- What does a civil engineer do?
- Civil engineer career path
- Civil engineer salaries
- Qualifications and training
- Civil engineer skills
- Pros and cons of being a civil engineer
- Civil engineer work-life balance
- Civil engineer employers
- Related jobs
- More information
Do you wonder how everything works? Do you have a flair for design? If you have a technical mind and love making things that people will use every day, working as a civil engineer could be perfect for you.
Are you intrigued by working as a civil engineer? Explore graduate opportunities in the engineering sector available to you right now.
What does a civil engineer do?
Civil engineers are responsible for designing structures and services that the public use almost every day. This is everything from roadways and cycle paths to bridges, airports and shipping ports. Most civil engineers specialise in an area that interests them further on in their career but could work with any of these areas depending on the firm and the projects that they’re working on. Here are some of the daily tasks that you might have as a civil engineer:
- Meet with a client to understand what they want from a project.
- Research the type of project, the innovations in that area and new projects that have begun.
- Start the design process, incorporating the client’s vision with your ideas and technical understanding.
- Learn about the materials that you could use and decide which is best for the project based on requirements like durability, flexibility, sustainability, aesthetics and budget.
- Test the materials to make sure they work for your requirements.
- Meet with your colleagues and clients to discuss your ideas.
- Make any revisions to your plans based on feedback.
- Go to the construction site to advise on the building process.
Civil engineer career path
Working as a civil engineer gives you great possibilities for future work that you can do. Here is the career path that you could go down as a civil engineer:
You begin your working life as a junior civil engineer. This entry-level position is intended to teach you the basic requirements of work as a civil engineer. Most of your work includes supervision from more senior colleagues. You might do additional work to help your colleagues like arranging meetings with clients and checking up on progress at a worksite.
With experience, you become a mid-level civil engineer. In this role, you’re responsible for your own designs and given the freedom to make your designs. When you have enough experience, you start training junior members of the team and get more complex or high profile work.
You could progress to an engineering project manager role. This involves managing the engineering projects going on within a firm. Whilst a civil engineer focuses mainly on the design and oversees the construction, an engineering project manager goes with the project through its entirety, making sure budgets and timelines are met, alongside the requirements that the client has.
You may decide that moving into a consulting role is ideal for you. This means working with companies and other organisations, understanding their requirements and designing structures to match their requirements.
Civil engineer salaries
You have the opportunity to reach high paying jobs in the civil engineer career path. Here are the salaries that you might expect at all levels of the job:
- In entry-level positions like junior civil engineer, you earn between £25,000 and £35,000 per year.
- Mid-level civil engineer jobs earn you between £30,000 and £50,000 per year.
- Chartered civil engineers earn an average of £43,000 per year.
Learn more about engineering salaries.
Qualifications and training
Working as a civil engineer often requires high-level qualifications and having the right education helps you reach high-level jobs. Here is the education that you need to work as a civil engineer:
To work as an engineer, you typically need at least an undergraduate degree in engineering. Some firms prefer a master’s degree. This level of education gives you the theoretical understanding that you need to perform your work as a civil engineer well. Having a master’s degree is often a requirement for higher-level professional qualifications.
Another option is to work through an apprenticeship. This means working with an engineering firm and gaining practical experience. Some apprenticeships include degree-level study which the firm pays for. This means you get theoretical knowledge from your studies and practical experience from the work you do with the apprenticeship. You can explore the civil engineer apprenticeships available through the Institute of Chartered Engineering (ICE) or with the government’s apprenticeship search tool.
You can learn more about how to get into engineering without a BEng.
Having some work experience sets you apart from other candidates applying for entry-level civil engineer jobs. You often get experience through a degree as many engineering degrees offer time in industry during your second year of study.
An alternative way of gaining experience is through an internship. You can look through the internships in engineering that are available right now. Alternatively, you can explore opportunities by networking. This means making contacts in the industry during events or through social media sites like LinkedIn.
Learn more about how to network effectively with this Bright Network Academy module.
Having some professional qualifications helps you excel in your career as a civil engineer. The three qualifications discussed here are accessible to engineers already working in the industry so having some years of experience is required.
You could become a technician engineer (EngTech) or an incorporated engineer (IEng) but the most prestigious qualification for engineers is CEng which makes you a chartered engineer. The Engineering Council is the professional body that gives out chartered engineer status. To get these qualifications, you typically need a master’s degree in engineering. You can learn more about the qualifications at the ICE website.
Civil engineer skills
Combined with your education and work experience, here are the skills that you need to perform well as a civil engineer:
- Engineering. This is a basic requirement of a civil engineer job. You need to understand how complex structures work, how to make them strong and what you can do to prevent weathering and general wear from impacting the structural integrity.
- Materials. You need to understand the different materials available to you and which are better for the type of project you’re working on. You might need to do some testing to make sure you’re choosing the right materials for the job.
- Design. You need to have great design skills. This often means working with design software to make accurate and detailed designs. Having a good understanding of the software available could help you go into any civil engineer job.
- Problem-solving. You will come across many factors that impact your designs. This could be the weather conditions, soil type, hard wear by users or any other number of issues. Being good at thinking outside the box and thinking around problems helps you do a great job as a civil engineer. Learn more about creative problem-solving with this Bright Network Academy module.
- Creativity. Not only are your clients looking for a useful structure, but many also require some level of aesthetic design. Incorporating your engineering requirements with ways of making the structure look interesting takes a good level of creativity.
- Organisation. Part of your job is organising your workload. This means making sure you’ve completed your designs by the set deadlines and working within a budget. Organising yourself and your work helps you achieve this.
- Attention to detail. Being able to think of minute factors that impact a build and factoring these in really helps you make an intricate and useful design.
Learn more about the skills and attributes you need to get into engineering.
Pros and cons of being a civil engineer
You may have decided that being a civil engineer sounds like the perfect job for you. There are great and not-so-great parts about the job that you should know about. Here’s what you should consider before committing to the civil engineer career path:
- The most senior work in civil engineering offers you a large annual salary.
- There is high demand for civil engineers so it’s a great industry to get into.
- You could work on interesting projects, some being high profile or complex.
- Your job combines working in the office and outdoors which makes your job varied.
- There is some travel required with civil engineer work. This can make your working day long if you’re commuting to a site and may require overnight stays.
- You might have long working hours to get your designs done.
- It can be highly pressured and you might be held responsible if something goes wrong with the build or after construction.
- You could be working outside in all conditions which can make this area of your work less fun.
Civil engineer work-life balance
Your work as a civil engineer is split between the office work you do when making designs and the onsite work like meeting with clients, inspecting sites and overseeing construction work.
Civil engineers typically work standard office hours of 9am to 5pm on Monday to Friday. You could work beyond this around deadlines of when you have a significant amount of work to complete. If you’re working onsite, your working days will likely be longer and also include a longer commute home if you’re not staying in a hotel or temporary accommodation.
Civil engineer employers
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