I am a Civil Engineer and I am often asked what a Civil Engineer does.
What is a Civil Engineer?
To refer to the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE)* Royal Charter Civil Engineering is the ‘art of directing the great sources of power in nature’ to improve society.
This can be seen in the varied work that civil engineers do – connecting communities through bridges, creating roads that we all use, providing clean water from our taps and developing the comfortable buildings we inhabit.
In this diagram, I tried to show the breadth of Civil Engineering. In any one of these branches we would see more and more facets.
For example in Water Management you would have:
- Hydraulic engineering
- Drainage engineering
- River engineering
- Ground water engineering
- Flood and coastal risk management (This is my sector )
Who is a Civil Engineer?
To reference the big five personality traits: Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to experience.
For example if you are conscientious and self-motivated you might be a great designer, if you are open and good with people you might be a great team leader. Therefore, for all the variety of personalities there is a role in Civil Engineering for you.
In summary, I think engineering can be for everyone. The industry is tasked with creating solutions to problems facing humanity. Therefore it needs a diverse range of people with different ways of thinking and experiences to help formulate these answers.
Why pursue a career in Civil Engineering?
Engineering has a varied and rich history. From John Smeaton who first coined the term ‘Civil Engineer’ to refer to non-military engineering, to today’s Engineers responsible for structures like the Thames Barrier.
Civil Engineers have also been the innovators and the pioneers that drove the society they were a part of. They provided real solutions to the problems of their time.
Joseph Bazelgette was a Civil Engineer in the 18th Century. He was responsible for solving the ‘big stink’ and the cholera epidemic at the time. He created the London underground sewer network which replaced the use of open sewers. By removing contaminated water via an enclosed sewer system spanning up to 82 miles in length, there was a drop in deaths associated with Cholera. His network of sewers have stood us in good stead for over 200 years due to his foresight to design for a growing London population. This has paved the way for the Thames Tideway Tunnel aka the super sewer. See: http://www.thamestidewaytunnel.co.uk/
Hats off to a great engineer!
This is just one example of an engineer saving lives. Could it be said that engineer save more lives than doctors? Just Imagine a world without the sanitation we take for granted.
Why wouldn’t you want to be part of this rich history and narrative?
There are still many challenges to solve. To quote the Institute of Civil Engineers President Professor Lord Robert Mair: ‘the engineers of the future have a multitude of challenges to step up to’. Problems like poverty, world hunger, illiteracy, unclean water and sanitation described in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Civil Engineers have the tools to solve these problems. The Institute of Civil Engineers is working on a programme to solve the problems of:
- Affordable and clean energy
- Climate change,
- Innovation and infrastructure
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Clean water and sanitation.
Why not use this as an opportunity to pursue an important career. So you too can transform infrastructure and lives.
My career as a Civil Engineer
I have always wanted to be a Civil Engineer – well at least since the age of 9 after witnessing the power of Civil Engineering to transform society as a whole.
During my school days, I attended an after School Design and Technology club, Women in science and engineering (WISE) course on engineering at Imperial, a BT Entrepreneurial Engineering course and Headstart at Strathclyde. I also pursued work experience at a Civil and Structural engineering consultancy in my home town.
Academically I studied A levels in Maths, Further maths, Physics and Chemistry. Then I undertook a 5 year MEng Civil and Coastal Engineering course at Plymouth University with a year in industry working for CH2M HILL.
Left to right: Surveying on my placement at CH2M HILL, At University at a talk by David Balmforth. David was ICE President in 2014-15 and is a leading UK Flood expert, On site at Tull Way FAS on my recent secondment to West Berkshire
Following university, I then began working as a Graduate Civil Engineer on the Flood and Coastal Risk Management training scheme at the Environment Agency with the goal of achieving Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) Chartership.
In my 14 months graduate experience I can tell you that the work is incredibly varied from my first placement in project management to site supervision at Tull Way FAS.
In whatever role you undertake, from design and project management to working on a construction site, a Civil Engineer gets to actively engage with the delivery of projects. This is what I love about it. No matter where you are on the project delivery chain you are part of a team that is making a huge difference.
How to be a Civil Engineer?
There are two main routes
– Academic: This means studying Civil Engineering at university after achieving suitable grades in maths and science. This places you on the fastest route for Chartership.
-Vocational: This means studying either a BTEC or an HND at college. This can often be achieved whilst working as an apprentice for an organisation. This mean getting paid whilst you study. Winning!
Engineering need more graduates and students to join and be part of the future. Start your journey today and be a part of shaping the world around you.
I am excited to see the incredible things you will achieve x
*(ICE) The institution of Civil Engineering is a qualifying body that provides knowledge and promote knowledge exchange as well as influencing and advising on policy.