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Job opportunities for experienced US Civil Engineer in Poland - any hope?

27 Apr 2013 #1

We are considering relocating permanently to PL (having lived there prior to 2009), mainly because of my wife and her family being there, and also we think it may be better for our children - not to mention lower costs associated with raising children in the long run, which virtually is what ruins us here.

Both of us are Polish citizens with no language issues, my wife should be OK with finding a job in her field (health care), but for myself, because my education is from the US and thus not readily recognized in PL, I have had an extremely hard time finding professional and decent paid work, and after over a year with a local city agency for a salary that barely paid rent I gave up and ended up working in the UK. We are now back in the US, and were thinking that if my job prospects in terms of professional development and pay now were promising, we would be willing to relocate. We have lived in Poznan and really liked it there, so that's the only place that we would consider, as we are familiar with the city and the region, and have made good friends there. I am aware that I may need to be willing to travel domestically as well as outside of PL. My experience is mostly in design of highways and bridges; now I am working on the construction side of the business in public infrastructure sector. Of course, we are fully aware that masses of mostly young and experienced professionals flock out of the country every day, but we are a rather sentimental couple and if possible, would rather live in PL.

I have been searching the ads on line and sending out my CV for a while, but no responses so far. It really looks hopeless to be frank. Would I be better off starting to look at other career prospects? I would be even willing to go to uni to get another degree if that meant better prospects. As I am getting closer 40, are we just kidding myself thinking it would be worth it at this stage?

Any and all helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Monitor 14 | 1,817
27 Apr 2013 #2
I don't think going to University in your age has any sense. The problem is that currently here is crisis in construction sector - the biggest companies have bankrupted or are in the process and in current year EU money for road are not spent. Next year they should resume, so it should get better. But Civil Engineering and Architecture became meanwhile very popular specialty, so currently there is extremely many graduates searching for job in this field. This profession is highly controlled and careers step are usually by getting next certificates and authorizations. So if you have no polish certificates and your diploma is not recognized here then you're in worse situation than graduates. In my opinion you should investigate what should you do to recognize your diploma, experience, obtain certificates here. Perhaps you could do 1 year of program difference in university to have diploma recognized.
DominicB - | 2,707
28 Apr 2013 #3
As Monitor says, the construction industry is in poor shape in Poland at the moment, and things aren't going to improve any time soon. You're best bets are to get a job with an American company working in Poland at American pay rates, or do something else entirely different.

By entirely different, I mean getting a job as a civil engineer working in Suadi Arabia, Dubai, Abi Dabi or similar location. The pay is fantastic, and even though you won't be able to take your family, after a five year contract, you will be able to retire quite comfortably in Poland, and earn enough to send your kids to the best schools. You have to think of their future, and Polish universities are a poor educational option for them.

Yes, it's like going to jail for five years, and being away from the family will be difficult. But financially, it's a smart move. One that I deeply regret not having made myself.
OP Jardinero
1 May 2013 #4
Thank you for that your thoughts.
To sum up, I am more or less screwed for 3 reasons:

1. US uni degrees are not readily recognised in PL - I would need to go through the dreaded 'nostryfikacja'. Politechnika Warszawska, for instance, requires a fee of 4,000PLN just for reviewing an application! And as this is an opportunity for the uni to earn extra income, I suspect that I could easily be evaluated needing to enroll and pass 1-2-3-X semesters, the grounds for which would be perfectly justifiable, as each country differs in its requirements for a given degree... it is a pity that another UE country like UK welcomes engineers from all over the world without this huge legal hurdle... it is a joke, really, that PL happens to have 'bilateral recognition agreements' with the world's leaders in infrastructure development such as Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea or Libya - probably from days of PRL - but apparently US degrees are sub-standard ;-) go figure... (source: ns/legal-acts/).

2. Assuming that I get over 1 above, I would most likely need Polish experience in order to become eligible for professional license(s) - and there are several classes even with a single field...

3. Civil engineering tends to be a conservative discipline and would appear to generally not be a well paid profession in PL. Am I right to think that I would probably be in a better position had I been in a field such as IT, telecom, financing, business?
Monitor 14 | 1,817
2 May 2013 #5
But if your previous engineering experience will not be relevant to "field of IT, telecom, financing, business", then I think that you will struggle to get any job, in your age as a newbie, not mentioning well paid one. Probably you can get better teaching English, provided that you mastered it while living abroad.

@DominicB: If the author wants his children to live in Poland then he better doesn't send them for foreign studies, because they will have the same problem as their father :)

Maybe you want to do scientific carrier in Poland? American MSc should be enough to do PhD here and perhaps you would be interesting employee for Politechniki with your international experience. But before starting ask people closer to academia if it's possible in Poland to get there without connections.
DominicB - | 2,707
2 May 2013 #6
If the author wants his children to live in Poland

Pretty much doesn't matter where their father wants them to live. All that matters is where they will want to live, and a degree from Poland closes a lot of doors, whereas an American degree opens a lot more. The only problem they will have if if they want to work in a few closed fields in Poland, like civil engineering and law. Otherwise, they are far better off with a degree from a good American university, even if they want to live and work in Poland.

Maybe you want to do scientific carrier in Poland? American MSc should be enough to do PhD here

That would make Saudi Arabia or Dubai a lot more attractive. Pay for academics is frustrating low in Poland. I was really ****** off when I was offered an academic position at the university here in Wrocław. The interview went splendidly, and everything was looking like peaches and cream, until we got to the issue of pay. Their initial offer was soooooooo low that there was no point in even negotiating, and that was the end of the interview. I now make three times that working on contract for the university. Most of the academics I know have to have second careers as consultants and the like. Especially if they have kids to support.
pgtx 29 | 3,145
2 May 2013 #7
Try companies like CH2M.
Monitor 14 | 1,817
2 May 2013 #8
In other countries professors earn more than 2 x median salary?
In Poland full professor earns minimum 4145PLN while median is around 2600PLN
DominicB - | 2,707
2 May 2013 #9
In Poland full professor earns minimum 4145PLN

I earned more than that as a graduate student teaching assistant 28 years ago in the States, and I make more than that now working with a very light load for the university here in Poland, without all the hassles that a full professor has to put up with. It's less than a fifth of what an American professor makes. Fortunately, I don't have any kids to take care of, and my retirement is already saved up for.

The low cost of living doesn't help much when what you have available for savings is peanuts.

Also, the OP is very far from landing a job as a full professor. He has to finish a doctorate, then habilitation, and THEN he might stand a chance at getting a lower professorial position. That will take about 10 to 15 years at least. The stages along the way pay very poorly.

If the OP wants to work in Poland, by far the best option, and indeed the only viable option, is to get a job for a foreign company that does work in Poland and pays at western rates. Otherwise, he's screwed when it comes time to send the kids off to college, never mind when he wants to retire.
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,148
2 May 2013 #10
Most of the academics I know have to have second careers as consultants and the like.

That's what this job should be about... My "full professors" used to drive new S class Mercedes or Lexus cars and obviously they weren't buying them for money made at the univ, now what's wrong with that ? Would it be so much better If they were sitting at the univ all the time and had no clue about the real world ?

It's less than a fifth of what an American professor makes.

Żabka people also make 1/5 of what Wal Mart employees are making... You think Poland should pay professors American rates ? I guess doctors, nurses, teachers etc. too ? Who do you think should pay for that ?
Monitor 14 | 1,817
2 May 2013 #11
That's my point Grzegorz. But on the other hand Jardinero writes "not to mention lower costs associated with raising children in the long run, which virtually is what ruins us here." So he really believes that it can be cheaper to rise children in Poland.

That's only true when he earns here American wages, as DominibB writes.
DominicB - | 2,707
2 May 2013 #12
You think Poland should pay professors American rates ?

Read the thread. I think the OP would be extremely unwise to pursue a career in academics in Poland, or to pursue any career in Poland at all, except at American rates. This has to do with the OP's question. He's a qualified civil engineer considering moving to Poland and making a career here. I was just pointing out that he's going to take a HUGE cut in pay (and his wife even more so), and that a career elsewhere would be a far better option with his qualifications. I was also pointing out that he is responsible for his children's upbringing and education, something that will be very hard to do on Polish wages.

Bottom line, unless he gets a job in Poland for a western company at western pay rates, the OP is going to have a very difficult time justifying his move to Poland to himself and his family. The opportunities elsewhere are numerous and far more attractive.
2 May 2013 #13
To sum up, I am more or less screwed for 3 reasons:

If you're in the UK, you should be able to get your US qualifications accepted by a UK university. Then you can do a Masters in three years part-time (two if you choose the course carefully and push yourself). That will be recognised in Poland without too much of a problem (although it will laughably only be acknowledged as being the same as a Magister). You might well be able to use the same trick when it comes to professional qualification: get your US professional qualifications recognised by the UK authority and thus gain UK professional qualifications and then under Directive 2005/36/EC get those recognised as Polish qualifications.

However, with that said, I'd still go with the suggestion above that you do five years in the middle east and make a small fortune.
OP Jardinero
3 May 2013 #14
Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. I had considered the PhD option, but again, the dreaded 'nostyfikacja' got in the way before I could do anything... As for working in the Gulf, that could be an option, but more as the last resort since I would not like to be away from the family...

As for suggestions of working for US/European company & earning their higher salary, despite making sense, is simply not an option given the reality of the market. This option may work for some in the more progressive fields, but in this business (consulting), they most certainly would only want to pay the higher salary to the upper management types such as country reps, branch managers, etc. I am not a manager, but an intermediate to senior level engineer. Believe me, while still in UK, I have contacted several of them - including my then employer, a top UK as well as internationally respected consultant who also has offices in PL - without any interest whatsoever. I have spoken to a PL branch manager (this was the roads and bridges design/consulting sector) and he said that the workload is barely enough to keep the local engineers employed... So, why would they want to hire some exotic candidate who was not even well versed in the PL standards/norms and demanding a higher salary, when clearly the locals could do that probably more efficiently and for lower pay?!

The other suggestion was to get around the PL requirements via UK. Thank you for that, but I have explored this option already, but it would not work for me. First of all, while we definitely had enjoyed the experience, we have no intention of returning to UK - at least for the time being. I could still probably have a shot at achieving the UK Chartered Engineer (CEng) rank, but that would not be of help in PL, as my educational base would still be scrutinised when applying for the PL 'equivalent', so I would need to get a UE degree in the end, which I think in my case would not be the most practical move if not a waste of time/effort/$.

Let's get to the costs of living for a bit. We have calculated that for a family of 4, we would need a net monthly income of 10k PLN in order to cover most living costs. The rough breakdown is as follows: housing 3.5k, food 2.5k, transport/car 2k, other 2k. Do you think that's realistic?

As far as comparing the incomes between different countries, it does not hold water. Sure, there are some things which are more expensive in PL than in US (fuel, for instance), but to us, it ultimately has to do with the standard of living, i.e. what can you afford after paying for the basics... can you afford to not to have to work long hours to support yourselves and be able to take reasonably long vacations to relax and enjoy life, go out to the opera/theatre, horseback/language lessons for children, weekend in the countryside, etc... we really have modest and reasonable expectations, no intention of 'getting rich', buying a huge/luxury house, owning a luxury vehicle... the focus is really on quality of life and providing the 'best' education and environment for children we could afford...
Monitor 14 | 1,817
3 May 2013 #15
"we would need a net monthly income of 10k PLN", "we really have modest and reasonable expectations"

98% of people in Poland earn less than 4711PLN net
DominicB - | 2,707
3 May 2013 #16
we would need a net monthly income of 10k PLN in order to cover most living costs. Do you think that's realistic?

I know quite a few engineers here in Wrocław, and the only ones that make more than 5000 PLN a month are managers. Even then, I'm not sure the best paid of them earns 10,000 PLN. Actually, the civil engineers I know, from Skanska and the municipal engineering office, seem to be a sadder lot than the IT and telecommunications engineers I know. I hear a lot more griping from them. So I'm going to say that earning 10,000 PLN as a non-managerial engineer is unrealistic, especially working onnly 40 hours a week.

You say your wife is in healthcare. Wages in that field are abysmally low here. So low, that she would probably be better off teaching English. That would consume her afternoon and evening hours, though, which would probably not fit in with the lifestyle you had in mind.

Your English is pretty good. You might consider becoming a translator. If your wife's English is just as good and she has a good command of medicine, she might as well. Together, you could earn more than 10,000 PLN a month with a very flexible lifestyle. That would be about 25 hours a week for each of you, plus the time spent on maintaining old customers and finding new ones. It will take you some time to buid up a customer base, but with specialties in engineering and medicine and near-native proficiency, that won't be difficult to do. You will have basically no competition. I don't here in Wrocław (native clinical biologist).

Of course, that all depends on what you mean by "healthcare". If you mean your wife is a BSN or MT, she will be familiar enough with medicine as a whole to make a go of it. If she's in imaging or direct patient care, she might not have a wide enough medical background.

As for the gulf, never a day goes by that I don't kick myself for not doing it when I was younger. Like I said, it's like going to jail for five years, but you come out with a very comfortable nest egg, plus some extremely useful and salable experience. You won't have to worry about your kids' college costs. If I were you, I would look more deeply into that option.

Another option you have is to stay in the States and get an MEM or MBA or similar degree (from serious schools). That will open up the higher paying engineering jobs to you, including those for western companies working in Poland. And/or have your wife beef up her qualifications. If she's an RN, for example, she can work on becoming a BSN, nurse practictioner or nurse anesthetist. Also have her learn or beef up on her German. Living in Poznań, she will have the option of working in Germany at much higher wages than she can earn in Poland. I have a few friends in the medical field here in Wrocław that work in Germany during the weekends, and make a lot more than they do in Poland during the whole week.

If you both beef up your qualifications, moving to Poznan and earning western wages can be a realistic option in a few years time for both of you. Remember, reschooling gets harder and harder as the years go by, so don't put it off.

You're not at all in a hopeless situation, and you have lots of options to make life better for yourself and your family. Your problem is that you have a very specific dream that you would like to come true RIGHT NOW now, and you know that it won't. With patience and lots of hard work for the next few years on both your parts, you can make that dream, and many others, come true. Compared to most people, you and your wife are in a very enviable position, so there is nothing to be negative about. You have the options of reschooling in the States or of earning a big nest egg in the Gulf or the orient. Explore these options, get down to work, and you can well be living out your dream in Poznan in five years, having the best of both worlds.
OP Jardinero
7 May 2013 #17
Cheers for your insight, DominicB. We will need to reevaluate our options. As you rightly note, we were thinking about the move in the rather immediate future. But we are not in a hopeless situation by any stretch of the imagination, and if we decide not to move, I am confident we will be well off in the end. It is just that the lifestyle and emotional preference would be on PL, even tough it would probably come at a financial setback.

Sounds like a net salary of 5k for an engineer is the most I can be hoping for. I think that my wife may have a better chance of earning more as a physician, although she would need to specialise first. But until she does that - which could take 3-5yrs - we would need to make up the difference... I am not sure if translating would generate quite enough income in order to fill in the gap. I have actually freelanced as a civil engineering translator for one of the agencies in Wroclaw. The workload as well as the pay was nowhere near what we would need to support a family - it paid only 25PLN per page brutto for very demanding, technical text.

As for a top MBA degree, I am not sure that I would be ready for the commitment and yet another financial burden (we already have substantial loans to pay off for my wife's MD degree). And the Gulf - does it really still pay what it used to these days? I was browsing some ads not that long ago and I thought what they were offering seemed like slightly higher UK salaries (albeit tax-free).

As for the comment that most people live on less than twice our projected costs, I obviously realise that for many people life is a constant struggle without any real options, and to be honest, I do not know how they manage financially... the hundreds of thousands of Poles who have made the decision to live abroad since 2004 have done so primarily due to financial hardship and lack of proper perspectives in their homeland... a sad and tragic fact indeed...;-(
jwojcie 2 | 762
14 May 2013 #18
Am I right to think that I would probably be in a better position had I been in a field such as IT, telecom, financing, business?

The main difference between IT and Civil Engeenering lies in the number two of your list: you don't need additional professional licenses given by a proffesional chamber to get a good job. The advantage is that there is easier start in IT than in CE... on the other hand all those additional licences in CE lets you to build a more solid cereer - in the end a Civil Engineer with a solid background and solid papers can earn gratifying money - but it takes years to build such a position. Those people in many cases have small independent bussiness and work on their own.
DominicB - | 2,707
16 May 2013 #19
Sounds like a net salary of 5k for an engineer is the most I can be hoping for.

That would be high for a non-managing engineer.

my wife may have a better chance of earning more as a physician, although she would need to specialise first.

Not in Poland. Physicians are poorly paid unless they own their own practice. That requires substantial capital to invest, and might not pay off for several years. She could, as I mentioned before, work in Germany, where she would receive higher pay. But without a good knowledge of the language and a specialty, her options and pay would be limited.

Forget about the agencies and find your own work. There's plenty out there for both you and your wife, and you can charge 60 PLN or more per page. Low startup costs and ease of finding work make this the most realistic option for both of you in Poland, especially since you both have specialist degrees. You won't have much competition. (I'm assuming, of course, that both you and your wife have near-native proficiency in English). You're going to hear the words "spadł z nieba" A LOT. Both of you can earn a lot more than as an engineer or physician in Poland. You just have to be persistent with your marketing, and carpet bomb every potential client by email and by knocking on doors until you build up a clientele, which shouldn't take long for either of you. However, you're going to have to be a rather disciplined self-starter and go-getter with plenty of business wits to make a go of it.

we already have substantial loans to pay off for my wife's MD degree

That's going to be tough to do on Polish wages. Perhaps with the translating and/or working in Germany option.

It is just that the lifestyle and emotional preference would be on PL

The States is a huge and diverse country. If you're not satisfied with the lifestyle where you currently are, check out other parts of the country. I'm guessing, though, that either you or your wife wants to be near family in Poland. That's a tough order to fill, especially in the short term.

And the Gulf - does it really still pay what it used to these days?

For medical professionals, yes. Don't really know about engineering. Warrants further research on your part.

the hundreds of thousands of Poles who have made the decision to live abroad

There were a lot of physicians and engineers among them. You're going to have to think outside the box to make a go of it in Poland, especially with debts to pay off in the States.

Like I said, your situation isn't completely hopeless. It's just that you have defined your dream so narrowly that it's affecting your perception of your options, which are manifold in the long run, and not bad for the time being. Also, like I said before, neither of you is getting any younger, and self-improvement is going to be harder, and pay off less, the longer you delay it. A bit of creative thinking together with draconian self-sacrifice and financial management now can put you both in a truly enviable position five years from now. At your age, self-improvement should be your HIGHEST priority. To the point of selling the house and buying a smaller one, if necessary.

Another priority is getting your kids the best education they can get, and, frankly, in spite of your experience, a degree from an American university opens up a lot more doors than one from a Polish university. Make sure they are working their asses off in school right now so they can get into the best universities possible, and get scholarships. They should eat, breath and dream math and sciences. If your kids are slackers, probably the worst place for them is a Polish university, where nobody is going to care at all about them. Also, if you kids are slackers, get out the belt and unslack their sweet little behinds before the sun goes down. They will be eternally grateful.
Vreeswijk - | 2
22 May 2013 #20
I have the same problem. I live in Poland since the beginning of February, I'm from Holland, I'm a building engineer (degree Bachelor of Science) and 12 years of experience as Civil Engineer at one of the biggest companies in Holland, but it's is not worth much in Poland.

Language is not the biggest problem, job interviews were at companies where the people at the engineering department had to speak English.
They always ask if I have Polish certificates, which i don't have. And the folowing question is how I will solve that problem?

I'm now more focused on jobs which don't require Polish certificates, but no succes so far.
I also look at jobs in the IT-sector.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,116
22 May 2013 #21
They always ask if I have Polish certificates, which i don't have. And the folowing question is how I will solve that problem?

By taking the State exams in Polish?

I'm a building engineer (degree Bachelor of Science) and 12 years of experience as Civil Engineer ... but it's is not worth much in Poland.

Nope, for a start, your competition will all have a Masters degree.

Another priority is getting your kids the best education they can get.

I completely object to this patronising post.

A degree from an American university may not open doors if it's from a third rate American university versus a top Polish one, particularly in Europe. Trying to tell other people that their kids should "eat, breath and dream math and sciences" is absolutely absurd - there are plenty of people making a very good living without doing those things. They should be encouraged to be great at what they enjoy, not at what might give them a good job in the future. I know some engineers, and I don't envy their lifestyle - either they're locked in an office or they spend the entire time in a filthy environment. No thank you.

And suggesting child abuse to make them achieve in school will do nothing but create neurotic children that achieve nothing anyway.
Mohammadreza - | 2
7 Jul 2019 #22

How is the civil engineer's situation in occupations in Poland?

Im 35 years old civil engineer and have a plan to immigrate to Poland in the future 6 month.
I have been a project manager in recent 7 years. My project is divertion dam with a transmit canal.
My English skills are good but have no information about polish at all.
Would you please tell me about some related jobs that maybe I can do there??
Or please guide me to what software engineering will be useful for me??? Such as auto cad , GIS , MATLAB, etabs,sap,ms project, ....

Thanks so much.
DominicB - | 2,707
10 Jul 2019 #23

First of all, you will have to land a job BEFORE you come to Poland. You will not be able to enter Poland to seek work there.

Second, the market for engineers from almost all non-EU countries has dried up considerably because of the massive influx of Ukrainians over the past few years. IT jobs that formerly went to Indians, Pakistanis and others from the region now go preferentially to Ukrainians.

Third of all, the wages for engineers in Poland are lower than in the West, so that most engineers from foreign countries either move on to the richer countries of the West, if they can, or give up and return home with a few years. Very few stay long enough to become permanent residents, never mind citizens.

If you are interested in working as a civil engineer in Poland, then your best chance is to find work with an international company that does business in Poland, and apply for a transfer to Poland.

But then the question arises, why Poland? If you true goal is to move on to the richer countries of Western Europe, which it most probably is, you might as well concentrate your efforts on finding work there from the start, instead of using Poland as some type of "stepping stone". Or try the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand (lots of opportunities in hydro-engineering), or the Gulf or South Korea.
Jardinero 1 | 402
7 Sep 2019 #24
Yeah, I have to say that the job market for foreign civil engineers, in general, continues to be very poor (there may be some options for lower grade CAD techs or number crunchers in building structures that are paid poorly). I got so disheartened to hear that I need, at first, to do 'nostryfikacja' of my diplomas (yeah, believe it or not, US education is not up to their standards, they said). After I have jumped that hurdle, which was painful, long, and costly, I was told I now need to have the equivalent Polish professional licenses to practice. After completing that hurdle, which again, was long and painful, I was told all is now in order - and all I now need is to have some considerable Polish experience under my belt... So you end up having to compete with the fresh graduates half your age as an assistant fat not much more than minimum wage. No thank you. A complete joke. Needless to say, I have given up on the idea completely and found work in the UK.

If you are still young enough there is hope for you, just do the right thing and switch to IT right NOW - any flavour will do! - just forget civil engineering altogether ...

Best of luck.
Rich Mazur 4 | 3,047
8 Sep 2019 #25
That's why I love the US. Came here on Sunday. Had an engineering job paying about 75 grand in today's dollars by Wednesday. Nobody even asked to see my diploma.

My advice is to drop your native language and get fluent in English as fast as you can to have a better chance to get into management, plus better salary and bonuses.

Do not watch Polish TV or read Polish newspapers. Do not import a wife. Instead, get married here so you will not have those stupid "I miss Poland and I want to go back home" discussions and dilemmas.
Jardinero 1 | 402
9 Sep 2019 #26
UK is similar - folks from Asia, Africa, South America, etc - no issues as long as you are willing to work... but Poland begs to be different... ;-( No clue why they insist on being this way...
Rich Mazur 4 | 3,047
10 Sep 2019 #27
No clue why they insist on being this way...

That's an easy one: to keep all the government parasites, their families and their friends happily employed.
28 Mar 2021 #28

Civil engineer salary in Poland


what kind of a salary can I expect from a permanent contract working as a civil engineer in wroclaw?
I am currently on a by hour contract but that expires soon,we havent yet discussed about renewing or updating the contract but wanted to ask what kind of salary should someone who has a master in civil engineering,is over 26 years old but has only 1 year or experience working as engineer expect.

Strzelec35 32 | 889
28 Mar 2021 #29
the big bucks for Polish standards. The big bucks.
28 Mar 2021 #30
I'd appreciate a brutto or netto number :)

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