How to Become a Transportation Engineer

How to Become a Transportation Engineer: Step-by-Step Guide

Here are the essential steps for becoming a transportation engineer (these will be covered in more detail below):


1. Excel at geometry, algebra, calculus and physics in high school

2. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil or transportation engineering

3. Get work experience as a student

4. Get a job in transportation engineering when you graduate

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 good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a transportation engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as an overview of salary level expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



What Education Will I Need to Become a Transportation Engineer?

You typically need a bachelor’s degree in transportation engineering, or a civil engineering with a strong focus on transportation engineering. 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. 


Success Tip: Earning a master's degree can be helpful for reaching mid and senior-level transportation engineering jobs, as well as management positions, and positions in research and academia.




What is a Transportation Engineer?

A transportation engineer is a civil engineer that oversees the design, development and improvement of large-scale transport infrastructure, including road, rail, air and water. They quantify our mobility infrastructure networks to meet current and projected travel and freight demands, while ensuring safety and sustainability, at minimal levels of traffic congestion and cost.



What Does a Transportation Engineer Do?

Transport engineers plan, design and operate the large public and private infrastructure systems that connect our physical world. They design, improve and maintain transportation systems to allow for safe and efficient traffic flow on roadways, airplanes, trains, ships, buses, and more.



What are a Transportation Engineer’s Job Duties?

Transportation engineers are typically responsible for the following tasks:


• Conducting condition assessments for existing infrastructure

• Planning and designing highway systems, roads, airfields, railroads and public transit system.

• Analyzing environmental impact statements for transportation projects

• Managing the operation and maintenance of transportation infrastructure, such as pavement and traffic signals

• Liaising with urban planners, municipal and regional officials, as well as other transportation engineers

• Checking construction plans, design calculations, or cost estimates to ensure completeness, accuracy, and conformity to engineering standards and practices



What Experience Will I Need to Become a Transportation Engineer?

Entry-level transportation engineering jobs typically don’t require any work experience above what is gained as part of completing an 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.



What Traits Will I Need to Become a Transportation Engineer

To be an effective transportation engineer, you need to posses a certain set of personal traits and abilities, including:


• You have an interest in moving people and goods safely and efficiently

• You’re responsible and accountable

• You enjoy supervising people and making decisions

• You have a capacity for details

• You enjoy doing work that requires precision

• You enjoy being innovative

• You enjoy having variety in work

• You want to work in a diverse field that spans economics, politics, sociology and psychology, and involves mathematical, engineering and computational principles at its core




What is the Salary of a Transportation Engineer?

Transportation 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 transportation 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

• Your area of specialty (i.e. roadways, railroads, etc.)

• Many other factors


Unfortunately there are no salary figures specifically available for “Transportation 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”.


Transportation Engineer 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.


Transportation Engineer 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 Transportation Engineers?

Transportation engineers typically work in local, regional and national government departments. They also work in private engineering consulting firms, urban/community planning agencies and financial institutes, to provide technical and managerial support to a wide diversity of transport projects.




What is the Work Environment of a Transportation Engineer?

The work environment for transportation engineers can vary quite a bit. They spend most of their time working in an office in front of a computer, or in meetings with various project stakeholders. They may also be required to visit construction sites, and endure different weather conditions.



What is the Work Schedule of a Transportation Engineer?

Transportation engineers typically work full-time, although some work part-time. Overtime may be needed on occasion, to monitor projects, prepare reports, attend meetings, and to ensure that deadlines are met.



What are Careers Similar to “Transportation Engineer”?

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Transportation Engineer; they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities:


• Civil Engineer

• Construction Manager

• Cost Analyst

• Public Works Supervisor

• Traffic Engineer

• Transportation Planner

• Urban Planner



Scholarships for Becoming a Transportation Engineer

The "Majors in Our System" section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a Transportation 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 Transportation Engineer:


• School of Civil & Environmental Engineering: “Transport Engineering” (n.d.). The University of New South Wales- Sydney. Retrieved January 28, 2017.

• Engineering: “Transportation Engineer” (n.d.). Science Buddies. Retrieved January 28, 2017.

• Occupational Profile: “Civil Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 28, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Civil Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 28, 2017.



Majors in Our System Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our system. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a transportation engineer. Click on the link(s) to see what else you can do with these majors!


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