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Career opportunities in civil and structural engineering

Where can you get work experience in civil engineering or structural engineering?

Internships and placements in civil and structural engineering can typically be found within:

  • construction contractors and consultancies
  • large engineering consultancies operating in the construction industry
  • utilities and rail companies
  • the public sector

Most employers offer summer internships and sandwich-year placements (also known as years-in-industry or year placements). Traditionally, these are open to applications from penultimate-year students, but a few might be open to students in lower years.

First years should look out for insight days and weeks, attend site tours and approach smaller organisations to see if they can provide work experience: this is how to write a speculative application for work experience .

In what specialisms can you be a civil engineering intern or placement student?

A few employers will post an advertisement for, say, ‘a civil engineering internship’ and you could be placed in a number of divisions; others will advertise specific internships for certain divisions such as ‘bridge engineering intern’, ‘rail engineering placement student’ or ‘structural engineer placement – buildings’.

To read about the main specialisms in which you may be placed, see our article about the three career decisions civil and structural engineering students have to make.

What are the deadlines for applying for civil engineering internships?

Deadlines for civil and structural engineering placements and internships are moving earlier and earlier in the academic year. It used to be that most opportunities wouldn’t open until the new year and close in the spring, but increasingly deadlines are set in the autumn term and only re-opened if they need more applications.

What can I do if I don’t get a civil engineering internship?

Getting work experience in civil and structural engineering will give you an advantage when you start applying for graduate jobs – in fact, you may be offered a job on the back of your internship – but engineering recruiters also value any engineering-related work experience. They realise that civil engineering graduates have the choice of entering a range of engineering sectors and expect you to have tried a few out to help you make an informed decision.

But remember that anything that proves your interest in construction and civil engineering will be advantageous. This could include going on site tours, getting involved in the student groups of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Institution of Structural Engineers; keeping up to date with sustainable techniques or taking part in design and essay competitions.

Get more ideas on what to do if you don't get a formal placement.

What should you expect from the recruitment process for engineering placements?

For larger employers you usually need to fill in an application form (which often, but not always, includes submitting a CV), taking online aptitude tests (numeracy tests are the most common), and attending an assessment day or interview. These will mirror the employer's graduate recruitment processes, as many employers will hire you after your internship, so take a look at the applications, interviews and assessment centre advice on our civil engineering homepage, even if the headline says the content is for graduates. You may be asked technical questions in an interview or to complete a technical exercise – if so, it will be based on what you will have learned on your course.