Generally speaking, civil engineers work to create a viable and hospitable environment. They are tasked to make the environment more amenable for humans while maintaining and improving its integrity. A civil engineer creates plans and designs for construction of various types of structures and may oversee the execution of the plans. Civil engineers are involved in planning and building all manner of infrastructure such as power plants, harbors, bridges, railroads, roadways, airports and more. They also help with large structures such as skyscrapers.
To carry out these tasks, a civil engineer must be able to determine how feasible a project is. This takes quite a bit of computer know-how and quite a bit of patience as some of the planning is complicated and repetitious. Once plans are complete, the civil engineer must plan the work and order materials. In addition to these hard skills, civil engineers must have good soft skills (people skills) to work with everyone involved from initial investors to builders. It may be up to the civil engineer to see that the job is completed in a timely and efficient manner.
A civil engineer may be employed by a civil engineering consultant or contractor. Alternately, railways and government agencies (federal, state and local) may employ a civil engineer. After a number of years experience with a firm or government agency, promotion to a senior engineer position or self-employment are both possible options for advancement. The hours of a civil engineer vary from job to job. Some civil engineers work at a desk in an office and keep regular business hours. Some are on call 24/7 and must work many evenings and weekends. Still others travel the world and are rarely home.
People interested in becoming civil engineers must have excellent technical and math skills along with good planning and organization skills. Attention to detail as well as comprehension of the big picture are necessary. With these skills, interested parties must pursue and successfully attain an MEng degree in structural or civil engineering. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) will then provide accreditation for the degree.
Alternately, people who wish to become civil engineers can pursue vocational training for a minimum of four years under the supervision of an employer who is accredited by ICE. To learn more about this option, one would simply contact ICE and attain a list of accredited employers who offer this sort of training. There are quite a few accredited employers who will sponsor hopeful civil engineers and provide vocation assignments and placements. This is an excellent hands-on option that provides education, experience and helps the learner gain industry contacts.
Civil Engineer Tasks
- Manages and directs staff at project site.
- Performs engineering duties; plan, design and oversee the construction and maintenance of buildings, bridges, and other structures.
- Researches and analyzes maps, blueprints, photos, charts, and other data to plan projects.
- Gathers information to prepare and present reports on project topics.