Becoming a civil engineer means being professionally dedicated to the environment of human civilisation. Your job as a civil engineer could mean enhancing, protecting or creating those environments through planning and design.
Your role could concern critical infrastructure from the construction and maintenance of roads, railways and bridges, to harbours, power plants and water systems.
As a civil engineer you are likely to become either a consulting engineer or a contracting engineer. Consultants take responsibility for design and are mainly office based while contractors implement designs during construction, working on site.
City, University of London is a global hub of design, architecture and construction. We have purpose-built laboratories with specialist facilities including a geotechnical centrifuge and a heavy structures strong floor.
On our doorstep is one of the most dynamic and innovative cityscapes in the world.
What can I expect as a civil engineer?
A key decision for you as a civil engineer is whether you want to become a consulting civil engineer or a contracting engineer. This will define your path into employment.
Focused interest in design and planning will lead you in the direction of a consulting civil engineer. Consulting civil engineers are central to the intricacies of development and management for projects across the built and natural environment.
Your duties as a consulting civil engineer could include the following:
- Undertaking feasibility studies and site investigations
- Developing detailed designs
- Supervision of tendering procedures
- Liaise with stakeholders including architects, subcontractors and contracting civil engineers
- Manage budgets and project resources
- Review and approve project drawings
- Use computer-aided design (CAD) packages for designing projects
- Undertake complex and repetitive calculations
- Schedule material and equipment purchases and delivery
- Attend public meetings to discuss projects, especially in a senior role.
As a contracting civil engineer, you will realise the designs of consulting civil engineers, overseeing and managing construction work on-site.
You are responsible for organising the human and material resources on site, enabling projects to run safely, on time and to budget.
Your duties as a contracting civil engineer could include the following:
- Negotiate modifications with architects and consulting engineers
- Responsibility for health and safety on site
- Supervise construction
- Manage logistics of supplies
- Schedule work, staffing and shifts
- Ensure quality of workmanship
- Monitor and track project progress, making adjustments if necessary to meet time and budget targets
- Handle complaints from local people relating to building works.
Related courses at City
Whatever your level of interest in becoming a civil engineer, City's courses can help you take one step closer to a career, develop specialisms that'll set you apart from the field or broaden your horizons with study in related subjects.
- BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering
- MEng (Hons) Civil Engineering
- MSc Civil Engineering Structures
- MSc Civil Engineering Structures (Nuclear Power Plants)
Who can I work for as a civil engineer?
Consulting civil engineers are employed mainly by civil engineering consultancies, while employers of contracting civil engineers vary from large multinational firms to small local businesses.
Your skills as a qualified civil engineer may make you attractive to the following organisations:
- the Environment Agency (EA)
- property developers
- local authorities
- government agencies and departments
- transport infrastructure companies
- water companies.
If you have a specialist interest, you may seek out appropriately specialist organisations that concentrate in those areas. This might include bridge building, environmental contracting, railways or road surfacing.
You can work for many different kinds of organisations as a civil engineer. Healthy and sustainable businesses range from a small size with a modest number of staff to major industry players employing thousands of people with diverse specialisms.
What about civil engineering work experience?
Summer work experience and placements during your studies can help you to shape ideas about your future. They can also help connect you with potential employers. The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) has details about industrial placements.
Civil engineering is an active community offering a range of opportunities. You might be rewarded for being proactive in attending relevant industry events to network and develop your knowledge base. You could try to establish contact with a target employer as early as possible and find out if they run a structured work experience programme.
Such efforts can show a dedication to your chosen vocation which may distinguish you when it comes to finding a job.
What are my prospects as a civil engineer?
Your prospects as a civil engineer are strong and well-structured for a long-term career.
You take on greater responsibility as you gain experience and progress to incorporated or chartered status. With this will come more chance to switch positions, lead major projects and ultimately achieve senior positions.
Employers typically provide training programmes to meet the requirements of chartership with the ICE. Becoming chartered takes considerable time but offers better opportunities, higher pay and potentially quicker promotion.