Graduate jobs in civil and structural engineering
How do you get a job in civil or structural engineering?
Most graduate-level vacancies are advertised by:
- Construction or engineering companies, which fall into the category of ‘consultant’ or ‘contractor’
- Rail and other infrastructure and utilities companies
- Local authorities and government departments
Many of the larger employers require graduate candidates to have, or be on track for, a 2.1, but a good number will also accept 2.2s. Smaller employers will have a straightforward recruitment process, often comprising an application and an interview or two; larger employers will follow a more complicated process, including online aptitude tests as well as an online application, a telephone interview (or, rarely, a video interview) and an assessment day.
You should expect your technical knowledge to be assessed, either through technical questions asked during an interview or through an individual or group technical problem set during an assessment centre (this problem is sometimes called a case study). It is wise to bring along a model or a presentation of some of your course work to an interview. You will be able to answer questions about your projects confidently and, if it is a project you are passionate about, your enthusiasm will shine through; engineering employers want passion for the technical problem-solving nature of the work, as much as they do technical understanding.Read our advice on handling technical assessments.
What degree background do you need to be a graduate civil engineer or a structural engineer?
The degree should be accredited by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) or the Institution of Structural Engineers – usually, this means that it is a BEng or MEng in civil engineering or structural engineering or a joint honours with another engineering discipline.
Do you apply to a graduate scheme or a graduate job?
Civil and structural engineers can apply to individual graduate jobs or to a graduate scheme. While roles can be advertised as generic 'civil engineering' jobs, they are more likely to be advertised as part of a particular type of project or team – for example, 'power' or 'highways'.
It will give you an advantage in the recruitment process if your degree modules strongly align with the specialism you are applying for.
The number and type of projects in an employer's pipeline will determine how many jobs they offer in different specialisms; if you want to work in a particular specialism, it is wise to do some research and shortlist employers with a strong track record in your area of interest.
Will a BEng get you a graduate job or do you need an MEng or an MSc?
Most employers prefer candidates to have an MEng or a masters degree because they are eligible to study for chartered professional status rather than incorporated status, and employers want as many engineers as possible to be chartered. However, many employers do accept applications from BEng students, especially for their harder to fill roles (which vary according to the employer).
What are the deadlines for jobs?
Some civil engineering employers set deadlines early in the academic year, but many will keep re-opening vacancies until they are filled. This means that there will be employers still hiring right into the summer months, but these vacancies might not be in the specialist area or in the location that you would like.
What is it like to work as a civil engineer or a structural engineer?
This depends on the employer you work for:
- If you work for a consultancy, you will work on the design stage of a project, so you will be using computer software to create/refine designs or you will gather data. You will be based in an office and work reasonably standard office hours; you will be liaising with clients, construction contractors, suppliers and other professionals. It's likely you'll work on a number of projects simultaneously
- If you work for a contractor, you'll tend to work on one project at a time. You will be actually constructing the project and be responsible for ensuring that the designs are implemented correctly. You will be based on the construction site, supervising construction workers (subcontractors) and liaising with the consultants if there are problems with the design. The working day tends to be longer than for consultants and shift work is common.
- If you work for another organisation, such as a local authority or a utility or rail company, your role will vary according to the employer's needs. You may be managing projects or overseeing designs - or you might be working out on site in a role similar to that of a contractor.
All civil and structural engineers liaise with other types of engineers.It is not unusual –¬ especially if you work for a contractor –- to have to be flexible with regards to your location, that is to relocate or to have a longer commute to work.
What are the top skills that'll get you a job in civil or structural engineering?
All civil and engineering graduates need sound technical knowledge, but alongside this they need some non-technical skills, including:
- Problem solving, innovative thinking and creativity
- A logical mindset
- Relationship-building and teamwork
- Influencing skills
- The ability to change your communication style according to whom you are speaking: other engineers might require technical detail, while clients might require a broad overview
- Time management and organisation
- Commercial awareness: understanding how wider political and economic events can affect the pipeline of projects