Civil Engineering job description

May 23, 2021

Civil Engineering job description... What is it?? Well, civil engineers help to design the infrastructure that is all around us. This diverse and challenging role touches every corner of society, from the sewer systems under our feet to the buildings that soar above our heads. Civil engineering plays a role in all corners of life and helps to create more efficient and pleasant environments for living, working and playing. 

What do they do

What does a civil engineer do?

Civil engineers can be categorised in two ways: consultants and contractors. Consultants will typically take control of the design and planning and will usually be based in an office most of the time. Contractors will then take these designs and help to implement them in the real world. Contractors are more likely to be based on building sites. There is often overlap between the two, but this is broadly how the role is split.

Civil engineers design, plan and oversee construction for projects that will improve the environment around us. They might be involved with building skyscrapers and ensuring they can withstand all types of weather, or they might be involved with designing irrigation systems for farming in challenging conditions. Civil engineers are also involved in designing roads, dams, airports, harbours, bridges, power plants, water management systems and sewage systems. Typical tasks for a civil engineer could include:

  • Analysing soil samples for subsurface investigations
  • Calculating the load stresses for new structures such as bridges
  • Implementing flood defence plans to protect homes

The day-to-day role of a civil engineer will vary depending on the organisation they work for and the projects they help to design. Tasks could include any of the following:

  • Planning and designing new structures
  • Carrying out site investigations
  • Using CAD software to create plans and designs
  • Undertaking feasibility studies and investigating materials
  • Managing budgets and project timelines
  • Liaising with clients to update on progress and plans
  • Exploring ways to make structures more energy-efficient
  • Resolving design issues during construction
  • Co-ordinating with architects and construction contractors
  • Delivering presentations on recent projects
  • Exploring the impact of materials and processes on the environment
  • Teaching work placement students about the sector

typically work

Where does a civil engineer typically work?

You may find work in the public or private sector, including employers like private construction companies, architecture companies, local government authorities, utility companies and rail companies.

Under the broad umbrella of civil engineering, specialising further could help you to secure a niche role. For example, you might specialise in naval engineering to secure a role with the Royal Navy or Marines. You could also specialise in environmental engineering, structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, water resources management or transport engineering.

By specialising, you will narrow your search for a role, but you could find yourself on a more lucrative career path. When searching for a role, consider specialist recruitment agencies first. This will offer a more targeted view of the job market than a general recruitment agency or a job board. You should also keep an eye on opportunities advertised through organisations such as the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Entry-level job titles will typically be graduate civil engineer, or they could be more specific, such as graduate transportation engineer.

Qualifications and required training

Qualifications and required training

There are two routes to a civil engineering career. Civil engineers will either join a school leavers training programme such as an apprenticeship, or they will study civil engineering at university.

Graduates will need a degree that is accredited by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Once you have achieved your BEng you will have incorporated engineer status. Most people will go on to further study, as this will make them more desirable to employers. Once you have completed an MEng (masters) you will achieve chartered status. 

If you are taking the graduate route, you can help your future job prospects by choosing a course that includes a work placement. This might be a summer internship or an entire year-long placement as part of your studies.

If you are taking the school leaver route, there are plenty of resources available to help you choose your path. A well-established apprenticeship with a reputable organisation will offer a combination of on-the-job experience with classroom learning to give you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed as a civil engineer.

Key skills

Key skills and competencies

These are some of the competencies and skills that employers will look for. Employers aren’t only looking for workers with technical skills but are also seeking those with commercial awareness to help make projects successful. Some key skills you will need include:

  • Mathematical and scientific skills
  • IT skills and the ability to quickly adapt to new systems
  • Methodical thinking and approach to work
  • Problem-solving skills, both on-paper and in real-life situations
  • Ability to manage project budgets and timelines
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to multitask and remain calm under pressure
  • Leadership and negotiating skills
  • Up-to-date knowledge and experience of local regulations

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