There are several metrics used to evaluate academic publications, including number of citations, h-index, and others. While these metrics are directly related to rewards in the academic community, it is debated whether they correctly reflect the true impact of research. As such, there is a need to clearly interpret and understand such metrics. The goal of this paper is to investigate the citation metrics used to assess academic publications in civil engineering (CE) with a considerable focus on construction engineering and management (CEM). The investigation of these two research fields is important since each one of them has its own characteristics. As such, the authors performed a global comparison between the different CE research specialty areas, with the CEM being one of them. On a more specific level, a similar comparison was performed on the different sub-disciplines in the CEM field. In addition, the authors investigated the citation metrics of the most cited publications in CE and CEM. After analyzing 67,800 journal papers, it was found that the number of publications and citations in CEM is lower than other CE specialty areas. The findings revealed also that there are several factors that influence the exposure and popularity of academic publications, such as research community size, connections to other disciplinary fields, and trendiness of the research field. Moreover, it was concluded that a single metric should not be considered alone to assess the quality and reach of publications and authors. However, a more complete and broad perspective is required. Ultimately, this research provides an evidence-based study of citation metrics in the field of CE specialty areas and the CEM sub-disciplines. This research also proposes guidelines that shall be considered when assessing and comparing publications across different research areas or even within the same field.