How to become a civil engineer
This is part of Student resources.
Civil engineering is an exciting career that provides a lot of variety and the chance to meet and work with different kinds of people. As a civil engineer, there is the opportunity to work around the world on all kinds of challenging projects, such as flood defences, new buildings, tunnels, and transport infrastructure.
Civil engineering requires good mathematics, design and science skills. The ability to see ‘the big picture’, think strategically and creatively, work as a team and without supervision are all key skills for a civil engineer.
 A Levels
Aspiring civil engineers will find the following subjects useful to study at A Level:
- Maths: Engineers use maths to understand the theory of engineering and to analyse materials and structures. Most engineering courses at university require a maths A-level. Further maths, if available as an option, will be helpful but not essential.
- Physics: The laws of physics dictate how and why things behave the way they do. Studying physics will help provide an understanding of concepts such as energy, forces and motion, which are key to solving the problems that engineers face on a daily basis.
- Geography and geology: These subjects build understanding of the physical world, like the behaviour of rivers, tides and currents in the sea, and the strengths of different rocks and soils.
- ICT: The skills developed through using computer software will be capable of being applied to the programmes used as a civil engineer.
- Languages: Learning a modern foreign language will be useful if working abroad.
 Vocational qualifications
Vocational qualifications are designed as preparation for a particular career. Vocational courses have often been developed by industry bodies and employers, so what is learnt is relevant to the civil engineering industry.
Courses tend to take place at further education colleges or at the new university technical colleges (UTCs). One of the benefits of vocational courses is that assessment is usually modular and project-based, which means there is less pressure to succeed in formal exams.
Some vocational qualifications are BTECs, NVQs, SVQs (in Scotland), and City & Guilds. The three most relevant qualifications in civil engineering are:
- BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment – Civil Engineering
- BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment – Civil Engineering
- Higher National Certificate in Civil Engineering (Scotland)
These are equivalent to A-levels, which means they meet university entrance requirements for a BEng or MEng or a foundation degree, HNC or HND.
Although these qualifications are equivalent to A-levels, some elite universities look less favourably towards applicants who have them, and they may also be less useful than general A-levels if the applicant changes their mind about pursuing a civil engineering career.
The most common route into a civil engineering career is through university study. There are a large number of universities that offer various courses in civil engineering, many of which are accredited with professional institutions.
See Universities for more information.
Apprenticeships combine part-time study (usually at a local college) with a job, where you can get technical skills and industry knowledge. Your courses will be paid for by your employer and they may wish to take you on full time after qualification.
There are different levels of apprenticeships and they can last for between two and four years.
 Advanced Technical Apprenticeship
This is the most popular qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This develops academic knowledge with on-the-job experience. Qualify with a BTEC Level 3 with an NVQ, or ICE’s Diploma in Civil Engineering for Technicians.
 Higher Apprenticeship
After taking A-Levels, this is the option of a level 4-6 qualification which normally includes a HND, HNC, foundation degree or bachelor’s degree.
 Scottish apprenticeships
Those living in Scotland can choose between a Modern Apprenticeship (level 2 or 3), a Technical Apprenticeship (level 4), and a Professional Apprenticeship (level 5).
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