Civil engineers plan, design, and supervise large construction projects.
What does a Civil Engineer do?
Civil engineers plan, design, and supervise large construction and projects such as roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage treatment systems.
As a civil engineer, you could work in any one of the following specialist areas of engineering:
- structural – dams, buildings, offshore platforms and pipelines
- transportation – roads, railways, and airports
- environmental – water supply networks, drainage and flood barriers
- maritime – ports, harbours and sea walls
- geotechnical – mining, earthworks and construction foundations.
These branches sometimes overlap but your regular tasks could include:
- planning requirements with the client and colleagues
- analysing survey, testing and mapping data using computer modelling software
- creating blueprints using computer aided design (CAD)
- judging whether projects are feasible by looking at costs, time and labour requirements
- assessing the environmental impact and risks connected to projects
- preparing bids for tenders, and reporting to clients, public agencies and planning organisations
- managing, directing and monitoring progress during each stage of a project
- making sure that sites meet legal guidelines, and health and safety requirements.
You would normally work on projects alongside other professionals, such as architects, surveyors and building contractors.
Key skills and interests
To become a civil engineer, you would need:
- excellent maths, science, and IT skills
- the ability to explain design ideas and plans clearly
- the ability to analyse large amounts of data, and assess solutions
- a confident, decision-making ability
- excellent communication skills
- project management skills.
Working hours and conditions
Civil engineers would normally work regular hours, Monday to Friday. You may also have to be available out-of-hours to deal with any problems.
Your time would be split between an office and the project site. Site work would be in all weathers and may involve a lot of travel. Depending on the project, you may sometimes need to travel overseas.
How to become an Civil Engineer?
Entry Level Education
To become a civil engineer you usually have to complete a degree in engineering at university with a major in civil engineering. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. English, mathematics, chemistry and physics would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.
Students may be eligible to join Engineers Australia as student members. Upon graduation, after providing a certified copy of their degree, they may apply for graduate membership.
Employment of civil engineers is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations.
As infrastructure continues to age, civil engineers will be needed to manage projects to rebuild bridges, repair roads, and upgrade structures such as dams and water treatment systems. Civil engineers also work on renewable energy projects such as large-scale photovoltaic cell installations, or large scale wind turbine projects.
Although Federal and State governments continue to face financial challenges and may have difficulty funding all the projects that need attention, some of the projects that have been delayed will ultimately have to be completed in order to build and maintain critical infrastructure.