The Kind Of Jobs Available For Qualified Civil Engineers

Civil engineering is an immensely broad field containing dozens of different specialties. Qualified civil engineers need to specialize in order to find meaningful work. These specialists are essential technical advisors, supervisors and surveyors in all sorts of projects. This article lists some of the most prominent pathways that a civil engineer can take during their careers. It is by no means an extensive list: there are just so many areas of work to go into! If you are looking to become qualified as a civil engineer you should consider your future specialty in order to hone your studies appropriately. 

Sewage Engineer 

It may not be the most glamorous area of engineering, but sewage projects have changed millions of lives for the better. The history of dealing with sewage is fascinating and reflects wider attitudes towards urban health and development. Although informal sewage systems were in use during the periods of the Babylonian and Mesopotamian empires, organized sewers were not integrated into city plans until around 3000BC. It was at this point that civilizations in Minos and the Indus Valley began planning basic sewer engineering into their cities. The Romans advanced sewer engineering drastically, but after the fall of the Roman empire most Western societies lost the ability to engineer safe sewers.

During the industrial revolution, the huge growth of cities and the crowded conditions within them led to the development – through necessity – of a new kind of sewage engineering. London, which was one of the most crowded and swiftly growing cities during the industrial age, would be the place where modern sewage engineering emerged. Sewage tainted water contributed to repeated epidemics of cholera in the city. Sir Joseph Bazalgette should be a name familiar to any engineer interested in history. He began work on the construction of London’s sewage system in 1859. 1,100 miles of new underground sewer were constructed in an immensely short space of time. 

Today, sewage engineers are still immensely important. Human waste must be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way, and cities are still growing at a very fast rate. Modern sewage engineers can work on everything from small repair and extension projects to huge new major waste disposal systems. They are the unsung heroes of civil engineering. They need specialist training in geophysical work, chemical engineering and liquid engineering. 

Engineering Manager 

Civil engineers have a unique role to play in large projects. Engineering managers are present during every stage of a large scale build. They are consulted by architects and construction teams to give advice on the structural and material soundness of a project. An advanced qualification such as a Master of engineering management degree is usually sought by engineers looking to work as a project lead in the industry.

Engineering managers are important intermediaries between project stakeholders and workers. They use their knowledge of material mechanical properties to assess the realistic budget that will be needed for the completion of a project. They are key voices of reason: using mathematical and computational models to identify material and structural choices that will be detrimental to a building and advising stakeholders on necessary changes. They also take charge of site surveying. Many projects need to be preceded by geological, topographical and environmental surveys. Modern civil engineers have several tools that help make surveying more accurate and less time consuming. One of the latest innovations in the field is the development of software that allows drones to be used in the creation of accurate, real time 3D survey maps. 

With so many responsibilities and areas of oversight, an engineering manager needs to be an incredibly efficient project manager. They need to be able to communicate effectively and clearly while sticking to a budget and timeline. This role is not for the civil engineer that wants to spend all their time working out mathematical models: they need to be capable of interpersonal management as well. 

Geotechnical Engineer 

Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that is concerned with the structures and materials found beneath our feet. They specialize in creating solutions for building into the earth and assess the safety and lifespan of structures according to the materials they are built in or upon. They work as part of teams conducting geological surveys during the initial stages of a project. They are especially suited to work in mining, tunneling or construction in dense cities that contain many tunnels. 

Fire Engineer

Fire engineers help to design structures to be both resistant to fire and safe during the outbreak of a fire. They offer advice to architects and other civil engineers regarding the best way to keep a building and its occupants safe in the event of a blaze. Fire engineers work with architecture firms, local governments and as part of firefighting services around the globe. One of the principle roles of a fire engineer is to develop codes: protocols that determine the correct way to produce safe structures. They also develop plans for the safe evacuation of people and equipment and direct firefighting efforts during some of the more extreme blazes that take place. They understand the effects of fire on structures and materials and can develop mathematical models that quantize the impact of a blaze so that it can be correctly planned for. 

Structural Engineer

Structural engineers need to be passionate about the mathematical principles related to material and structural properties. These civil engineers are employed to develop models that can be used to work out how a structure will fare during its lifespan. This typically involves taking known variables such as entropy, weather, footfall and water pressure into account and applying them to the structures proposed by architects and other civil engineers. If, for instance, they are working to calculate the structural soundness of a proposed bridge they will look at the environmental conditions, proposed usage and material composition of the structure in order to work out what kind of stresses the bridge can safely endure. Structural engineers are essential members of any team working on a civil engineering project. They are also frequently hired to conduct structural assessments of things that have already been built. 

Marine Engineer 

Marine engineers are responsible for the design, testing and maintenance of seagoing craft. Ships, hovercraft and submarines are all created in part thanks to the work of marine engineers. 

These professionals use their extensive knowledge of physics and mathematical models to create seagoing craft that remain buoyant while completing specific tasks. Much of the mathematics involved is very complex – especially when it comes to designing submarines. The first mathematical model that will be learned by a budding marine engineer will be Archimedes’ principle. Archimedes’ principle – first developed by a venerable ancient Greek polymath – states that any object submerged in a fluid will be acted upon by a buoyant force equal to the displacement of fluid caused by the object. Popular myth surrounding the discovery of this principle centers around Archimedes having his ‘eureka’ moment in a bathtub while displacing the water with his own body. This is, however, believed to be an embellishment. Archimedes most likely came up with the principle as part of efforts to distinguish pure gold from gold mixed with silver.

Marine engineers not only work in the design and building of vessels. A marine engineer is also an essential member of a ship’s crew. Engineers are some of the best paid and most respected sailors. They can find work in both civil and military industries. 

Environmental Engineer 

Environmental engineers specialize in the analysis of how a structure will impact the environment and how the environment might impact a structure. They are increasingly employed as consultants during large projects that may have detrimental effects upon the climate or localized environment. They develop mathematical models in an effort to work out the most environmentally efficient way of completing a project. When a structure is being built in a hostile environment, specialists are employed to develop protocols for constructing robust solutions. As the climate crisis worsens, environmental engineers are likely to be in more demand than ever before. 

Military Engineer

Qualified civil engineers and engineering managers are highly sought after my militaries around the globe. Military service is not for everybody. The rules are strict, the work can be dangerous and you can be used as a pawn in grand political games. Despite this, many engineers enter the military. There are lots of opportunities for promotion, plenty of challenges and some unique engineering tasks. Military engineers are responsible for designing and building field hospitals and temporary structures. They bridge rivers and prepare fortifications during times of war. They work closely with strategic planning staff to figure out the best way for a military to exploit terrain while on operations. Most militaries have their own specialist engineering groups. One such group is the Royal Engineers regiment in the United Kingdom. 

Before rushing off to your nearest recruitment office and joining the military as an engineer, consider the political realities that might influence the use of the military. If you are not ready to be in danger, you might want to find another job within civil engineering. 

Traffic Engineers

Traffic engineers – otherwise known as roadway engineers or transportation engineers – focus on the development of ground based transportation infrastructure. They are often employed as part of large government funded projects with the aim of improving transportation efficiency. Traffic engineers tend to have a lot on their plate when completing even the most simple assignment. An engineer tasked with planning improvements on a stretch of road is expected to be extremely rigorous and very budget conscious. Roadway development tends to progress in the following stages:

Identification Of A Problem

The government agency or department responsible for the maintenance of highways will identify an issue that needs to be solved. Traffic bottlenecks, poor surfaces and over capacity roadways are all common issues. They will draft a list of possible solutions. 


This is where the traffic engineers themselves come in to the picture. The agency in charge of highway improvements will consult with qualified senior civil engineers in order to get a grasp of whether their proposed solutions are actually achievable. Engineers audit and edit the plans put forwards by agencies in order to create the framework for actual design solutions. 


A general design is then produced – outlining the solutions to problems that have been identified and suggesting the possible location and material construction of the new or improved roadway. This part of the process will include the creation of topographical, geological and environmental surveys. 


During the planning stage, blueprints are handed over to authorities in order to confirm the legality of the project. Construction and extra engineering staff are sought out for work on the project. The location and the ambitions of the project are finalized. 

Public Consultation

Road building can be somewhat controversial. It is important that a road serves the community it is in as opposed to damaging quality of life within said community. All modern senior traffic engineers will conduct some form of public consultation in order to identify possible areas of conflict and best tailor their work towards the needs of a community. 

Tendering And Construction 

Civil engineers will put together a budget and begin construction after their plans have been approved by both the public and relevant stakeholders. The construction period is a perilous time. All sorts of variables emerge during this period. Luckily, modern surveying and careful application of protocols enable engineers to predict the kinds of variables that they may encounter. Geological surveys and 3D mapping conducted before construction begins can be consulted when problems are encountered. Sound project management and collaboration between workers, engineers and stakeholders is essential during this period. 


When construction is complete, the civil engineer in charge will hand over responsibility of the road to the authority that commissioned it. They will need to have written up detailed maintenance protocols that enable local authorities to correctly commission repair works. 

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