An Introduction to Civil Engineering Jobs and an Engineering Career
Civil engineering is concerned with creating, improving and protecting the environment in which we live. It provides the facilities for day-to-day life and for transport and industry to go about its work. Engineering areas include structural, hydraulics, geotechnical, environmental, transportation and maritime, to name but a few. Contracts may involve working on oil platforms, roads, bridges, railways, buildings, maritime structures and construction. Civil engineers tend to specialise in one of these, although some may work across various industries.
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Areas of Work
Civil engineering is concerned with many aspects of the physical and built environment. Here are some of the disciplines.
Structural engineering is concerned with structures in the environment and the loads that bear upon a structure, the associated stresses and the means by which the structures support them. Structures can be buildings, towers, bridges, road structures such as tunnels or flyovers, all of which have to be safe and functional. This means creating a construction that withstands adverse weather, excessive loads, impacts or accidents, and even earthquakes, while adhering to limitations on construction feasibility, time, cost and safety.
Construction engineering involves planning and implementing designs that have been produced by other engineers. The fields may be construction sites, transportation projects, site development, structural and geotechnical projects, etc. The construction engineer's remit often includes the evaluation of logistical operations, assessing costings, managing contracts and other more commercial concerns.
The transport infrastructure is an area of engineering in its own right. This covers road and rail transport, airports and seaports. Engineers are involved in designing and planning, with an understanding of usage and degree of usage that the systems will be subject to, while moving goods and people safely and efficiently.
Municipal or Urban Engineering
Engineers are involved in the design and construction of the infrastructure of towns and cities. This covers roads, footpaths, bike routes, street lighting and sewer systems, as well as council authorities' waste management and materials storage, and parks.
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Environmental engineers are concerned with any project that might affect the environment, such as waste product transport, recovery of contaminated sites, water and air purification, safe treatment of hazardous waste products, minimising pollution, and more. They can also be involved in planning stages for projects by researching the potential effects on the environment of various engineering solutions.
Geotechnical engineers bring geological and material science knowledge together with engineering to safely design structures that are affected by soil and rock properties, such as major foundations and retaining walls. These engineers must balance the changeable properties of the earth alongside the properties of construction materials to ensure safe and structurally sound constructions.
Materials science meets civil engineering in the production of strong bonding materials such as concrete, asphalt concrete and metals. Strength and durability are paramount concerns. These engineers also work with paints and finishes that protect underlying materials.
Construction surveyors survey existing conditions of the future work site, including topography, existing buildings and infrastructure, and superimpose the layout of the buildings and roads that are to be built. (Land surveyors are a different profession, concerned with property boundaries and subdivisions, while building surveyors look at structural soundness of buildings to be sold.)
Nature of the Employment
Most civil engineers work on contracts. The career progression is different from one discipline of civil engineering to another. In some fields and firms, recently graduated engineers are expected to work in a monitoring role alongside the more senior engineers, whereas in others, they are asked to perform routine analysis or design and interpretation tasks. More experienced engineers usually complete the more complex analysis or design work, managing the complex design projects, or heading teams of engineers. Many engineers become consultants, working in specialised roles as project managers on certain types of construction.
Skills Required For Civil Engineering Jobs
Civil engineers need to be able to combine the skills and knowledge of their discipline with the ability to evaluate and assess project elements within contracts. You need to demonstrate an ability to work independently, as you'll usually be approaching a new project and immediately having to communicate with various agencies, companies, public bodies and departments. The ability to prioritise work amongst many tasks, while responding to the priorities of other parties, is valuable. Flexibility and adaptability allow you to respond to sometimes demanding schedules. At other times, you may need to stand firm by your findings while resisting pressure to make alternative recommendations. Motivation is highly valued. The employers need to feel confident that you can produce and implement cost effective solutions and they are only going to feel confidence in you if you express confidence in yourself.
Training and Qualifications for Civil Engineers
The typical entry route in the UK for a civil engineering career is to gain a BEng honours degree, accredited by the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE). This is followed by gaining Chartered Engineering status (MICE CEng) with the Institute. This is achieved by sitting a MEng, another relevant postgraduate degree, or suitable proprietary training offered by the employer, followed by ICE training and a professional review.
You can still enter the profession with a degree in a different engineering discipline, but your career progression may be more limited. It is also possible to enter with a Higher National Diploma (HND), but additional training is usually required.
Job Sites for Civil Engineering Jobs
There are many specialist sites for civil engineering job vacancies: