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Insights What is the role of a traffic engineer?

Traffic engineering is a crucial element of designing and planning infrastructure, and it’s a way to reduce congestion and optimize mobility needs. The main goal of traffic engineering is to ensure goods and people move efficiently and safely. Traffic engineers are also involved in the design and construction of new roadways, streets and highways. It’s a highly specialized discipline and an important branch of a career in civil engineering. But why choose it over any other specialism?

In 2021, the USA allocated 42% of the total federal transportation and infrastructure budget to highways, putting it above air, rail and water. The money invested in the construction and maintenance of highways not only ensures they're safe for use, but also helps keep communities connected. 

At AtkinsRéalis , and within our brands Atkins and Faithful+Gould, we're proud to use our engineering expertise to help communities across North America. To continue doing this, we need talented engineers on our team. If you're thinking about taking your next career step, here's an insight into the role of a traffic engineer.

What does a traffic engineer do?

As a traffic engineer, you will be planning and developing transportation improvements, such as public transportation systems, traffic control and parking. These professionals determine the kinds of roads that are needed to be designed and developed to ensure smooth traffic flow and to avoid any potential incidents. Traffic engineer professionals mostly focus their efforts on streets and highways, which often carry heavy loads of traffic. A key part of the role also involves predicting and analyzing street and road use in the future and understanding existing road patterns. Therefore, the role of a traffic engineer is demanding and offers a lot of variety.

How to become a traffic engineer

Becoming a traffic engineer in the USA requires training and study. For example, traffic engineers must have a degree in electrical, civil, mechanical or chemical engineering, and have enough knowledge from hands-on experience. There’s a range of different roles within the transportation sector, and many traffic engineers have backgrounds in other related disciplines, such as planning, environmental planning and computer science. There are also educational courses that traffic engineers can study, such as highway design, urban planning, business management and geography. Furthermore, the Institute of Transportation Engineers offers a certified qualification for traffic engineers for professionals with at least four years of experience.

Evidently, there's no set route you need to take. Working as a traffic engineer can lead to other opportunities in related disciplines, such as electrical engineering, or it could pave the way for a career as a transportation planner.

What skills do traffic engineers need?

There’s a range of essential skills traffic engineers need to succeed. Much of the work of a traffic engineer involves identifying and solving transportation issues across the country, which means professionals need to be able to analyze and interpret data, as well as forecast the impact of new developments. Traffic engineers are also responsible for writing reports for planning authorities and funding bids. Therefore, these engineering professionals need to have excellent communication skills, a comprehensive understanding of transportation issues, and confidence when dealing with other people—so strong interpersonal skills are required.

Traffic engineers should also have good knowledge of computer modelling software and a commitment to continuous professional development. There’s no doubt that transportation is changing as a result of digital technology, so traffic engineers need to be ready for future innovations. 

Are you looking for a new role as a traffic engineer?

At AtkinsRéalis , we provide engineering, procurement and construction services to a range of sectors. This includes industrial and manufacturing, transportation, water and clean power. We’re a growth-oriented company that delivers a range of engineering opportunities across the USA

Our focus is on helping people learn, grow and make changes to improve the environment. That’s why we’re committed to Net Zero carbon by 2030. Due to our experience and expertise, we’ve been able to work on global projects and deliver client satisfaction. Take a look at our projects in the USA to find out what work you could be helping us deliver.