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Outline of Job

The job of a civil engineer is to manage construction projects from start to finish, playing a chief role in planning and following progress through to completion. They will work on a variety of developments, from small to large-scale, whether it is the assembly of a new sport stadium or the reconstruction of a road. A civil engineer will be found in a range of specialist construction areas, including transportation, working on roads and railways; structural, involved with pipelines and buildings; and environmental, the development of drainage and flood barriers. They will collaborate with a host of construction workers to ensure projects meet building regulations and run smoothly.

Daily Activities

  • Liaising with clients concerning proposed development
  • Collaborating with other construction professionals, including architects and surveyors
  • Ensuring building regulations and safety issues are abided by
  • Overseeing project development
  • Calculating environmental consequences of project
  • Managing budget
  • Using computer software such as design packages
  • Considering materials needed, as well as other costs
  • Calculating number of labourers and working hours required

Skills Required

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Organised manner and practical approach
  • Understanding of building regulations and safety issues
  • Able to work as an individual and as part of a team
  • Work according to budgets and deadlines
  • Management skills
  • Able to interpret and analyse data
  • Able to read technical design plans
  • IT competent, particularly with design packages
  • Excellent mathematics and science skills

Expected Earnings & Conditions

Typical starting salary for graduates is £20,000 – £23,000, with experienced engineers able to earn around £24,000 – £37,000. Those promoted to chartered level will be able to earn in the region of £50,000. Salary will depend on the organisation and its location, as well as individual experience and performance.

Working hours are usually nine to five, but this is dependent on whether a deadline needs to be met. Travel to work sites will be necessary, dividing your time between working on-site and in the office. You will be overseeing a large team of workers and will need to have confident management skills. Safety equipment will be required on-site, and you may have the opportunity to work abroad.

Qualifications & Experience Required

A degree will be required, and one that is accredited by an engineering organisation such as the ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) in order to be able to achieve chartered status. This requires you to have a minimal of two A Levels, in areas such as mathematics and science, or equivalent qualifications such as the BTEC (Business & Technology Education Council) Diploma in Construction. Degree courses of interest would be engineering and other related construction areas. Other degrees such as science would be beneficial but may limit your promotion potential. You should contact the ICE for information on accredited degrees.

You will then need to go through a masters course in civil engineering to achieve chartered status, typically lasting four years. Work experience is advantageous but must be accompanied by qualifications. Those already working in the construction industry with no civil engineering qualification may be able to achieve one by studying in their spare time. There is more information on qualifications related to civil engineering on the ConstructionSkills website.

Additional Training & Development

A civil engineer will typically start out in a graduate position, most likely learning through a training scheme. They can then move up to what is known as a chartered civil engineer, where they will get to work on larger projects, and manage bigger budgets and teams. Promotion will depend on the organisation and its development programme, as well as individual experience. There is the prospect to move up to senior level or work as a consultant.

If entering a graduate position there will most likely be a training scheme lasting for around two years, in which you will be given training in all areas related to civil engineering. To achieve chartered status you are required to enter membership with a professional organisation such as the ICE, and then apply to the Engineering Council.