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Civil Engineering Career Options – What Can You Work At?

Mohamed Hesham

Civil engineering is one of the most ancient engineering fields. The civil engineering practices started in the period between 2000 to 4000 BC in the ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Indus Valley civilizations, when people started to realize their need to build shelters and tombs. The first person to officially proclaim himself as a civil engineer was John Smeaton, in 1771. One of his greatest achievements was building the Eddystone Light house.

@The Eddystone lighthouse

With no doubt, pursuing a career in civil engineering now is rewarding in terms of career and salary, but what specializations a civil engineer can work at? In this topic, we will cover the civil engineering career options, and the required skills and experience to pursue a career at each field of them.

The fields we are going to discuss here are:

  1. Consulting Civil Engineering
  2. Contracting Civil Engineering
  3. Structural Engineering
  4. Water Resource Engineering

Consulting Civil Engineering

The role of the consulting engineer is to plan, design, and manage the construction projects, which can be buildings such as homes or commercial buildings; water constructions such as dams; highways and railways; and many other types of constructions.

The job description of the consulting engineer may include:

  • conducting feasibility studies and examining the sites of the planned project;
  • implementing the required project design and drawings (CAD is mostly used for this task nowadays);
  • study the risks that may face the process of implementing the project and make a risk management plan;
  • supervise the crew working on a project, including junior engineers, contractors, and the labor workforce;
  • visit the site periodically to advise on any issues;
  • think creatively to solve any problems that may appear during the construction process;
  • wise resource management to ensure each task is completed within the budget and the planned timeline.

The job of a consulting engineer is usually done from office, but periodic site visits are essential to ensure everything is going in the right way. Usually, it is hard to work in consultancy directly after graduation. To be able to reach this level, a working experience is required, in addition to having deep knowledge in all civil engineering aspects and being proficient in using CAD.

Contracting Civil Engineering

The role of the contracting engineers is to transfer the designs made by the design and consulting engineers into actual construction projects. Their job is to manage their crew from the site and collaborate with consulting engineers, architects, and stakeholders to ensure the work is done with the required quality.

Their tasks may include:

  • communicating effectively with the consulting engineers to discuss the problems and make any required modifications;
  • supervising the construction processes;
  • ensuring that the site tasks are completed within the budget and time;
  • monitoring the labor and the other assistant engineers, and give them notes and comments on how to improve their performance;
  • making sure that all the required procedures are taken to ensure the safety of the working labor force and the local people passing near the site.

As a contracting engineer, you will deal with a lot of people with different mindsets, starting from the other engineers, consultants, labor, and reaching the local people who may have complaints about the work done in the site. Consequently, having good communication skills is essential, in addition to having good knowledge about the different civil engineering aspects, of course.

Structural Engineering

The structural engineers are mainly responsible for implementing the design part of the structure. The aim of the structure design is to ensure the building can withstand the pressure, air, stresses and environmental conditions by using the appropriate material with the appropriate ratios. The materials used in the structure are mainly timber, steel, and concrete. Their job description includes:

  • using CAD to implement and simulate the structure design;
  • analyzing the forces, stresses, and pressures the building will experience;
  • taking into consideration the emergency cases such as earthquakes or storms;
  • testing the ground and the soil in the expected building place to integrate the test results in the structural design.

Structural design is one of the most important parts in the construction design. Structural engineers require deep knowledge and understanding of civil engineering aspects in general, and structure and materials specifically. Moreover, understand CAD software is extremely important.

Water Resource Engineering

Water resource engineers are responsible for designing and implementing water management systems to ensure the cities are provided with pure water to use for living, drinking, agricultural and manufacturing purposes. They also monitor, maintain, and fix any issues that may appear in those systems. Their job description includes the following:

  • design and implement facilities and systems for water treatment;
  • design and work on constructing dams for generating electricity, water storage, and preventing floods;
  • drilling water wells and canals, and building irrigation systems for agriculture;
  • considering the budget and time specifications when building the irrigation and water treatment systems.

    @The Tai Tam upper reservoir

To work as a water resource engineer, you should understand well the aspects of civil engineering, especially fluid mechanics, and hydraulics. Also, understanding CAD is essential as it is mostly used in implementing all the designs.

Final Thoughts

To summarize our post, pursuing a career in civil engineering is very awarding in terms of salary. The need for civil engineering started before Christ and will continue until the end of the world, as people will never stop building new houses, irrigation systems, and constructing new cities. Consequently, there will always be civil engineering job opportunities; however, there is always a tough competition on these opportunities due to the high number of applicants.

If you would like to work in civil engineering, obviously you should join a university program in this field. To stand out the crowd, you should be a hardworking student; utilize the university time to understand well all the aspects related to your field; and focus on understanding more than grades, although grades are important too. You can also give more concentration to the courses in the sub fields you like and want to work at after graduation.

Also, you can gain more advantage in the competition by participating in internships during your studies, and this is actually crucial. Moreover, try to learn and master computer aided design (CAD) programs.

If you are already graduated, you should start searching for a job. You may consider building a professional resume first, if you do not have one. Check our resume writing tips from here, or you may consider a professional resume writing service, as a good resume is crucial for your job search journey. Already have one? Consider reading our article about the best job search techniques.

In case you would like to share more information, or ask a question, please leave a comment below. As I say every post, we all have the same goal, to help each other to become better.

At the end I would like to leave you with this interesting video about the evolution of civil engineering.

  1. Awesome! I never realized engineering dated that far back. That is very interesting. I also didn’t realize that type of career was so competitive and hard to get into. Thanks for the info.

  2. I am wondering how the job market is for a civil engineer? My son is just graduating and looking for something to focus on in college. I think this would be right up his alley, as long as the job market is good. We live in Florida, so I would think that would be good option here?

    • I guess he should ask to see which field has better job options, this will help him to decide. The most important thing is that he should choose something he will like to work at after graduation, as this will be his lifetime career.

  3. Tony Spagnolia Tony Spagnolia

    Civil engineering is definitely a good to field to go into since you can work literally anywhere. Everywhere has roads and structures so there is always something to work on. With the country’s current infrastructure woes this will be an even better field in the future as a lot of the major structures will need to be replaced soon.

    • Yes, exactly, any place must have constructions, so you can work anywhere.

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