What does a civil engineer do?


Civil Engineers plan, design, construct, operate and maintain roads, bridges, dams, water supply schemes, sewerage systems, transportation, harbors, canals, dockyards, airports, railways, factories and large buildings.

Civil Engineers usually work in one of the following areas:
Water resources,
Soil and foundation,
Town planning, or

A Civil Engineer may specialize:
Airport Engineer:  An airport engineer-

  • specializes in preparing designs for airports, hangars and control towers,
  • supervises the construction, maintenance and repair of runways, taking into consideration factors such as weight, size and speed of aircraft,
  • advises contractors on technical problems during construction.

Geo-technical/Soil Engineer: A geotechnical/soil engineer-

  • inspects proposed construction sites to work out soil and foundation conditions by conducting drilling and sampling programs,
  • oversees and participates in field and laboratory testing of soils, and makes sure that test equipment and machinery is properly set up,
  • prepares reports of test results and makes recommendations for the solution of engineering problems identified in test reports,
  • prepares specifications of soil mixtures for use in roads, embankments and other construction, and calculates and advises on the required slope at cuttings and the thickness of soil dams and retaining walls.

Harbor Engineer: A harbor engineer-

  • designs and supervises the construction of harbor facilities such as breakwaters, navigation aids, navigation channels, jetties, wharves, heavy-duty pavement surfaces, cargo sheds and bulk handling plants for grain, ore and other cargo;
  • ensures that the designs satisfy safety and serviceability requirements,
  • makes efficient use of funds and materials to achieve the safety and serviceability requirements.

Highway Engineer: A highway engineer-

  • specializes in analyzing population and growth statistics and traffic patterns and volume to project future requirements,
  • talks to government officials and other specialists to help design efficient and safe traffic systems,
  • studies roadway and embankment design, the geometry of highway interchanges and the maintenance of facilities such as culverts and overpasses.

Hydraulic/Water Resources Engineer: A hydraulic/water resources engineer-

  • designs and supervises construction, and advises on the operation, maintenance and repair of, water resource facilities such as dams, aqueducts, hydro-electric plants, and water supply, drainage and sewerage systems,
  • works on beach protection, harbor design and river control projects,
  • manages waterways with a focus on erosion and flood protection,
  • is concerned with environmental management including the prediction of the mixing and transport of pollutants in surface water.

Irrigation/Drainage Engineer: An irrigation/drainage engineer-

  • using tests and measurements, works out the characteristics of soil, such as salinity, water table level, areas of subnormal plant growth, soil type and surface profile,
  • calculates or estimates rates of water flow,
  • supervises the preparation of plans showing channels, conduits, mains and ditches, and the construction of laboratory models to study construction and flow problems.

Local Government Engineer: A local government engineer-

  • administers and supervises the design, construction and maintenance of projects such as roads, drainage systems, pedestrian and cycle facilities, bridges, buildings, recreation grounds, parks, waste disposal and water treatment schemes within a local government area,
  • talks to the community and with government departments,
  • supervises other engineers such as those employed in design and construction, and other employees of the council or corporation such as supervisors and building surveyors.

Materials and Testing Engineer: A materials and testing engineer-

  • conducts research, development tests and evaluation of the quality or suitability of materials and products related to projects,
  • coordinates and directs the research, development and testing of materials such as asphalt, concrete, steel, cement, timber and plastics, taking into account factors such as stresses and strains, estimated load, water pressures, wind resistance and temperature fluctuations,
  • advises contractors and others on materials most suited to meet individual construction requirements.

Pipeline Engineer: A pipeline engineer-

  • specializes in preparing design proposals for pipelines and pipeline equipment, facilities and structures in consultation with petroleum and mechanical engineers,
  • works out a suitable layout of lines based on accurate mapping and surveying, and analyses operations and maintenance costs to determine efficiency and devise improvements or innovations in the system,
  • provides technical advice on the operation of machinery and equipment used to transport petroleum products through pipeline systems.

Railway Engineer: A railway engineer-

  • studies design proposals and advises on the construction, maintenance and repair of railway systems including tracks, terminals and yards,
  • studies the natural features of proposed routes and plans the types of rail beds, rail size and curves to meet train speed and load requirements,
  • conducts traffic surveys to establish suitable routes for rapid transit or urban railway systems.

Structural Engineer: A structural engineer-

  • designs the framework of buildings, towers, bridges, water treatment structures, tunnels and other structures to make sure of strength and rigidity,
  • studies new materials and methods and their impact on design and construction.

    Civil Engineering isn’t easy at all, Civil engineers may work in offices or spend much of their time on site. They may be required to work long hours and meet strict deadlines while working under minimal supervision. Civil engineers deal with various professional, skilled and semi-skilled people. Consulting and contracting engineers often travel interstate and some travel overseas. It may be necessary for some civil engineers to change residence every few years as their work takes them from one major engineering site to another.

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