Many of the important things in our lives that we take for granted are the products of civil engineering. From paths and roads, the construction of power stations, water supplies, railways, to airports and ports. In fact, most structures, large or small, require a civil engineer to design, plan, or actually manage the project. They are responsible for making the public buildings safe and they have a responsibility to minimise society’s impact on the environment.
Civil engineering can be divided into two main categories: Consulting and Contracting.
Consulting engineers are more concerned with the designing aspect of a project. They liaise with clients to plan, manage, design, and supervise construction. Some typical work activities might include site investigations, developing designs, assessing risks and applying risk management, assembling proposals and tendering procedures, supervising visitors and contractors, communicating with architects, subcontractors, contracting civil engineers and colleagues and resolving design issues, arranging material delivery, and acquiring necessary paperwork, such as building permits, environmental regulations, and health and safety certifications.
Contracting civil engineers are more concerned with turning the plans of the designers (consulting engineers) into a reality. Their main job is to be hands-on with the construction process, overseeing human and material resources on site and ensuring that the project comes in on budget and on time. Typical activities include negotiating modifications with architects and consulting engineers and communicating with a variety of people, including clients, bricklayers, sub-contractors and members of the public. They schedule work, supervise construction and adhere to safety standards and quality of workmanship.
Having relevant qualifications is an essential part of becoming a civil engineer. A-Level Mathematics and Physics will help to win a university course through Geography, Chemistry and Design & Technology can all be useful. Vocational routes into civil engineering are possible by combining employment with part-time study although it is important to choose an accredited course recognised by the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Civil engineers become professionally qualified as either Incorporated or Chartered Engineers. Incorporated engineers need an approved Bachelor’s degree in Engineering (BEng) or Technology (BSc), or an HND/HNC or a Foundation degree in engineering or technology. Chartered engineers need an approved Bachelor’s degree with honours in those subjects and ideally, an accredited Master’s degree. In the 2008 Guardian profiles on the universities that offer the best courses, Manchester University scored the highest points for Civil Engineering, closely followed by Imperial College, Southampton, Bristol, and Loughborough.
A recent civil engineering graduate should expect to start on a wage around £20,000 – £22,000, but the more experience and qualifications gained, the higher this will go. Incorporated engineers have an average annual income of around £42,000, whilst chartered engineers can expect over £50,000 from early on in their careers and additional income can be earned from working overtime and working overseas.
In 2006, the Engineering and Technology Board reported that eight out of 10 engineering graduates found employment in their preferred fields within six months of graduating, and unemployment is less than 1%, so the prospects look good.
There are many places to begin a career search in civil engineering. The Engineering and Technology Board has its website, as does that of Environmental Careers. The Guardian website, ice recruitment, and UKCilvilEngineering.com all are great places to find a civil engineering job.