Take a degree in civil engineering, and you’ll find out just how much work goes into building, maintaining and expanding a society.
Graduates of civil engineering degrees are the brains behind all the largest and most essential structures that surround us – buildings, transport networks, energy and water supplies.
Studying civil engineering
Like the sound of designing a new bridge or developing a new hydropower system? Got a strong background in maths and physics? Then a degree in civil engineering could be for you.
As a civil engineering undergraduate student, you’ll learn to apply maths and physics knowledge to real-life situations and problems, taking account of environmental, financial, legal and ethical considerations.
Most civil engineering degrees include a mixture of lectures and lab work, and there’s usually an emphasis on team working: an integral part of being a civil engineer.
Those studying civil engineering may also have opportunities to participate in field trips and complete industry placements, either as a ‘year in industry’ or for shorter periods.
Civil engineering specializations
Your civil engineering specialization will really depend on the kind of structures you’re most interested in, and which part of society you’d like to help build or improve. Some of the most common specializations include:
Unsurprisingly, structural engineering focuses on structures. This could include buildings, bridges and dams, but also machinery and vehicles – even space craft. You’ll learn about working with different materials, stress distribution and strain, effects of internal and external forces, and strategies for strengthening and rehabilitating existing structures.
Architectural engineering is in many ways very similar to structural engineering, but generally also involves more of a focus on details and systems within structures – such as heating and lighting systems, ventilation and acoustics.
Transportation engineering is concerned with the design of infrastructure to support travel by air, at sea and on land. This encompasses the planning and improvement of roads and railway systems, ports and harbours, airports and runways.
Hydraulic engineering is concerned with the movement or control of large bodies of fluids, including water supply and sewage systems, irrigation, cooling facilities, flood and storm barriers, and hydropower.
Geotechnical engineering means specializing in the behavior of Earth materials – basically soil and rock. They may be employed in the mining and petroleum sectors, and are also involved in structural engineering projects, giving advice on foundations for above-ground structures, and also on underground or underwater projects.
Environmental engineering focuses on developing strategies to prevent or reduce harm to the environment. Key issues include air and water pollution, and disposal of waste materials.
Civil engineering careers
A degree in civil engineering offers the prospect of stable career progression, potentially high salary, and the opportunity to work on stimulating and exciting projects.
Often a distinction is made between ‘consulting’ and ‘contracting’ civil engineering careers. The first group are those who work on the design stage of a project, collaborating with architects and other professionals.
The second oversee the actual construction, dealing with practical issues such as procuring materials and meeting deadlines, and helping to resolve any problems that arise.
A third group are maintenance engineers, who are most commonly employed to maintain equipment and machinery used in manufacturing processes. This involves regular checking and monitoring, and overseeing the replacement or upgrading of equipment.
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