Study Civil Engineering: A Comprehensive Subject Guide

Welcome to the fascinating realm of Civil Engineering, a discipline that shapes the physical infrastructure of our modern world. In this comprehensive subject guide, we delve deep into the multifaceted domain of civil engineering. From the construction of awe-inspiring skyscrapers to the planning of sustainable urban environments, civil engineering is at the forefront of innovation and progress. Join us on a journey to unravel the intricacies of this vital field and gain invaluable insights into the foundations of civil engineering excellence.

civil engineering

Table of Contents

What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering is a branch of engineering that focuses on the design, construction, and maintenance of physical and natural infrastructure. It encompasses a wide range of activities related to planning, designing, and supervising the construction of various structures and systems that are essential for modern society. Civil engineering is essential for the development and maintenance of infrastructure that supports modern society. It typically involves a multidisciplinary approach, combining principles of physics, mathematics, materials science, and environmental science to create safe and sustainable solutions for various engineering challenges.

Why Study Civil Engineering?

Studying civil engineering offers numerous compelling reasons to consider this field as a career choice. Here are some key reasons why you should consider studying civil engineering:

  1. Impact on Society: Civil engineers play a critical role in shaping the world we live in. They design and build infrastructure that directly impacts people’s lives, including roads, bridges, buildings, and water supply systems. Contributing to the betterment of society can be highly rewarding.

  2. Problem Solving: Civil engineers are problem solvers by nature. They tackle complex challenges related to infrastructure design, environmental sustainability, and urban planning. If you enjoy finding creative solutions to real-world problems, civil engineering provides ample opportunities to do so.

  3. Global Demand: Infrastructure development is a constant need worldwide. Civil engineers are in demand in both developed and developing countries, making it a field with strong job prospects. Your skills can definitely be applied on a global scale.

  4. Innovation: The field of civil engineering is continually evolving with advancements in materials, technology, and design techniques. If you enjoy staying at the forefront of innovation and embracing new technologies, civil engineering offers a dynamic environment for growth.

  5. Financial Reward: Civil engineering can offer competitive salaries, especially as you gain experience and expertise in your chosen specialisation.

  6. Sustainability: There is an increasing emphasis on sustainability in civil engineering. Engineers are tasked with creating environmentally friendly solutions that minimise the impact on the planet.

  7. Variety of Projects: Civil engineers have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, from designing iconic landmarks to improving urban infrastructure. The variety of projects ensures that your work remains engaging and never monotonous.

  8. Professional Development: Civil engineering offers a clear path to professional development. You can pursue licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE), which can lead to increased responsibility and leadership roles in your career.

  9. Prestige and Recognition: Successful civil engineering projects often receive recognition and awards. Contributing to projects that enhance the quality of life for communities can bring a sense of prestige and pride.

Best Universities for Civil Engineering in the UK

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the latest QS World University Rankings:

RankUniversity Name
6University of Cambridge
7Imperial College London
13University of Oxford
43The University of Manchester
49University of Leeds
51-100Newcastle University
51-100The University of Edinburgh
51-100The University of Sheffield
51-100University of Bristol
51-100University of Nottingham
51-100University of Southampton
101-150Cardiff University
101-150Loughborough University
101-150University of Bath
101-150University of Birmingham
101-150University of Liverpool
101-150University of Strathclyde
151-200Heriot-Watt University
151-200Queen's University Belfast
151-200University of Exeter
151-200University of Glasgow
201-230City, University of London
201-230Swansea University
201-230The University of Warwick

Entry Requirements for a Civil Engineering Degree

Entry requirements for a civil engineering degree in the UK can vary depending on the university and the specific programme. Here’s a general guide:

  1. Academic Qualifications: Typically, you will need to have completed your secondary education with certain academic qualifications. This usually includes A-levels, Scottish Highers, or equivalent qualifications. The specific grade requirements can vary between universities, but for civil engineering, you might need A-levels or equivalent qualifications in subjects like Mathematics and Physics.

  2. A-Level or Equivalent Subjects: Most universities prefer students to have studied Mathematics and Physics at A-level or equivalent. Some may also accept other science or engineering-related subjects.

  3. GCSE or Equivalent: Universities often require a minimum grade in Mathematics and English at GCSE or equivalent level.

  4. International Qualifications: If you are an international student, you may need to provide evidence of equivalent qualifications. This can include International Baccalaureate (IB) scores, SAT scores, or other recognised international qualifications.

Jobs for Civil Engineering Graduates

Civil engineering graduates have a wide range of career opportunities due to their expertise in designing, building, and maintaining essential infrastructure. Here are some common job roles and career paths for civil engineering graduates:

  1. Civil Engineer: Civil engineers work on various projects, including designing and supervising the construction of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, and water supply systems. They ensure that projects are completed safely, within budget, and in compliance with regulations.

  2. Structural Engineer: Structural engineers specialise in designing and analysing the structural elements of buildings and infrastructure to ensure they can withstand loads and environmental conditions. They work on projects like skyscrapers, bridges, and dams.

  3. Transportation Engineer: Transportation engineers focus on designing and improving transportation systems, including highways, railways, airports, and public transit networks. They aim to optimise traffic flow, safety, and efficiency.

  4. Geotechnical Engineer: Geotechnical engineers study soil and rock properties to assess their impact on construction projects. They design foundations, retaining walls, and slopes, ensuring stability and safety.

  5. Environmental Engineer: Environmental engineers work on projects related to environmental protection, water and wastewater treatment, and sustainable infrastructure. They address issues such as pollution control, water quality, and waste management.

  6. Water Resources Engineer: Water resources engineers manage water-related projects like dams, reservoirs, flood control systems, and irrigation systems. They focus on water supply, conservation, and managing water resources sustainably.

  7. Construction Manager: Construction managers oversee the planning, budgeting, and execution of construction projects. They ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.

  8. Urban Planner: Urban planners work on city and regional planning projects, including land use, transportation networks, and sustainability initiatives. They help create well-designed, functional, and sustainable urban environments.

  9. Project Manager: Project managers are responsible for managing the overall planning, coordination, and execution of projects. This role is common in engineering firms, construction companies, and government agencies.

  10. Consultant: Civil engineering graduates can work as consultants, offering their expertise to various clients and industries. They may provide advice on engineering solutions, project management, or regulatory compliance.

  11. Researcher/Academic: Some civil engineering graduates pursue careers in research or academia. They may work in universities, research institutions, or government agencies, conducting research and teaching future engineers.

What do Civil Engineering Graduates Typically Do?

A majority, 64%, work as engineering professionals, applying their civil engineering skills. Popular roles include architects, planning officers, surveyors, and construction professionals, along with science, engineering, and production technicians. Overall, 76% are employed, 7% pursue further study, and 7.6% engage in work and study simultaneously. Temporary unemployment is at 5.4%, with 4% falling into other categories. In terms of work, 80.9% contribute to engineering roles, 3.8% to business, HR, and finance, 3% to management, 3% to retail, catering, and customer service, and 9.3% to various other fields, showcasing the diverse career paths civil engineering graduates take.

Salary for Civil Engineering Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £19,000

Medium-skilled: £20,500

High-skilled: £28,000

Topics for Civil Engineering Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of Civil Engineering and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  1. Sustainable Building Materials: Investigate the use of eco-friendly and sustainable materials in construction, such as bamboo, recycled plastics, or low-carbon concrete. Assess their environmental impact and structural properties.

  2. Resilient Infrastructure: Explore strategies for designing and retrofitting infrastructure to withstand natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes. Consider the use of innovative materials and construction techniques.

  3. Smart Cities and Urban Planning: Examine how technology and data can be used to create smarter, more efficient, and sustainable cities. Focus on topics like smart transportation systems, energy-efficient buildings, and urban data analytics.

  4. Renewable Energy Integration: Study the integration of renewable energy sources (solar, wind, etc.) into urban infrastructure and investigate their impact on energy grids and infrastructure resilience.

  5. Green Building Certification: Analyse the effectiveness of green building certification systems like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) in promoting sustainable construction practices.

  6. Zero-Energy Buildings: Explore the design and construction of zero-energy buildings, which generate as much energy as they consume. Investigate innovative technologies and design strategies for achieving this goal.

  7. Water Resources Management: Investigate sustainable approaches to water resources management, such as rainwater harvesting, stormwater management, and wastewater treatment technologies.

  8. Transportation and Traffic Management: Study transportation engineering topics like traffic flow modelling, congestion management, autonomous vehicles, and sustainable transportation solutions.

  9. Climate Change Adaptation: Analyse strategies for adapting existing infrastructure to the challenges posed by climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and changing precipitation patterns.

  10. BIM (Building Information Modelling) and Digital Twins: Explore the applications of BIM and digital twin technology in construction and infrastructure management, including their impact on project efficiency and sustainability.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

  • Structural Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Computer Science/Computer Engineering
  • Construction Management
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Transportation Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Urban Planning

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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