5 tips for getting into civil engineering

August 8, 2020

Civil engineering is an in-demand career. Development is taking place everywhere you look, and civil engineers are at the heart of these developments. If you have a natural aptitude for maths, science and design, you could be well suited to a career as a civil engineer. 

There are many different routes into civil engineering and many paths you could take. Training will often take upwards of 5 years as you complete a Bachelor's degree and then a Masters degree followed by on the job training. If you have the qualifications and the drive, you could soon be carving your path as a civil engineer.

What is civil engineering?

Civil engineering is all about designing and connecting the world around us. A civil engineer might be involved with building infrastructure in a city, such as bridges and roads. They might be involved with designing the sewer and waste management system below the city. Or they might be responsible for planning new neighbourhoods with housing, schools and other essential amenities. 

Civil engineering is a design role but it is also about problem-solving. There are many different disciplines under the civil engineering umbrella, which allows you to create a career that revolves around your interests.

1. Understand the entry routes

There are many different routes to a civil engineering career. These include:

  • Apprenticeships with on-the-job training
  • Civil engineering degrees
  • Late career changes

Depending on what stage you are in your career, you will have to think about the best route for your situation. Remember that apprenticeships are not only suitable for school leavers, but some will also accept applicants up to the age of 30 and some will accept candidates of any age. If you have the core skills and motivation, you should be able to find a route into civil engineering. Civil engineers are very much in demand at the moment, so you could even find you have the upper hand when it comes to job hunting.

2. Get the right qualifications

Depending on your entry route, you may need to go back to school to pick up the right qualifications. Civil engineering careers will typically require good high school grades in maths, physics and design technology. You could also get A levels in these subject areas and then go on to study a civil engineering degree at university. 

If you decide to go straight into training, an apprenticeship will typically require good results in maths, English, physics and a design subject. Those changing careers later in life may be able to move forward without the formal qualifications if they have relevant work experience. Moving from other engineering disciplines is not uncommon, so don’t worry about not having the exact qualifications they are looking for. In many ways, work experience can be far more valuable.

3. Join a professional body

Once you have qualified and you’re ready to start looking for jobs, it’s a good idea to join a professional body. This will show that you’re accredited to a recognised organisation and it could also offer some job opportunities. 

Networking at professional events is a great way to determine which area of civil engineering is right for you and to learn more about the industry. It can also give you something to talk about when it comes to interviewing – it could even be the reason you get a foot in the door at all.

4. Speak to the right people

When the time comes to start looking for a job, you need to make sure you are speaking to the right people. A non-specialist recruiter might be able to read your CV from a layman’s perspective, but they won’t be able to give industry-specific advice. This is where specialist recruiters come in helpful. 

An organisation like Nolan technical requirement will be able to put you in contact with companies that are actively looking for candidates like you. They will have established relationships with the hiring managers that matter the most. This can be particularly helpful for those who have recently graduated and those who are going through a career change.

5. Get some relevant experience

Be open-minded in your job search and don’t turn down opportunities just because of the job title. Civil engineering is a broad discipline and you might not start with this exact job title. Be open to exploring different avenues to get into the industry, even if this means going into a role just for the experience. 

You never know what your role could become if you are determined, committed and a valuable team asset. It’s not uncommon for civil engineers to move horizontally within an organisation, particularly if you have the right skills. Many civil engineering roles are project-based, so it may simply be a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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