How to become a civil engineer

Job description: What does a civil engineer do?

Civil engineers deal with technical issues in the construction industry. You are accountable for the planning, manufacture, and operation of structures. This includes all tasks from conception and calculation through construction to organization and administration. The individual activities are very diverse. Civil engineering consists of structural engineering, hydraulic engineering/water management/wastewater, transport, construction operations, and construction management, geotechnical engineering/foundation engineering, environmental engineering, and building informatics.

According to this classification, civil engineers are liable for houses and roads, tunnels, bridges, buildings, and sewer systems. You take on both planning and executive activities. In general, they pay more attention to buildings’ technical feasibility and less to the visual design. You check existing design drafts by architects and convert them into constructive sketches. You do static calculations and plan the supporting structures in civil engineering. In doing so, they pay particular attention to the economic efficiency of technical solutions and compliance with the applicable safety regulations. Also, as building physicists, they are responsible for the thermal and sound insulation of buildings or, as resource managers, they plan the entire life cycle of a building. Among other things, they also prepare material lists and select suppliers if necessary. In ​​traffic and infrastructure management, they develop new traffic junction concepts and optimize the use of existing roads. In addition to construction and planning, civil engineers also take on construction management and supervision on construction sites.

Civil engineers have an extensive range of employment opportunities. On the one hand, they work for companies in the industry, such as construction companies or building material and component factories. On the other hand, they work independently or as an employee in an engineering office. But civil engineers are also employed in the public sector at the federal, state, and local levels. They take on tasks at building authorities for civil engineering, building construction, water, and road construction, at authorities for planning and building supervision, or schools, universities, and research institutes. Places of use are the office as well as construction sites and factories.

Civil engineer responsibilities and requirements

If you desire to become a civil engineer, you have to complete a degree in civil engineering. In addition to electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, the course is one of the classic engineering disciplines and is offered at numerous colleges and universities in the United States. Sub-disciplines such as surveying or geotechnical engineering are additionally included in civil engineering. There are also particular fields of study, such as wood or environmental engineering. A bachelor’s degree usually lasts 6 to 7 semesters. At most universities, the course includes a compulsory internship semester. Interested graduates can then specialize further with a master’s degree. For this, however, an additional 3 to 5 semesters are necessary. A university entrance qualification is expected for admission to the course.

The civil engineering course prepares students for their future tasks as civil engineers. In the beginning, they deal with basics such as mathematics, mechanics, strength theory, structural engineering, building informatics, and geodesy. There are also subjects such as the construction industry, construction management, and the basics of construction. This is followed by specialization in several specialist areas. Depending on the module, subjects such as building construction, building physics, steel construction, supporting structures, soil mechanics, transportation, engineering hydrology, and hydraulic engineering are on the curriculum. In the process, prospective civil engineers acquire extensive specialist knowledge and methodological skills. Ideally, they complete an internship semester during their studies to gain relevant practical experience during their training.

In addition to the professional requirements, qualification as a civil engineer requires some social skills. Interest in technical and scientific processes and analytical thinking skills are essential requirements in this profession. Besides, a high sense of responsibility is necessary since construction planners and site managers are responsible for constructing construction projects. Even small mistakes can be disastrous. That is why they need spatial awareness, assertiveness, and a careful working method. You have enough attention to detail, have perseverance, and can think even under time pressure. Often they have to meet deadlines and accept some overtime for this. Also, as a project manager, you need teamwork, motivation, and communication skills. You have to coordinate different professional groups during a construction project and are frequently confronted with other characters. A friendly being is, therefore, also essential. They also need a high level of commitment and willingness to travel. Usually, the work on the construction site is accompanied by overnight stays and long working days. To do this, they have to be physically robust and like to work outdoors, even in bad weather.