Do you apply to a ‘graduate scheme’ or a ‘graduate job’ if you want to work in civil engineering?
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'.
Find out more about the different civil and structural engineering specialisms and disciplines.
Choosing which area of engineering specialism to go for is a dilemma for many students: read this fire engineer’s account of how he chose his specialism. Note: it will give you an advantage in the recruitment process if your degree modules strongly align with the specialism you are applying for.
Most graduate jobs and schemes are advertised by:
- Construction or engineering companies, which typically fall into the category of ‘consultant’ or ‘contractor’
- Rail and other infrastructure and utilities companies
- Local authorities and government departments
How do you apply for a job as a graduate civil engineer or graduate structural engineer?
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 you talk about 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.
A recruiter from Arup looks at sample application answers and tells us whether the answers would get them an interview: read the answers and verdicts here.
Read our advice on handling technical interviews and some of the non-technical interview questions you could be asked by a built environment employer.
Check out, too, what a graduate engineer at Balfour Beatty has to say about her experiences at assessment centres.
Will Brexit affect my civil engineering job hunt?
Engineers, including civil and structural, are among the shortage occupations listed by the government, which suggests that graduate civil and structural engineers will still be sought after. It’s worth noting, though, that the number and type of projects in an employer's pipeline will determine how many jobs they offer in different specialisms; it might be that there will be more jobs in areas that the government have outlined as strategically important, such as rail projects and housing, than in other areas.
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.
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).
Find out whether an MEng, MSc or doctorate is better for your civil engineering job prospects.
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
See our advice on how to develop the non-technical skills needed by civil and structural engineers.