What is civil engineering?

If you are reading these words it means that, somehow, you are interested in the world of civil engineering but you don’t know what exactly a civil engineer does or if you should study this beautiful and complicated career.

But… what does a civil engineer do?

Civil engineering is the discipline in charge of carrying out all kinds of infrastructures that society needs for its development, always trying to carry them out in the most economical and sustainable way possible. To do so, he/she must be able to understand a multitude of factors (technical, economic and social) that affect infrastructures in one way or another and act accordingly.

Roads and highways, bridges and footbridges, dams and reservoirs, drinking water supply and sewerage networks, ports, urban developments and many other infrastructures are the responsibility of the civil engineer. But it is not all about building. Economic aspects and the management and operation of these infrastructures are also part of the main focus of many tasks carried out by civil engineers all over the world.

How do I know if I should study civil engineering?

Now it’s easy. If these images have been indifferent to you, chances are that civil engineering is not for you. For me, these images represent the dream of every civil engineer, the ideal. So, if a bridge with a span of 500 meters or a large dam doesn’t convey anything to you, what will a supply network or an urban development convey to you? Although it is also true that it may be precisely the latter that catches your attention, although it is rarer to see.

If, on the other hand, these images are as striking to you as they are to me, studying civil engineering may be a more than interesting choice for you. Bravo! You’re already a little closer. However, before you take the step, you should be aware of what it means to study this career, as well as any other engineering.

The more complex subjects such as algebra, physics, structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, among many others, require hard work and dedication to get them through. And believe me when I tell you that it is nothing like the effort you may have made during high school. Besides, what are we going to fool ourselves, if you are thinking of getting into this field it is because you have not had any problems in high school.

I had always thought that studying an engineering like this could not be as difficult as people said (it is also true that I tend to be overconfident). And even less with the grades I had in high school, that was not going to happen to me!

But that also means that the good result more than compensates the effort made, and the feeling of a job well done leaves you with a good taste in your mouth (not everything is going to be bad, hey). The important thing is to get up after the failures, learn from them and move forward training as a professional and as a person in the best possible way.

This career is not only interesting because of how it trains you intellectually, but also because of the habits it helps you develop. It turns you into a real worker and fighter. You get used to working under pressure, quickly and efficiently. You become decisive and organized. You furnish your head and acquire critical thinking. And although at first glance it may not seem so, these qualities are very important for your future career.

What specialties are there?

Civil engineering is very broad and it would be impossible to cover it in its entirety. In the Degree in Civil and Territorial Engineering that I am studying, and once you have passed the first three courses, you can choose one of these specialties.

  • Civil Construction: you will specialize in the calculation of structures, construction
  • structures, construction projects, building projects, bridges, tunnels, foundations, etc. This is undoubtedly the most complicated specialty.
  • Transportation and Urban Services: you will specialize in the design of roads, railroads, traffic management, port operations, etc.
  • Hydrology: you will specialize in the design and construction of dams, other hydraulic infrastructures (canals), energy and power plants, etc.
  • Any of them will open up infinite fields of action and professional development. My recommendation: choose the one you like the most. Luckily, during the first years of your degree you will see a little bit of all of them, enough to get an idea of what fits you best.

What are the career opportunities in civil engineering?

It is normal to think about career opportunities when you are forced to choose a career and think about your future. No matter how much you like something, if it is not in demand, if it is not useful for someone, don’t make it your job, make it your hobby. But if what you like turns out to be necessary, in this case for society, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

However, in this aspect you will probably be disappointed if you already knew you wanted to study to be a civil engineer and everything was going to be rosy, especially if you are Spanish. Things have changed for some time now and the civil engineer has to adapt. That is the key, to adapt.

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James Dennis