Civil engineers design, construct, project manage, and commission a wide range of facilities and infrastructure such as buildings, bridges, towers, dams, roads and railways, pipe networks and treatment plants. These facilities provide people with a reliable, safe, sustainable and modern environment to live in.
Electric power depends on civil engineers for the design and construction of dams, canals and transmission towers. Many towns and cities are protected against flooding or the effects of fire and earthquakes by infrastructure designed and constructed by civil engineers.
Civil engineers have responsibility for managing people, equipment, resources, time and money. Communication skills are vital, as all professional engineers need to effectively disseminate complex information to people of diverse backgrounds, by providing detailed engineering reports, presentations and taking part in public hearings and inquiries.
This is a broad field, and students may take courses to focus on a more specific area of civil engineering during their professional years of study to suit their interests.
The first year of the Bachelor of Engineering with Honours is called the Engineering Intermediate Year. Required Intermediate courses for Civil Engineering are:
- ENGR101 Foundations of Engineering
- EMTH118 Engineering Mathematics 1A
- EMTH119 Engineering Mathematics 1B
- EMTH171 Mathematical Modelling and Computation
- PHYS101 Engineering Physics A: Mechanics, Waves and Thermal Physics
- CHEM111 Chemical Principles and Processes
- ENGR102 Engineering Mechanics and Materials
- ENGR100 Academic Writing Assessment
- In addition you will need to study at least one additional 15-point elective course.
The professional years
The first and second professional years consist of compulsory courses that provide a wide, basic knowledge for the civil engineering professional. These include fluid mechanics, geotechnical engineering, surveying, materials, management, soil mechanics, structural design, transportation and water quality. An external field camp also forms part of the first professional year's programme.
In the third professional year, students choose their courses to either specialise in a specific area of interest or generalise their courses. Courses can include traffic planning, structures, water engineering, geotechnical engineering, fire engineering and engineering in developing communities. A compulsory research project is required for all students.
Laboratory, tutorial, design office and field classes complement the theory presented in lectures and demonstrate its relevance to practical applications. As well as individual assignments, students also regularly work in teams on projects, and written and oral presentations are key components of many courses. Lecturers place a heavy emphasis on the importance of good communication skills.
There are excellent career opportunities for civil engineers, with a strong demand for graduates in New Zealand and around the world in a diverse range of fields.
Most new graduates are employed by consultants (who design and manage), contractors (who build and maintain) or central, regional and local government (who develop and manage the infrastructure of countries, cities and communities).
Many civil engineers become experts in a specialised area of civil engineering such as structural, water, geotechnical, transportation or environmental fields:
- structural engineers apply knowledge of construction methods and properties of materials into design and construction of safe buildings and bridges
- water engineers deal with the storage and distribution of water for drinking and irrigation, design and construction of river control structures, and protecting coastal regions
- geotechnical engineers deal with the ability of soils to provide stable foundations and the design of stable slopes and retaining walls
- transportation engineers plan, design, construct and maintain safe, efficient, reliable and sustainable transportation networks involving roads, pathways, railways, airports and harbours
- environmental engineers deal with environmental impacts of major projects, and environment-friendly recycling, treatment and disposal of waste.
Some UC civil engineering graduates go on to run their own companies, enter into partnerships, or become researchers for government agencies or business.
Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Civil Engineering.
More informationDepartment of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering
Please see the Department's website for up-to-date location details.
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800