The brains behind our roads, buildings, towns, and cities.

What is civil engineering?

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.

Civil engineering course entry requirements

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.

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.

What you will need to do
  • Apply by 15 January
  • Personal statement
  • Attend an interview
  • Show work experience
What you won't need to do
  • Submit a portfolio
  • Audition for a place
  • Pass an entry test

What’s the difference between chemists and engineers?

Chemists are concerned with developing materials and processes on a small scale, often in an academic or theoretical practice. Chemistry is a pure science and will involve lots of lab work.

Chemical engineers may work with the same materials or processes, but will transform them into industry and find practical applications in the real world, often for commercial use. Chemical engineers will be trained on industrial equipment and technology, spending much more time in the field.

Why study civil engineering at university?

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
  • Geomechanics
  • Structural mechanics

Do I need to be good at maths to become a chemical engineer?

While the name implies that chemistry and engineering are the most useful topics, both physics and maths are hugely important for a chemical engineer. From simulations to experiments, to modelling, you’ll be using maths skills to calculate and predict the outcome and safety of your work. 

What can you do with a civil engineering degree?

Civil engineering graduates will most likely enter work in civil engineering.

​But, your range of skills will also make you highly employable in:

What’s it like to study civil engineering?

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

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