what is a civil engineer?

As a civil engineer, you use your expertise in infrastructure operations and construction to supervise construction projects. Your job involves designing, constructing and maintaining infrastructure projects. You also inspect work sites to ensure they conform to safety requirements and meet design specifications. You also oversee the construction process to ensure that high-quality standards are adhered to during construction. As a civil engineer, you participate in cost estimation for the materials and quantities required on the work site. In some projects, you only provide technical advice for structural repairs, programme modifications and design changes.

A civil engineer determines the strength and adequacy of the foundations by testing the materials or soils. You determine how the load requirement is affected by the materials' stress factors and the soil's water flow rates. You also use design software and drawing tools to ensure the construction projects meet government standards.

Working in the role requires extensive engineering knowledge since you apply engineering principles to projects' blueprints and technical drawings. Time management is vital to ensure that resources are fully utilised and the project is completed within the projected time.

Would working as a civil engineer suit your mathematical and complex problem-solving skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a civil engineer role.

civil engineer jobs

average salary of a civil engineer

According to National Careers, the average salary range of civil engineers, from graduate trainees to experienced workers in the field is £30,000 to £70,000 per year. The earnings of civil engineers usually fluctuate with experience and education level. Graduate and junior civil engineers typically earn an average compensation package of £30,000 to £34,455 annually. When you register with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), your earnings increase to over £56,965 per year. Senior civil engineers and directors take home a compensation package of £70,000 annually.

what factors affect the salary of a civil engineer?

The project size and the specialisation area usually influence civil engineers' earning potential. When you work on medium-scale construction or infrastructure projects, your earnings correlate to the limited budget associated with the project. Handling large projects usually attracts higher compensation packages due to the expertise required. Taking on complex tasks improves your expertise and ability to manage large projects.

Your location also influences your compensation prospects due to the changing demands and living costs affecting salaries. That's why working in London has higher earning potential due to the generous weighting of the remuneration packages.

male civil engineer
male civil engineer

types of civil engineers

Civil engineers have various specialisation options focusing on different study areas and projects. Some types of civil engineers include:

  • structural engineers: a structural engineer specialises in designing and developing large structures that can withstand harsh weather. As a structural engineer, you ensure the materials used to construct a bridge can withstand high winds and other natural events. You also study the gravitational properties of structures and calculate their weight-bearing capacity.
  • construction engineers: as a civil engineer, you can specialise in building and constructing houses. You oversee the design and construction of commercial buildings, hospitals and water treatment plants. You ensure the buildings are functional and follow building code regulations.
  • geotechnical engineers: as a geotechnical engineer, you study the rocks, soil and materials that support a built system. You also study the composition of earth materials and advise the construction team on the building style that the natural slope can handle. 
  • transportation engineers: you can specialise in designing transport and network systems like railways and airports. You develop the designs for infrastructure projects and designate safe pathways for various forms of transportation.

working as a civil engineer

Working as a civil engineer requires the application of mathematical principles to various building and infrastructure projects to ensure the stability and strength of the construction. Let's explore the work environments, schedules and daily duties of civil engineers.


education and skills

A career in civil engineering requires educational qualifications, including:

  • university: you require a university degree, foundation degree or higher national diploma in civil engineering to work as a civil engineer. Some colleges offer specialisation areas in civil engineering as separate courses. When you complete the degree programme, complete a work placement to gain experience. If you already have a first degree in maths or science, you can join the profession through a post-graduate programme.
  • college course: you can pursue a higher national diploma or higher national certificate in college to qualify as a trainee civil engineer. Level 4 and 5 courses are available in construction and the built environment.

skills and competencies

Civil engineers require the following qualities:

  • maths skills: you rely on advanced mathematical principles to analyse designs and create structurally sound projects. Your maths skills enable you to calculate the details of every aspect of the project accurately.
  • leadership skills: you oversee workers during construction and interact with various professionals to discuss project details. The role requires leadership skills to help you guide people and inspire them towards a common goal.
  • decision-making skills: construction and infrastructure projects are complex and involve many steps. Your role involves making complex decisions throughout the construction and design stages.
  • problem-solving skills: as a civil engineer, you rely on engineering principles to solve structural problems and other issues that arise during construction. Your problem-solving skills also help you find cost-effective solutions.


FAQs about working as a civil engineer

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