Civil engineering is everything you see that’s been built around us. It’s about roads and railways, schools, offices, hospitals, water and power supply and much more.
The kinds of things we take for granted but would find life very hard to live without.
Institution of Civil Engineers
What does a civil engineer do?
Civil engineers are involved in the design, development and construction of a range of projects within the built and natural environment. Most civil engineers work either as consulting or contracting engineers. In brief, the difference between these is that consulting civil engineers work on the design of projects and are therefore predominantly office-based and more client facing, while contracting civil engineers work on the implementation and construction of those designs and are therefore more site-based.
Consulting civil engineer
Liaising with clients, you will plan, manage, design and supervise the construction of projects. You'll work in a number of different settings and, with experience, could run projects as a project manager.
You may work on projects involving:
- coastal development;
- construction of dams and canals;
- geotechnical engineering;
- highway construction;
- waste management.
Contracting civil engineer
Contracting civil engineers turn the plans of consulting civil engineers (designers) into reality. They oversee the actual construction on the ground and work in conjunction with consulting engineers. All civil engineers need a good understanding of design and construction processes, as well as of health and safety issues.
As a contracting engineer you'll use your professional expertise to organise human and material resources on site, and ensure that the project runs to time and budget and is safe to work on. Although more commonly done by a consulting engineer, a contracting engineer will occasionally put together a design and build a team themselves.
Structural engineering is essentially a specialism within the broader area of civil engineering. As a civil engineering graduate, you are also able to apply for most graduate structural engineering roles. The focus of a structural engineer is, as the name suggests, more on the design, analysis and maintenance of structures and materials.
As a structural engineer, you'll design structures to withstand stresses and pressures imposed through environmental conditions and human use. You'll ensure buildings and other structures do not deflect, rotate, vibrate excessively or collapse and that they remain stable and secure throughout their use. You'll also examine existing buildings and structures to test if they are structurally sound and still fit for purpose.
Working in close partnership with architects and other professional engineers, you'll help to design most structures, including houses, hospitals, office blocks, bridges, oil rigs, ships and aircraft.
You'll also be responsible for choosing the appropriate materials, such as concrete, steel, timber and masonry, to meet design specifications and will often be involved in inspecting the work and advising contractors.
TARGETjobs - Three career decisions you need to make if you want a civil engineering job
Institution of Civil Engineers
Prospects - what can I do with my degree in civil engineering?
Which sectors employ civil engineers?
There are roles for civil and structural engineers in all areas which require large scale structures to be designed and built. These include:
- Coastal and marine
- Energy and power
Find out where Nottingham graduates work
Where do I look for graduate and internship vacancies?
How do I increase my chances of success during the recruitment process?