Civil engineers create, improve and preserve the environment we live. They do the planning, designing and overseeing of construction and maintenance of building structures and infrastructure including roads, bridges, railways, airports, harbours, dams, irrigation projects, power plants, and sewerage systems. They also design and build houses, buildings and large structures that can withstand all weather conditions.
Civil engineers can be broadly categorised into consulting engineers and contracting engineers. Consultants are responsible for the design work of projects and work mainly in offices. Contractors, on the other hand, take the designs and implement them during construction. Contractors work on site, managing the construction of the structure. Depending on whether the civil engineer is a consultant or a contracting engineer, work activities can differ. A consulting civil engineer may be required to:
- Undertake technical studies, feasibility studies, geotechnical investigations.
- Develop detailed designs.
- Assess, study, mitigate/eliminate the potential risks of specific projects, as well as undertake risk management in specialist roles.
- Supervise tendering procedures and prepare bids.
- Manage, supervise and visit contractors on site and advise on civil engineering issues.
- Oversee works of junior staff, mentor young civil engineers.
- Liaise with colleagues and architects, subcontractors, contracting civil engineers, consultants, co-workers and clients.
- Resolve design and development problems.
- Manage budgets and other project resources.
- Manage change request from clients and ensure relevant parties are notified of changes in the project.
- Lead teams of other engineers, sometimes from other organisations or firms.
- Compile, check and approve reports.
- Review and approve project drawings.
- Use computer-aided design (CAD) packages for designing/drafting projects.
- Undertake design calculations.
- Schedule material and equipment purchases and delivery.
- Attend public meetings to discuss projects, especially in a senior role.
- Ensure smooth running of projects, timely completion of projects and completion within budget.
Typical employers of civil engineers
- Consulting firms
- Construction firms
- Local authorities and government departments
- Rail companies
- Utility companies
Working hours for consultants are generally 40 hours a week, with some extra hours and weekend work close to project deadlines. Contractors, on the other hand, often work shifts and weekends and are outside for most of their time. Civil engineers often specialise in a particular type of project or discipline such as buildings, road works, industrial projects, bridges, dams, tunnels, marine, power, water and transport. They may work on projects involving
- Coastal development
- Construction of dams and canals
- Geotechnical engineering
- Highway construction
- Waste management