Civil Engineer

What is a Civil Engineer?

A Civil Engineer is a professional responsible for designing, managing, and overseeing various construction projects that shape our world. These projects can include building roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, reservoirs, pipelines, and major buildings. If you’re interested in this exciting field, read on to learn about what Civil Engineers do, how to become one, their potential salary, career prospects, and related opportunities.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Civil Engineers are at the forefront of construction projects. Their work involves designing, developing plans, and managing various aspects of these projects, depending on their specific area of specialization. Here’s an overview of their roles:

Civil Engineer (Consulting)

  • These engineers design and plan construction projects, such as roads, bridges, and buildings.
  • Specializations may include waste management, coastal development, or geotechnical engineering.
  • They communicate with clients and, with experience, may lead projects as project managers.

Civil Engineer (Contracting)

  • Contracting Civil Engineers turn consulting engineers’ designs into reality.
  • They manage and oversee construction projects, which includes tasks like team recruitment, material sourcing, budget management, and ensuring project completion on time.
  • In some cases, contractors may also be responsible for designing and building teams.

Civil Engineering Technician

  • Technicians provide technical support to Civil Engineers, assisting in tasks such as project cost estimation, recruitment, and design drawing production.
  • Their work spans various project categories, including structural, transportation, environmental, and maritime.
  • They prepare reports for site engineers and contribute to project coordination.

How to Become a Civil Engineer

Becoming a Civil Engineer involves a structured educational path, practical experience, and potential professional certifications. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Entry Requirements

  • Entry into civil engineering usually requires a degree, but there are opportunities for progression from craft or technical roles.


  • Pursue a degree in civil engineering or a closely related subject from an accredited institution, recommended by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
  • Entry requirements typically include three A levels or five H grades, with a focus on subjects like Maths and a science (usually Physics or Chemistry).
  • Equivalent qualifications such as BTEC/SQA Level 3 Certificates or Diplomas may be accepted.

Foundation Courses

  • If you lack the required A levels or equivalent qualifications, consider a one-year Foundation course offered by universities or partner colleges.
  • These courses provide access to engineering degrees.

Graduate Schemes

  • After earning your degree, consider joining a company’s graduate scheme, where you’ll receive training and mentorship from professionals for 1 to 2 years.

Alternative Entry Routes

  • For those without traditional qualifications, GCSEs/National 5s, and wishing to enter engineering, pursue part-time study for an HNC/HND or NVQ/SVQ Levels 4 or 5.
  • Entry typically requires GCSE/National 5 passes in English, Maths, and a science, and there are BTEC and SQA Level 3 Certificates or Diplomas available for study at any age.


  • Some engineering technicians start their careers through apprenticeship schemes, which require around four GCSE/National 5 passes, including Maths, a science, or Design and Technology.
  • The availability of apprenticeships depends on local job markets and employer demands.

Professional Qualifications

  • Experienced engineers can work towards becoming chartered or incorporated members of engineering professional bodies like ICE.
  • Chartered status usually requires an accredited MEng degree or equivalent, while incorporated status may necessitate a 3-year accredited BEng or BSc degree or an HND or equivalent, along with additional learning.

Continuing Professional Development

  • Engaging in summer work experience or selecting a degree program with a year in industry can help build industry contacts and expand knowledge.

Civil Engineer Salary

Civil Engineer salaries can vary based on experience, specialization, location, and qualifications. Here’s an overview of potential earnings:

  • Graduate Civil Engineers typically start with salaries around £24,000.
  • With experience, salaries can range from £25,000 to £40,000 per year.
  • Achieving membership or fellowship status with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) can lead to salaries ranging from £50,000 to well over £100,000 per year.

Career Prospects and Progression

Civil Engineers have promising career prospects due to steady demand for their expertise. They work across various sectors, including health trusts, local authorities, central government, energy suppliers, contractors, consultancies, and transport networks. Here are some potential paths for career progression:

  • Continued job-related training and further qualifications can lead Civil Engineering Technicians to become fully-fledged Civil Engineers.
  • Specializations in areas such as environmental engineering, coastal and marine engineering, geotechnics, or tunnelling can be pursued.
  • With experience, Civil Engineers can advance into management roles, including associate/partnership positions within UK or international companies.
  • Opportunities within the public sector exist in management and chief engineer roles.
  • Self-employment or providing training and consultancy services are also viable career options.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Working as a Civil Engineer offers several advantages and some challenges:


  • Civil Engineers are highly respected for their role in designing and constructing significant buildings and structures.
  • Witnessing the completion of a project can be immensely satisfying.
  • Engineering qualifications can open doors to non-engineering careers at senior levels.
  • Opportunities for self-employment and international work exist.
  • The work is diverse, with each day presenting new challenges and opportunities to interact with a wide range of people.


  • Workload can be extensive, fluctuating between periods of high activity and quieter times.
  • The profession can be demanding and occasionally stressful.

Working Conditions

Civil Engineers may work long hours, including early mornings and evenings, on-site. Weekend or shift work is rare, but engineering technicians may be on 24-hour call for specific projects. The work environment can vary from indoor office settings to outdoor construction sites, where adherence to health and safety regulations is essential.

Related Opportunities

If you’re interested in related careers within the construction and engineering industry, consider these options:

  • Architect: Specializes in architectural design.
  • Building Surveyor: Focuses on property assessment and surveying.
  • Insurance Risk Surveyor: Evaluates insurance risks.
  • Town Planner: Deals with urban and regional planning.

Further Information

For additional resources and information about becoming a Civil Engineer, you can visit the following organizations:

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