Civil Engineering covers a broad spectrum of disciplines and is the oldest form of engineering. Civil engineers are concerned with the design and maintenance of structures used by people or that help people in some way. As a civil engineer you may be overseeing a construction site, designing a new city project or even helping with irrigation systems in the countryside.
Most entry-level jobs in civil engineering require an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a civil engineering course. In able to be accepted onto one of these courses candidates should have had previous education, such as GCSE and A-levels, in maths, science and English as well as in design technology or Information Technology. As civil engineering is concentrated on structures used by people it may also be beneficial to have studied sociology at school to give you an advantage over other candidates.
As with most jobs the more experience you have gained the more challenging, and better paid, the projects available to you will be. At entry-level most graduates will find themselves working under a more experienced engineer in order to find their feet and gain practical experience. In order for you to be able to work on projects that directly affect the public you must gain a licence from the state department which requires at least four years practical experience as well as passing an exam. If you want to teach civil engineering at degree level it would be an advantage to have practical experience in the industry as well as holding a PhD in the field.
It may also be beneficial to become a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) who provide internationally recognised grades which will help you gain employment around the world. There are four main grades for professional engineers:
- Technician Member – This is the first level for professional engineers and requires an ability to apply proven techniques to engineering problems as well as some supervisory roles.
- Associate Member – These are people who work in industries closely related to that of civil engineers. They are entitled to add AMICE to the end of their name.
- Member – These people must have had a full education base in civil engineering as well as having relevant experience within the field. Being a member shows employers that you have been recognised by the ICE as being competent in applying and understanding modern techniques and technologies as well as having the aptitude to manage projects you are given.
- Fellow – This is the highest award given by the ICE and are awarded to those who have made ‘a significant contribution to the civil engineering profession or advancing the practice of engineering.’
To be a civil engineer you must be creative, outgoing, detail-orientated and be able to imagine various different scenarios. As you move on to managing projects by yourself you must develop excellent people skills and have an aptness for delegating to people underneath you. While working on a project you will be working with people who specialise in many different disciplines such as architects, inspectors and financers as well as even liaising with managing directors of companies for whom you may be working. If you feel that you could bring your varying skills together and use them in conjunction with the skills of others then a career in civil engineering could be just for you.
Your salary will be very dependent on your experience as well as the type of project you are working on. The average salary for an entry level graduate job is between £16,000 and £25,000 if working in the United Kingdom. As you gain more experience there will be bigger and better paid opportunities that arise. The average salary of a member of the ICE is between £35,000 and £55,000 whereas a Fellow could earn £80,000+.