Careers in Public Works

Is a public works career right for you?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel a responsibility to improve your community’s quality of life and protect the living environment at the same time?
  • Do you want to do something with your life that makes a difference to others?
  • Can you make tough choices and put in the hours preparing for a career in a technical or professional discipline?

If your answer is yes, there are many interesting choices and combinations to explore. Don’t box yourself in with arbitrary decisions right now. Before finalizing your education plans, take the time to do the research and talk things over with career counselors and people in the public works profession.

A career in public works provides many rewarding opportunities to earn the respect of others—and build self-respect as well—while keeping communities safe and healthy places for everybody.

How do you prepare for such a career?

Possible courses of study:

Management and Administration

Public administration, Finance and business, Accounting, Computer sciences, Business courses, Personnel administration, Speech, English and humanities courses, Government or Political science, and Social sciences


Municipal Engineering

Civil engineering, Mechanical engineering, Electrical engineering, Surveying Mathematics, Chemistry, and Business administration


Environmental Engineering

Environmental sciences, Civil engineering, Chemistry/Biology, Mathematics, Economics and Business administration, Urban Ecology, Ecological Risk Assessment, Water Resources


Transportation

Civil engineering, Structural engineering, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, Chemistry, Economics and Business administration, Transportation Planning, Fleet management, Public Buildings and Grounds management, Forestry/Biology/Landscape design, Automotive mechanics, Electronics, technical courses and apprenticeship programs, Advanced studies in public administration, law, public works administration, finance or marketing

Level of Education for Potential Public Works Jobs

Graduate Degree or Professional Certification

  • City engineer
  • City manager
  • Financial manager
  • Public works director

Bachelor’s Degree

  • Accountant
  • Electrical engineer
  • Mechanical engineer
  • Land surveyor
  • Civil engineer
  • Environmental engineer
  • Environmental health specialist
  • Landscape architect
  • Marketing coordinator
  • Photogrammetrist (aerial mapper)
  • Structural designer
  • Transportation engineer
  • Waste reduction/recycling coordinator


Associate’s Degree

  • Administrative, accounting technician
  • CAD/Drafting technician
  • Environmental compliance inspector
  • Laboratory technician
  • Marketing assistant
  • Personnel administrator
  • Environmental specialist
  • Traffic signal and lighting technician


Vocational/Technical Schools

  • Automotive mechanical
  • Drafting
  • Computer training, operation, and maintenance
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning operation and maintenance
  • Heavy Equipment Operation, Maintenance, and Repair
  • Horticulture and plant sciences
  • Office Management


High School Diploma

  • Account clerk
  • Administrative assistant
  • Billing coordinator
  • Customer service
  • Driller’s assistant
  • Engineering/surveying aid or technician
  • Engineering technician
  • Equipment operator
  • Equipment service worker
  • Facilities maintenance
  • Highway maintenance
  • Library clerk
  • Mechanical maintenance technician
  • Office assistant
  • Photo lab technician
  • Plant and equipment mechanic
  • Public works inspector
  • Public works maintenance worker
  • Street sweeper operator
  • Treatment plant operator
  • Underground construction/maintenance specialist
  • Water/wastewater maintenance
  • Welder/mechanic
  • Word processor

For Further Research

For more information, contact your local public works department today to see what jobs and career opportunities are available. If you learn better by doing, you might find that some agencies can give you much needed experience through part-time or temporary positions they have open. Some agencies even offer internships that provide college credit.  The "Shaping the World of Public Works: Career Booklet", available in the APWA store, provides a comprehensive review of opportunities in public works.