What can I do with a degree in Civil Engineering?
Civil engineers use their knowledge and skills to design, construct, project manage, and commission a wide range of facilities. This includes basic infrastructure such as buildings, bridges, towers, dams, roads and railways, pipe networks and treatment plants which provide society with a reliable, safe, sustainable and modern environment. They use advanced computing techniques to design structures that are safe against earthquakes, fire, wind, snow and landslides. Civil engineers have responsibility for managing people, equipment, resources, time and money.
Communication skills are vital, as all professional engineers need to be able to provide detailed engineering reports and effectively take part in presentations, public hearings and inquiries.
Through their Civil Engineering degree graduates develop a valuable set of skills that are transferable to a range of careers. These skills include:
- Creativity and innovation
- Communication and teamwork
- Logical and quantitative thinking
- Problem solving and decision making
- Practical application of engineering technology and science
- Design skills and an understanding of computer design software
- Supervising, directing and organising people and projects
- Awareness of environmental considerations
Students undertake 800 hours of practical work experience as part of this engineering degree, providing them with a good understanding of industry and the confidence to apply their skills in a workplace setting. Applied learning also takes place on fieldtrips and through an industry project
Just as there are many distinct Civil Engineering jobs, so too are there diverse types of employers. Most new graduates are employed with either:
- Contractors or
For some, however, their career path lies within:
- Architectural practices
- Road surfacing firms
- Environmental contracting organisations
- Oil and utility companies
- Telecommunications businesses
- Research — in business, government or universities (which usually involves teaching too).
There are many career options for graduates. In Civil Engineering roles they may undertake design, management, planning and/or building work. See some examples of jobs and activities below.
Note: Some of the jobs listed may require postgraduate study. See the ‘Further study’ section.
- Consults with stakeholders as to the requirements of projects
- Plans and designs structures and systems
- Analyses the strength and capacities of structures and systems
- Designs and supervises the construction of structures
- Investigates and analyses the site conditions
- Develops refurbishment projects to strengthen existing structures
- Tests environmental samples for pollution
- Minimises the project’s environmental impact
- Designs waste management systems
Water engineer, water resources engineer
- Designs water-related systems eg, pipe work
- Monitors the progress of water projects
- Checks water-related systems for possible issues
- Manages a project plan, budget and schedule
- Supervises a project’s daily progress
- Liaises with project staff and clients
- Plans, designs and models new bridge projects
- Oversees implementation progress
- Liaises with project staff and clients
- Analyses geologic data and how a site will behave under pressure
- Determines an area’s suitability for construction
- Makes construction recommendations
- Designs, tests and improves transport systems and structures
- Creates plans to meet changing transportation needs and population patterns
- Researches and analyses traffic patterns
- Surveys and levels the building site
- Checks accuracy of construction plans/materials
- Oversees the quality of building work
- Applies skills to help developing communities
- Develops resource solutions with local groups
- Problem solves in challenging environments
- Uses modelling software to prepare reports, specifications and drawings
- Conducts forensic engineering for insurance/ legal purposes
- Designs and inspects safety systems
Entrepreneur and CEO
- Develops an idea to form their own business
- Offers their services as a consultant
Get started with Entrepreneurship here
As they progress in their studies and into a career, our students and graduates often join professional bodies specific to their area of interest. These organisations offer graduates the opportunity to network and collaborate with others within the same community. Other relevant organisations are also listed.
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand
- The Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand Inc.
- Structural Engineering Society New Zealand Inc.
- New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering Inc.
- Engineering Associates Registration Board NZ
- Design Association of New Zealand Inc.
Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues to keep upto-date with industry knowledge, networking opportunities, events and job vacancies.
Learn from our students' experiences
'The tranquil and friendly environment of Christchurch has an influence on the people who live and study here...'
'Working in a variety of roles allowed me to understand some of the broader aspects of engineering...'
'Both of my internships during the summer increased my interest and contributed a lot to my confidence...'
'I’ve enjoyed getting to live with an amazing group of people from all around the country...'
'I think being involved in the international community is a great way to learn more...'
'Studying Civil Engineering at UC helped me convert my Korean engineering experiences to the local environment...'
'In Civil Engineering, you get opportunities to create things and solve problems every day...'
'The Civil Eng degree offers the chance to pursue an area that is in demand all around the world...'
For more information
see the Civil Engineering subject page