Civil engi-nearing crisis

Minnesota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2002  | September 2002 issue

Minnesota faces a shortage of civil engineers in the near future, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Of the state's current 660 engineers—who are responsible for the construction of roads, bridges, government buildings and other public works—only 235 are expected to remain in MnDOT in the year 2007.

Several conditions have converged to create this situation. First, MnDOT will lose 225 engineers due to retirement of the baby-boomer generation—and the number of engineers entering the field is not expected to cover this loss. Far fewer college students are graduating as civil engineers; according to the Society of Civil Engineers, the national number of degrees earned in civil engineering has fallen from 11,199 in 1997 to 8,750 in 2000.

Retirement, though, isn't the only source of worry to MnDOT. It will likely lose 200 engineers to the private sector, which generally pays higher. Many of these former MnDOT engineers, however, will nonetheless end up working on state projects. With the loss of so many MnDOT engineers, the state will have to increase its use of private engineering consultants to complete its work.

Benjamin Knelman