Civil Engineering Career Pathway
Civil engineering is the cornerstone of our built environment, with civil engineers at the helm. Civil engineers plan, design, construct and maintain critical civil engineering infrastructures such as buildings, roads, bridges, dams, pipelines, transport systems, and water supply and wastewater treatment facilities.
From the upgrading of Melbourne's train systems from steam to Brisbane's new airport runway, lauded as Australia's most significant aviation construction project, civil engineering has been at the cornerstone of this. Civil engineers also play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable future for Australia. In 2019 at the World Engineers Convention, there was a signing of the declaration to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The skills of engineers are crucial to living more sustainably; for example, the clean sanitation of water for communities is a remit within civil engineering.
Sustainability is a core ethic of membership with Engineers Australia, and equipping engineering, and civil engineers with the skills, knowledge and resources to do so is a crucial goal of education and professional industry bodies, such as this free (to registered EA members) 'Implementing Sustainability: Principles and Practice'.
What does a Civil Engineer do?
Civil engineers work in public and private sectors, on projects such as airports, dams, water irrigation systems, sewage treatment facilities, airports and highways, to name a few. They check sites for the feasibility of construction projects and work incredibly closely with stakeholders to ensure the project is completed to spec. They provide the project complies with local, state and national legislation or requirements. They manage staff, as well as liaise with key stakeholders and other professionals, such as the builders or architects of projects. They also develop plans with software and solve problems that arise. Some common tasks include:
Civil engineers tasks day to day can include: determining construction methods, materials and quality standards, drafting specs, drawings, plans, construction methods and procedures and organising and directing site labour. They are often in charge of the delivery of construction materials, plant and equipment, as well as the establishment of detailed programs to ensure the organisation of on-site activity. They study architectural, and engineering drawings, and specs to estimate everything from total costs of a project, as well as inform them to prepare cost plans (in-detail) as well as create accurate budgets.
As well as the above, civil engineers will design, assess, measure, value and negotiate design variations and analyse structural systems for static and dynamic loads. They design to ensure structures do not collapse, bend, or twist (in ways they aren't supposed to). It takes into account societies needs when planning, looking at present and future travel plans as well as being responsible for the design of the physical aspects of transport systems, including terminals, logistic supply systems, railroads, urban transit, and highways.
Where does a Civil Engineer work?
It's common for engineers to start early in the morning (and work late if needed). They will work on-site, as well as in the site office.
How much do Civil Engineers earn in Australia?
According to Seek, the most common salary in Australia for a Civil Engineer is between $120k and $140k.
Civil Engineer Career Outlook at a glance
Average full-time hours worked: 46 hours a week
Employment level trends & growth - strong future growth
Engineering career skills and knowledge
Below are some of the skills a civil engineer uses in their day to day job:
- Engineering and technology: building your skills as an engineer in your undergraduate course strengthens your engineering knowledge base, in addition to being exposed to the latest technology in engineering to understand how things are made.
- Building and construction: whether it's roads or airports being built, civil engineers need to know about building materials and methods, compliance of materials used and safety requirements required for projects.
- Technical design: civil engineers need to have the skills to make detailed technical plans, blueprints, drawings and models.
- Math: civil engineers work with numbers in their jobs, and need to have an advanced level of aptitude in this area.
- Administration and management: civil engineers work on complex projects with many stakeholders. They need to be able to effectively manage people helping to make projects a reality, to strategically lead them, as well as the management of the resources necessary to get the project completed.
What education do you need to be a civil engineer?
A bachelor level of education, more specifically, a Bachelor of Engineering, is needed to become a civil engineer, often with a major in civil engineering at the undergraduate level such as Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Civil Engineering from Southern Cross University.
As for continuing professional education after graduating as an engineer, according to Job Outlook, many civil engineers in Australia undertake postgraduate study, such as a Master's in Engineering Management.
Upon initial qualification, depending on state or territory, you may need to register to practice. Engineer's Australia has a non-compulsory registration you can self-enrol into.
What are some specialisations?
Some specialisations include: Airfield Engineer Officer (Air Force), Hydraulics Engineer. While civil engineering is already a specialisation within engineering, there may be projects that you specialise in - for one civil engineer; they might work predominately in aviation. For another, they might work predominately on transport projects such as highway extensions.
As for other engineering industry sectors, below is a snapshot of some of these:
- Building and construction
- Aircraft and aeronautical
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Healthcare and social assistance
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