As a civil engineer, you will plan, design and manage construction projects.
These can range from the relatively small-scale, for example bridge repairs, through to large national schemes, like the building of a new stadium.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Civil engineering is a broad term covering several specialist areas of engineering, so as a civil engineer you could be employed in any sector from structural, transportation, environmental to maritime and geotechnical.
Many of these branches overlap, but in all areas your typical duties would include:
- Discussing requirements with the client and other professionals (e.g architects)
- Analysing survey, mapping and materials-testing data with computer modelling software
- Drawing up blueprints, using computer aided design (cad) packages
- Judging whether projects are workable by assessing materials, costs and time requirements
- Assessing the environmental impact and risks connected to projects
- Preparing bids for tenders, and reporting to clients, public agencies and planning bodies
- Managing, directing and monitoring progress during each phase of a project
- Making sure sites meet legal guidelines, and health and safety requirements.
As an incorporated engineer, you would specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. At chartered level, you would have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas, and streamlining management methods.
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The finer details...
You'll work between 35 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday.
Your time will be split between the office and working on site. Sitework would be in all weathers and may involve extensive travel, sometimes overseas, depending on the contract.
Money, money, money
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
- Income for new graduate engineers is between £19,500 and £23,000 a year.
- Experienced engineers earn between £24,000 and £37,000.
- Chartered engineers can earn around £49,000 year.
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The good points...
The opportunities are excellent as a qualified civil engineer. Many different organisations employ engineers, including local authorities, building contractors, power companies, environmental agencies and specialist consulting firms. You may also find work overseas with British consulting or contracting firms, working for foreign governments, and oil and mining companies.
You could also work with international development and disaster relief agencies so you can make a difference to people's lives. See Engineers for Disaster Relief (RedR UK) for more information.
Plus with so many sectors to choose from, you're bound to find something to suit you.
...and the bad
As well as having the technical know-how, you'll also have to read up on relevant legal regulations as a comprehensive knowledge is a must-have.
Is there study involved?
To become a civil engineer you normally need a three-year Bachelor of Engineering degree (BEng) or four-year Masters degree (MEng) in civil engineering. These qualifications are important if you want to gain incorporated or chartered engineer status later in your career (see the training and development section for details). You could take other engineering-related subjects but it may take you longer to fully qualify.
You will need at least five GCSEs (A-C) and two or three A levels, including maths and a science subject (normally physics), or equivalent qualifications to get onto a degree course. Colleges and universities may accept a relevant Access to Higher Education award for entry to certain courses. Please check with them for their exact entry requirements.
Alternatively, you could work your way up to become an engineer if you are already in the industry, for example, working as an engineering technician. By studying part-time or on the job for a BTEC HNC/HND, foundation degree or degree, you could eventually qualify.
Usually, you will start your professional life as a civil engineer on a company's graduate training scheme. These schemes give you the chance to get involved in projects under the supervision of a mentor, and are designed to develop your technical knowledge and business skills. Over time, you would take on more responsibility. Training schemes often last between one and two years.
You could help your career development by working towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you should register with your professional industry body and apply to the Engineering Council.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
To be a civil-engineer technician, you'll need:
- Excellent maths, science, and IT skills
- The ability to explain design ideas and plans clearly
- The ability to analyse large amounts of data and assess solutions
- Confident decision-making ability
- Excellent communication skills
Project management skills
- The ability to work within budgets and to deadlines
- Good teamworking skills