federal) or by private contractors under contract to governments.



What Kind of Salary Can You Earn?

The salary level you could earn as a public works supervisor can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your professional qualifications (education, experience, etc.)

• The size and budget of the municipality for which you work

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Public Works Supervisor Salary - United States: According to a salary survey conducted by, the average salary level of Americans working as Public Works Supervisors is around $49,000 per year, and range from $27,000 to $73,000. PayScale also notes that medical benefits are awarded to almost all of those who responded to the surey, and the greater part earn dental coverage.



Career Advancement Possibilities

If you show competence and determination in your work, you will be rewarded with various career advancement opportunities, including (but not nearly limited to):


• Getting an increase in pay and other benefits, such as vacation time

• Moving into higher-level roles, such as Director of Operations

• Moving into the private sector, in roles such as Project Manager or Operations Manager

• Starting your own contracting company for government works projects



Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer


Working Conditions

As a public works supervisor, you would be based out of an office, but would frequently make site visits, to ensure that work is being performed safely and that the project is progressing properly, and according to schedule. This could involve being exposed to all sorts of weather conditions.


Your work would likely take place during normal, weekday working hours, but you could and possibly at various times throughout the day or night, or on weekends and during holidays, especially if you have to respond to an emergency, such as a water main break.



Careers Similar to ‘Public Works Supervisor’

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or are in the same sector of industry, as Public Works Supervisor:


• City Manager

• Civil Engineering Technologist

• Project Manager

• Project Supervisor

• Public Administration Manager

• Recycling Coordinator

• Wastewater Operator




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a public works supervisor:


Programs:Public Relations Specialist in Canada.” (n.d.). BCIT School of Construction and the Environment website. Retrieved January 11, 2020.

Jobs: Average Public Works Supervisor Hourly Pay.” (n.d.). PayScale website. Retrieved January 11, 2020.


Please Note: Some of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.




Scholarships for Becoming a Public Works Supervisor

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a public works supervisor. You can search for scholarships matched to that/those field(s) of study on the following pages:


Business Administration Scholarships

Civil Engineering Scholarships

Management Scholarships


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!



Becoming a Public Works Supervisor: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or necessary) for becoming a public works supervisor. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: