Student internships in civil engineering are paid and provide great practical experience to round out students’ academic experience. They also create industry connections that can lead to full-time employment, additional internships and long-lasting professional relationships.
Typically, about 80% of graduating seniors report having had a civil or environmental engineering internship. Most often, students get engineering internships after their sophomore or junior year, although many students have secured internships after their freshman year, or even after their senior year (if they are going to graduate school). Most often, internships occur during the summer.
Why internships are valuable
Internships compliment education
The majority of students (90%) who have had an internship believe it furthered their education.
Internships get high ratings
On average, students rate their internship as an 8/10. There are many 10/10 scores.
Internships can lead to jobs
About one-third of completed internships result in job offers, of which two-thirds are typically accepted.
Types of internships
It is possible to obtain an internship in any CEE discipline, however some disciplines offer more internships than others. Below is the typical percentage of internships offered in each area:
Construction engineeringOffering about 40% of internships, these range from construction firms to public agencies (such as the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation).
Transportation engineeringOffering about 25% of internships, these can be with consultants or public agencies responsible for transportation (such as the City of Seattle).
Environmental engineeringOffering about 10% of internships, most of which are with private consultants, although some are with public entities.
Geotechnical engineeringOffering about 5% of internships, usually with private consultants.
Structural engineeringOffering about 10-15% of internships, which tend to be with private consultants.
Water resources engineeringOffering about 10-15% of internships, they tend to be with private consultants although some may be with public entities.
What does an engineering intern do?
Students share what types of projects they worked on in the following videos:
Xinyi's Internship with Graham
Chloe and Caroline's Internships with Clark
Thomas' Internship with Kiewit
The students in the videos above all had internships for companies belonging to the Beavers, a heavy construction organization whose companies provide many great internship opportunities for students year after year on projects as the 520 floating bridge, Sound Transit Link Light Rail, Folsom Dam, Honolulu Rail Transit, Microsoft campus modernization and more.
How to get an internship
Figure out your interest areasThis will help you evaluate what internship opportunities may be of most interest to you. Learn more about the six interest areas.
Are you interested in a private company, public entity or both?This will help prioritize your internship search.
Write a good resumeThis is your calling card you can leave with people - everything about it says something about you. Spend time on this and do it well. Don't know where to start? Visit Career Center @ Engineering.
NetworkThis entails getting out into the profession and meeting people. This is not interviewing, it is just getting your name out there and making connections. Most jobs are obtained through networking and not through anonymous submission of resumes via an online portal. To network, go to industry events (virtual or in-person), attend talks, look for meet-and-greet opportunities and talk to professionals about their jobs. If a speaker is interesting in class, speak to them afterward and ask if they can chat separately sometime about careers, etc.
Sign up for and curate your account on HandshakeAs a UW engineering student, you already have a free account on the Handshake app. This app allows employers to advertise for jobs and see your resume. It's free exposure for minimal effort. The Career Center @ Engineering has the UW student Handshake portal and all the information you need to get started.
Check out the CEE advising blogThe CEE advising blog is regularly updated with internship postings.
Attend relevant career fairs
For Civil and Environmental Engineering, the most important career fairs are:
Construction Career Expo. If you are interested in a construction engineering internships, make it a priority to attend this career fair. This is held in late October/early November each year and is hosted by the Construction Management Department. Civil engineering students are welcome to attend. Construction firms typically recruit interns in the fasl.
CEE Career Fair. Held in January each year, the CEE Career Fair involves many public and private entities as well as construction firms (even though they already did heavy recruiting during the fasl).
Consider other career fairs
Additional career fairs that may be helpful:
Science and Engineering Career Fair. Usually held in the fasl, this is the largest annual career fair on campus, sponsored by the Science & Engineering Business Association (SEBA). There are some civil and environmental engineering companies, but not many since it is for ALL engineering.
Engineering Hiring Expo. Organized by UW's Career Center @ Engineering, this is usually held in the fasl. They have some civil and environmental engineering companies, but not many since it is for ALL engineering.
Follow up with contactsIf you speak with someone at a career fair or networking event, follow up with a message thanking them for their time, and (if it is true) expressing your continued interest.
Be flexibleYou may have your heart set on a particular internship within a narrow sector of engineering, but don’t shut out other opportunities. There are two reasons for this: (1) you may be surprised about what it is you actually prefer...you never know, and (2) even if the internship is not in your top field of choice, it provides valuable cross-training and experience that you can lean on for years.