What can you do with a civil engineering degree?

What you should study at high school to get on to a civil engineering degree course, and what jobs will be available after you graduate

October 16 2019
Civil engineering

What is civil engineering?

Civil engineering is the branch of engineering that covers the design, construction and maintenance of works like roads, bridges, canals, dams and buildings. Civil engineers are generally tasked with developing the infrastructure of a town, city or area. They will also help to find solutions for issues such as waste recycling, and pollution.

Civil engineering can be broken down into a number of sub-disciplines such as transport, environmental developments and maritime work.

Best universities for civil engineering

What do you learn in a civil engineering degree?

The first year will largely look the same as those of other engineering degrees. It will involve learning the basics of engineering and studying the science and mathematics that underpin engineering principles.

The opportunity to specialise will often be presented from the second year onwards. Second year modules can include hydraulics, construction materials, geotechnics, and engineering surveying. These will then be explored even further in subsequent years. There may also be more emphasis on practical work after the first year. 

Courses will be between three to five years depending on whether it is a bachelors degree (BEng) or a master's degree (MEng). 

Study up to master's level is usually encouraged as a MEng is required to register as a chartered engineer. Studying to a postgraduate level will also allow a student to specialise.

Many universities will also offer a year in industry in order to embed and apply the theory learnt during lectures and seminars. 

What should I study at school if I want to do a civil engineering degree?

Most universities will require fairly high grades in mathematics and one of the sciences for admission to a civil engineering course.

Some universities will prefer physics to have been studied over chemistry or biology due to the heavy physics content in most degree programmes, but will generally accept either of the sciences. 

More subject guides

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What do people who study civil engineering do after graduating?

There are many jobs available within the discipline of civil engineering, such as building surveyor, structural engineer, water engineer, nuclear engineer and transport planner among others. 

Graduates can generally work across a range of sectors particularly in construction, infrastructure development, consultancy and planning. Opportunities are available globally and many countries that are focusing on improving their infrastructure will be actively looking to recruit civil engineering graduates. 

Further study is usually required to receive chartered status and to hone specialised skills in one particular sector of civil engineering. 

Student experience of studying civil engineering

Finding a place at the National University of Singapore
International perspective: from Delhi to Toulouse

Famous people who studied civil engineering

Carlos Slim, one of the richest men in the world, studied for a degree in civil engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Since graduating he went on to build a business empire and was ranked as the richest man in the world between 2010 and 2013. 

Actor Chris Vance, best known for his roles in Transporter: the series, Burn Notice and Dexter also studied civil engineering at Newcastle University before pursuing acting. 

Read more: Best universities for engineering

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