Civil engineers are the scientific minds behind the way our modern towns and cities work. Responsible for infrastructure on a large scale, civil engineers are involved in the design and development of everything from the new village hall to nationwide energy supply.
Combining their theoretical and practical knowledge of engineering, these highly specialised experts have to master the planning, budgeting, management, and analysis of projects large and small.
Using your natural curiosity, your talent with Lego or Meccano, and your academic mind, a degree in civil engineering will equip you for a wide range of careers. From the hands-on practical jobs to the intensely theoretical tasks, civil engineering is a discipline that’s both rewarding and challenging in equal measure.
Civil engineers can feel pride on a daily basis, as they pass the skyscrapers and bridges they helped to build.
Like many engineering topics, universities are going to be looking for you to have good grades in both maths and physics. Civil engineering can be a competitive course because of its high career prospects, so expect to face some steep grade boundaries. If you want to show that you’re truly dedicated, you should have further maths and design technology qualifications too.
For your interview and personal statement, you’ll want to showcase your skills in data analysis, numeracy, technology, communication, and problem-solving. Take a look at our tips for your engineering personal statement.
A levels – Entry requirements range from CCC to AAA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for BBB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from ABBB to AAAAB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AABBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for ABB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Personal statement
- Attend an interview
- Show work experience
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Pass an entry test
Every time you leave your home, you’ll see the results of civil engineering. From roads to railways, townhouses to tower blocks, civil engineers have a hand in most infrastructure projects in the modern environment.
If you want to play a part in the physical world around you, and get your job satisfaction by seeing results in-person, not to mention making other people’s lives easier, then civil engineering might be for you.
Civil engineers often started out as curious and inquisitive, always wondering how things work and how to make them better. If that sounds like you, and you can’t think of a better way to earn money, you might be onto a winner. And speaking of money, the job prospects for civil engineering graduates are extremely good, whether that be in planning, design, construction, energy, or any of the other hundred professions that draw upon a civil engineer’s skill.
You’ll be in high demand from your local council or national government, not to mention the private sector firms that governments contract projects to.
Some modules you may study are:
- Fluid mechanics
- Soil mechanics
- Digital environment building
- Engineering geology
- Civil and architectural engineering
- Minerals and statics
- Structural mechanics
A strong mathematical and scientific grounding is important for civil engineers. Before any industry experience, you’ll spend lots of time using models and simulations to understand the principles of engineering. This means time spent in lectures, classrooms, and computer labs, before you get to the practical stuff. Your first year will follow this format, giving you and your classmates the foundation to build on for your later years.
In the second and third years (or fourth if you decide to take a placement year, which is common in civil engineering), you’ll specialise in modules and areas which interest you most. Most courses will offer you the chance to complete a full design project, either alone or as part of a group. This might be in structural, transportation, architectural, geotechnical, or hydraulic engineering.
Wherever you decide to spend your time, you can expect to graduate with good job prospects as a civil engineer. Starting salaries are around £26k, with 96% of students in work or further study within six months of graduating.
Civil engineering will call for you to be in the classroom for about 18 hours per week, or up to 40 hours during your placement year. As a lot of this subject will be new to you, you can also expect a healthy amount of self-study.
Studying a civil engineering degree is likely to involve:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- computer and simulation work
- placements and industry experience
- project, presentation, and group work
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
There are over 80 apprenticeships in the construction sector available in England, with more in development.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)
Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)
- Building services design engineer (degree)
- Building services engineering site management (degree)
- Civil engineer (degree)
- Civil engineering site management (degree)
- Construction quantity surveyor (degree)
- Design and construction management (degree)
- Nuclear scientist and nuclear engineer (degree)
- Product design and development engineer (non-integrated degree)
- Project manager (degree)