Civil Engineers: What Do They Actually Do?

Civil engineering, a discipline dating back to ancient civilisation, plays a crucial role in shaping the world we live in. In South Africa, a country with a diverse landscape, civil engineering is one of the driving forces behind modern development, ensuring the creation of safe and efficient infrastructure. There are six different types of engineering, and for this article we'll delve specifically into one of them – the multi-faceted world of civil engineering.

So what’s the actual job?

Civil engineers can be described as the architects of our cities. The role of civil engineers is both interesting and important and can include:

  • Project planning and management: Civil engineers develop plans for construction projects, and oversee every aspect from the start to completion of the project.
  • Structural analysis: Through their analysis and design, they are responsible for ensuring the safety and integrity of buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.
  • Infrastructure development: They are responsible for the smooth functioning of urban communities by designing and maintaining crucial systems like water supply, sewage and transportation.

Specialisations within civil engineering

Civil engineering is a broad field, and professionals often specialise in areas such as:

  • Structural engineering: This focuses on designing and analysing structures like buildings and bridges, to ensure they are strong, safe, and can withstand different conditions.
  • Geotechnical engineering: This involves understanding the properties of soil and rocks in order to provide solutions for foundations, slopes and earthworks in construction projects.
  • Transportation engineering: This deals with designing and planning transportation systems such as roads, highways, and transit systems to ensure efficient and safe movement of people and goods.

The impact of civil engineering on everyday life

Civil engineering projects go beyond mere construction; they are integral to the improvement of daily life, including:

  • Community development: Civil engineers contribute to building important community infrastructure like schools, healthcare facilities and public spaces.
  • Water Management: Civil engineers play a crucial role in developing sustainable water supply projects which go a long way to addressing our water scarcity challenges.

Technology and innovation in civil engineering

Technology has transformed the field of civil engineering, introducing innovative methods that make the field more productive. These innovations include:

  • Building information modeling (BIM): A digital approach which has revolutionised how construction projects are planned, designed and managed. This has led to improved collaboration and efficiency.
  • Drones and remote sensing: These technologies are changing how civil engineering works. They give real-time data that greatly improves surveying and monitoring and positively impacts how projects are managed.

Sustainability and environmental responsibility

Positives in this area include:

  • Green building practices: Civil engineers use eco-friendly materials and designs to make sure construction has less of an impact on the environment.
  • Waste reduction: They also put into practice plans to create less waste during construction and promote sustainable practices.

Looking for a career in civil engineering?

Embarking on a career in civil engineering in South Africa offers a world of opportunities. Here's what prospective civil engineers need to know:

  • Education: Pursue a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from a recognised institution like The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), through Varsity College, and study a curriculum that has been designed by top engineers. This degree covers essential subjects like mathematics, physics and key engineering principles.
  • Specialisations: Civil engineering offers a range of specialisations such as transportation, environmental or structural engineering. You can choose a path that matches your interests and goals, allowing you to determine your career path.
  • Skills development: Alongside your formal education, focus on developing practical skills. You can get hands-on experience through internships, projects or getting involved in relevant extracurricular activities.
  • Job prospects: The civil engineering field in South Africa is dynamic, with ongoing infrastructure development projects. This creates job opportunities in both the public and private sectors. Stay updated on industry trends to identify emerging opportunities.
  • Professional development: Joining professional organisations or undertaking extra relevant study will not only improve your CV but will help you stay connected to the ever-changing field of civil engineering.

What does the future hold for civil engineers?

Looking ahead, there are some exciting things in store for civil engineering in South Africa:

  • Smart cities: Cities that use technology in order to function more efficiently and stay connected.
  • Renewable energy infrastructure: Designing structures that use clean and green energy sources.
  • Innovative materials: Exploring the use of new materials for construction to make structures more sustainable.

About The IIE’s Varsity College

The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) of which Varsity College is a brand, is South Africa’s largest registered and accredited private provider of higher education. At Varsity College we understand that no two students are the same or learn the same. That’s why we make sure a student’s education is shaped around them; how they like to learn, what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, and what makes them thrive. Our Education by Design approach allows students to grow into their best and creates a space where they can live, learn and play – their way.