- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 04 Jun 2018
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.
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.
- 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)
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.
 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
 Scottish apprenticeships
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Insights from New York.
A quick introduction to a very complicated subject.
CIOB suggests the economic reach of construction is double the official figures.
The first US building to achieve BREEAM Outstanding In-Use.
70 buildings from 70 years of Concrete Quarterly. Book review.
Conserving the iron roof at the Albert Dock.
Delivering an infrastructure revolution.
The admissibility of evidence.
How many can you name? 37 anyone?
CIOB respond to the points-based system.
When is the weather considered 'exceptionally adverse'?