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How to become a Civil Engineer

civil engineer careers

What does a Civil Engineer do?

Civil engineers work on the planning, design, construction and management of projects in a diverse variety of fields. Civil engineering projects can range from working on single fixed structures to local and national infrastructure. Civil engineering is a broad term encompassing several specialised engineering disciplines. Some examples include:

  • Structural – bridges, dams, buildings, offshore platforms and pipelines
  • Transportation – roads, railways, tunnels and airports
  • Hydraulics – principally the movement or diversion of water by channels, canals, water lifts and flood barriers
  • Environmental – public water supply networks, irrigation, drainage, waste disposal and sewerage treatment
  • Maritime – ports, harbours and sea defences
  • Geotechnical – soil mechanics, earthworks and construction foundations.

Many of these disciplines overlap and an engineer may work in general civil engineering, spanning several of these areas or specialise in one particular type.

For all disciplines, typical duties involve:

  • discussing specifications with the client and other professionals such as architects, surveyors and building contractors
  • carrying out analysis of survey, mapping or materials-testing data for drawing up plans and blueprints, using computer modelling and design software
  • re-testing and modifying plans in light of analyses results
  • carrying out feasibility studies for projects, looking at materials, costs, time, labour, environmental impact and risk assessment
  • preparing bids for tenders, and reporting to clients, public agencies and planning bodies
  • managing, directing and monitoring progress during each phase of the project
  • ensuring that projects adhere to legal guidelines, and health and safety requirements.

Fully qualified professional engineers usually hold incorporated or chartered status.

Chartered engineers are normally involved at a strategic planning level, researching and developing new designs, innovations and more efficient processes. They are often project leaders and are responsible for teams of incorporated engineers and technicians.

Incorporated engineers specialise in managing the day-to-day process of applying current engineering solutions in the most cost-effective manner. They often hold key operational management roles.

What's the working environment like working as a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers work both in offices and on site. When draughting designs or compiling reports, they work in the office from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Sitework can be in all weathers and involve extensive travelling, sometimes overseas.

What does it take to become a Civil Engineer?

To be a civil engineer, you should:

  • have excellent maths, science, and IT skills
  • be able to analyse complex problems and critically evaluate solutions
  • be able to visualise and explain theoretical design solutions
  • have strong decision-making skills
  • have excellent communication skills
  • be able to categorise, prioritise and plan effectively
  • be able to work within budgetary constraints
  • have excellent interpersonal and teamworking skills
  • have a comprehensive understanding of legal regulations.

Civil Engineer Career Opportunities

Opportunities are excellent for qualified engineers. Many different types of organisations employ civil engineering graduates, such as local authorities, building contractors, power companies, environmental agencies and specialist consulting firms.

There are also opportunities overseas with British firms of consulting or contracting engineers working for foreign governments, or with international oil and mining companies.

Career progression often involves moving in to more senior project management positions, specialisation in particular fields or consultancy work.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Civil Engineer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Institution of Civil Engineers
1 Great George Street
London
SW1P 3AA
Tel: 020 7222 7722
www.ice.org.uk

Institution of Structural Engineers
11 Upper Belgrave Street
London
SW1X 8BH
Tel: 020 7235 4535
www.istructe.org.uk

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
Watford
Hertfordshire
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682
www.semta.org.uk

Women into Science and Engineering
22 Old Queen Street
London
SW1H 9HP
Tel: 020 7227 8421
www.wisecampaign.org.uk

Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland)
Interpoint
20-24 York Street
Belfast
BT15 1AQ
Tel: 028 9032 9878
www.etcni.org.uk

Engineering Council
10 Maltravers Street
London
WC2R 3ER
Tel: 020 7240 7891
www.engc.org.uk

The UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC)
www.uk-spec.org.uk



Facts and Stats:

  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel was only 5ft tall and wore a top hat to make himself look taller
  • Engineering generates more than 40 per cent of the UK¿s national wealth
  • The Box Hill tunnel, part of Brunel¿s Great Western Railway, took five years to dig and at two miles long was the longest tunnel in the world at the time