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Study Civil Engineering, Why & How To Study

Civil engineers deal with the infrastructure we live in, from the roads we walk on to how waste is disposed of.

Two architects kneeling on the floor and discussing over blueprint


  1. What’s Civil Engineering?

  2. What Civil Engineering degrees can you study?

  3. What do you need to get onto a Civil Engineering degree?

  4. What topics does a Civil Engineering degree cover?

  5. How will you be assessed?

  6. Why study Civil Engineering?

  7. What do Civil Engineering graduates earn?

  8. What jobs can you get as a Civil Engineering graduate?

  9. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  10. Similar subjects to Civil Engineering

  11. Have any questions?

What’s Civil Engineering?

Civil Engineering is all about the planning, construction and maintenance of human-made structures such as buildings, roads, bridges, canals and dams.

Established as the most significant branch of engineering after military engineering, the name is designed to distinguish it as non-armoury. Most civil engineering is funded by the central government.

What Civil Engineering degrees can you study?

Undergraduate degrees in Civil Engineering include:

  • Civil and Energy Engineering BEng
  • Civil Engineering with a year abroad BEng
  • Civil Engineering and Management MEng
  • Engineering Geology and Geotechnics BEng

Degrees may include an integrated foundation year or master’s. Industrial placement year and year abroad options available.

What do you need to get onto a Civil Engineering degree?

Typically, entry to an undergraduate Civil Engineering degree requires between 96–160 UCAS points. Some courses may have lower or higher requirements, and not all unis base their offer on UCAS points. Qualifications may include:

  • A Levels: A*AAA–CCC
  • BTECs: D*D*D*–MMM
  • Scottish Highers: AAAAA–AABB (Advanced Highers: AAB–BB)
  • International Baccalaureate: 40–26
  • Universities will usually ask that you have studied: maths at A Level (or equivalent)

Other good subjects to have studied include:

  • Physics, further maths, or other sciences such as geology
  • General studies and critical thinking A Levels may not be accepted

Experience that would look good on your application:

  • Work experience or shadowing in a related area, such as a council highways department
  • Volunteering to develop and evidence interpersonal and team working skills
  • Attending lectures or online talks about engineering
  • Exploring topics of interest through books, professional body websites, engineering magazines, journals and videos or podcasts
  • Stretching your maths and problem-solving skills through competitions, online courses or problem challenge sites
  • STEM summer schools, if available – see the Sutton Trust or UNIQ

Other requirements for this subject include:

  • Pass in the practical element of science taken at A Level
  • Interview and entry assessments may be required by some universities

What topics does a Civil Engineering degree cover?

Typical modules for courses in this subject include:

  • Civil engineering design
  • Computational methods
  • Energy and environmental engineering
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Geotechnical analysis
  • Highway engineering and materials
  • Mathematics
  • Site surveying
  • Soil mechanics and engineering geology
  • Structures, materials and dynamics

How will you be assessed?

Courses are assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the module:

  • Coursework
  • Dissertations
  • Exams
  • Group projects
  • Lab reports
  • Poster presentations
  • Practical tests
  • Video submissions

Why study Civil Engineering?

Civil Engineering opens the doors to a fast-paced and challenging industry, but also a rewarding one. You' likely be able to see the results of your hard work through projects that come to life.

Career-specific skills:

  • Technical knowledge of key areas in civil engineering, such as strucures, fluid mechanics, materials and geotechnics
  • Skills in the use of engineering software

Transferable skills:

  • Communication
  • Decision making
  • Negotiation
  • Organisation
  • Presentation
  • Problem solving
  • Project management
  • Team working
  • Working under pressure

Professional accreditation:

  • Degrees may be accredited by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), and the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE), all members of the Joint Board of Moderators
  • May include registration as an Incorporated Engineer (IEng), and partial registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng)

What do Civil Engineering graduates earn?

Graduate jobs are easy to come by, as structural and civil engineers are always in demand. Graduate starting salaries for the subject area can be pretty high, with entry-level pay from £15,000–£27,700.

As a junior civil engineer your could earn £34,500; gain Chartered status and experience, and this could climb to £67,500 as a senior engineer in civil engineering. Directors can earn £78,000 or more. The best pay is to be found outside the UK, so it could also be helpful to learn another language!

What jobs can you get as a Civil Engineering graduate?

Civil Engineering degrees produce supply for increasing demand. There's a growing need for those who can design and build the structures that allow modern life to happen.

  • Building surveyor
  • Consultant
  • Contract worker
  • Geologist
  • Quantity surveyor
  • Site engineer
  • Structural engineer

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Those with a first degree in Civil Engineering or a related area could take a postgraduate course to specialise. Examples of taught master’s and research degrees at postgraduate level include:

  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering PhD
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD
  • Civil Engineering with Fluids MSc
  • Civil Engineering: Innovative Structural Materials MSc
  • Tunnelling and Underground Space MSc

Similar subjects to Civil Engineering

If you’re interested in engineering or construction, you could also consider:

Have any questions?

Get in touch with our experts by emailing with your question about studying Civil Engineering. We’ll be happy to hear from you!

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