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Civil Engineer (GS-0810), Working for the Bureau of Reclamation (Part 2)

This article will explore the civil engineer (GS-0810) occupation with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), a contemporary water management agency. The USBR is best known for the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, Grand Coulee Dam in the Columbia River and Folsom Dam on the American River. Today the USBR is the largest wholesaler of water in the country and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the Western United States. Part 1 of this series, Working for the Bureau of Reclamation, discusses the many facets of this unique and essential Bureau.

The civil engineer’s responsibilities include developing engineering designs, drawings, and specifications for facility maintenance, capital improvements, and construction projects related to water resources infrastructure.

The federal government employs over 129,000 engineers and architects in the GS-0800 Engineering and Architecture Family nationwide and overseas in a broad spectrum of federal agencies.  There are many engineering job opportunities available if you take the time to seek them out.

Q&A with Katie J. Bartojay

Katie J. Bartojay, P.E., works at the Bureau of Reclamation’s Concrete, Geotechnical and Structural Laboratory at their Technical Service Center in Denver Colorado.


Katie J. Bartojay P.E. (USBR)
Katie J. Bartojay P.E. (USBR)

1. Why did you choose to become a Civil Engineer?

I was very interested in building and putting things together from a young age. I loved passing construction sites and watching my uncle place concrete.  I started school for architecture but liked the challenge and creativity (and math!) needed to design the individual pieces that hold up the structures.

2.   Are there any parts of job that are considered dangerous?

No.   Construction sites and testing labs have many hazardous but I have been fortunate enough to have worked with great engineering mentors and responsible contractors. On-the-job training taught me how to be safety conscious and showed me what to look for around overhead cranes, machinery, ladders, rebar, and other busy construction activity.

3. What is the most interesting part of your job as a Civil Engineer?

I am still fascinated by seeing something I worked on go from paper to a physical structure. I can look at something and see all of the people who contributed to getting to that point, from our original concept to the last nail.

4. What is the most demanding or challenging part of being a Civil Engineer?

I think the most demanding and challenging part is that once your problem solving skills are recognized you tend to get involved in a lot of projects. Juggling the workload and being able to switch tasks when the phone rings is important, but it also keeps things from getting boring.

5. Would you recommend being a Civil Engineer as a good career path?

Definitely! It is challenging and fulfilling, and after 17 years, I still love to come to work every day.

Civil Engineer (GS-0810) Qualifications

Basic Education Requirement:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen to apply
  • Have a degree in professional engineering. Curriculum must be be in a school of engineering with at least one curriculum accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as a professional engineering curriculum; or (2) include differential and integral calculus and courses (more advanced than first-year physics and chemistry) in five of the following seven areas of engineering science or physics: (a) statics, dynamics; (b) strength of materials (stress-strain relationships); (c) fluid mechanics, hydraulics; (d) thermodynamics; (e) electrical fields and circuits; (f) nature and properties of materials (relating particle and aggregate structure to properties); and (g) any other comparable area of fundamental engineering science or physics, such as optics, heat transfer, soil mechanics or electronics.
  • A combination of education and experience: – college level education, training, and/or technical experience that furnished (1) a thorough knowledge of the physical and mathematical sciences underlying professional engineering, and (2) a good understanding, both theoretical and practical, of the engineering sciences and techniques and their applications to one of the branches of engineering. The adequacy of such background must be demonstrated by one of the following:1. Professional registration – Current registration as a professional engineer by any State, the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico.2. Written Test – Evidence of having successfully passed the Engineer-in-Training (EIT) examination, or the written test required for professional registration, which is administered by the Boards of Engineering Examiners in the various States, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Applicants who have passed the EIT examination and have completed all the requirements for either (a) a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology (BET) from an accredited college or university that included 60 semester hours or courses in the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences, or (b) a BET from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) may be rated eligible for certain engineering positions at GS-5.3. Specified academic courses – Successful completion of at least 60 semester hours of courses in the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences and in engineering that included the courses specified in the basic requirements. The courses must be fully acceptable toward meeting the requirements of a professional engineering curriculum as described in paragraph A.4. Related curriculum – Successful completion of a curriculum leading to a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology or in an appropriate professional field, e.g. physics, chemistry, architecture, computer science, mathematics, hydrology or geology, may be accepted in lieu of a degree in engineering, provided the applicant has had at least 1 year of professional engineering experience acquired under professional engineering supervision and guidance. Ordinarily there should be either an established plan of intensive training to develop professional engineering competence, or several years of prior professional engineering-type experience, e.g. in interdisciplinary positions. (The above examples of related curricula are not all-inclusive).

Additional basic education and qualifications requirements

  • At least one year of specialized experience (described below) equivalent in difficulty and complexity to the next lower level in Federal service. You must have one year at GS-05 to qualify for GS-07, one year at GS-07 to qualify for GS-09, and one year at GS-09 to qualify for GS-11.
  • Pay range for GS-07/11 is from $45,057.00 to $76,131.00 / Per Year.

Specialized Experience: Specialized experience must demonstrate the applicant has been equipped with the particular knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position, and that are directly related to the work to be performed. Specialized experience can be further defined as follows:

  • For the GS-07: Experience specific to water resources engineering, including three or more of the following topics: open channel hydraulics, closed conduit hydraulics, hydrology, groundwater, water treatment, and wastewater treatment. OR experience can be substituted with one-year graduate-level education or superior academic achievement (S.A.A.). S.A.A. is based on (1) class standing, (2) grade-point average, or (3) honor society membership.
  • For the GS-09: Experience in which engineering duties focused predominantly on complex water resources engineering work. Experience is required in two or more of the following subjects: municipal or irrigation water distribution systems, municipal stormwater system design, canals, dams, wellfields, erosion control, hydraulic structures, riparian restoration, and complex water treatment facilities. OR experience can be substituted with two years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to a master’s degree or master’s or equivalent graduate degree.* For the GS-11: Experience in which engineering duties focused predominantly on complex water resources engineering work. Experience is required in three or more of the following subjects: municipal or irrigation water distribution systems, municipal stormwater system design, canals, dams, wellfields, erosion control, hydraulic structures, riparian restoration, and complex water treatment facilities. OR experience can be substituted with three years of progressively higher-level graduate education leading to a Ph.D. degree or Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree.*

*Completion of graduate level education in the amounts stated above, in addition to meeting the basic requirements, is qualifying if it provided the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do the work. One year of full-time graduate education is considered to be the number of credit hours that the school attended has determined to represent 1 year of full-time study. If that number cannot be obtained from the school, 18 semester hours should be considered an academic year of graduate study.

The final article in our series will feature the electrical engineer (GS-0850) occupation.


  • Peter Soeth, Public Affairs, Commissioner’s Office, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, CO
  • Matt Mishkind PhD, SPHR,Team Lead for Training, Systems, and Human Capital Strategy, Human Resources Policy and Programs Division Policy and Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, CO
  • Photos were provided by the Bureau of Reclamation

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About The Author

A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/. Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.