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Civil engineering

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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 

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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:

  • buildings;
  • 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 engineer

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.


Explore more...

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:

  • Airports
  • Bridges
  • Buildings
  • Coastal and marine
  • Energy and power
  • Environmental
  • Geotechnical
  • Highways
  • Offshore
  • Rail
  • Tunnelling
  • Water

Find out where Nottingham graduates work 


Where do I look for graduate and internship vacancies?

Start your job and internship search on MyCareer - we advertise hundreds of engineering roles including graduate positions, year-long placements and internships.

MyCareer - vacancies targeted at University of Nottingham students and graduates

Civil engineering job boards

Careers in Construction


ICE Recruit

Just Construction

UK Civil Engineering

Engineering recruitment agencies

Anders Elite

Conrad Consulting



Penguin Recruitment

Rise Technical

Engineering job boards

Engineering Jobs




Just Engineers




The Engineer Jobs

Energy Jobline

Speculative applications

For smaller companies or more specialist roles, a speculative approach may be useful.  Research companies (rather than jobs) that you are interested in joining and consider how you could network with these organisations.  You could send your CV and a covering letter speculatively, follow the company on LinkedIn or even approach someone on LinkedIn and ask for advice.


How do I increase my chances of success during the recruitment process?

An important part of increasing your employability for any sector of work is developing your commercial awareness. This means having a good understanding of the industry as a whole, key employers, and developments.

Commercial awareness is particularly important during the recruitment process as companies will expect you have knowledge and understanding in this area. Specific questions may be asked or you can impress them by weaving your understanding of the company or sector into your answers. 

Find out more about commercial awareness

For the civil engineering and construction sectors, good sources of commercial awareness information include the following. Use the news tab to explore developments.

Construction Enquirer

Institution of Civil Engineer  (ICE) News

New Civil Engineering 

News Now – civil engineering

The Structural Engineer



Careers and Employability Service

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