A college student recently sent me a list of questions regarding what its like to be a civil engineer. I answered him directly and thought I would post the questions and responses here for you all.
My responses are bulleted.
What drew you to the civil engineering field?
- The things that drew me to civil engineering were the size of projects and the ability to design something that makes a positive impact on society
What least interests you about your work?
- When projects are big enough, we sometimes have to do many of the same type of calculation over and over again for different areas of a project. At times like this the job gets quite repetitive and can drag on. But these situations are rare.
How did you come across engineering?
- I came across engineering because I was good at science during high school. I thought about going into a scientific field but that was too theoretical for me. I decided to become an engineer because it is the practical application of science.
What personal qualities help you in this job?
- A quality that would help any type of engineer is a thirst for knowledge and personal responsibility for professional development.
If anything, what frustrates you at work?
- Unlike many engineers, civil engineering involves politics. A new residential development may make complete sense on paper, but if the existing neighbors can mount enough opposition, the project can be terminated. It is somewhat frustrating but it is part of the job. Therefore we try to design projects that are acceptable to both our clients and the adjoining neighbors.
What do you like best about your job?
- I love visiting the project sites after they are constructed. To see what you have designed come into being and to see people using the facilities is very rewarding.
What are your daily tasks?
- Tasks vary greatly from day to day. Typical things that I do are:
Storm water runoff calculations
Sewer pipe sizing
Water system analysis
Signing and striping plans for a new road
Drafting of engineering plans
Meeting with clients and public officials to discuss projects
Attend city council and board of supervisor meetings
Construction cost estimates
Existing utility investigations
Construction site visits or inspection
Coordination with surveyors
And much more.
What type of training is needed for this job?
- Typically a B.S. degree in civil engineering is required for entry into the field.
Is this field growing?
- There is a HUGE need to improve the infrastructure of the country. However, current political policy and economic situation make improvements to the existing infrastructure a low priority. Added to that is the decline in the housing and development market which is expected to pick up in the coming years. I expect the need for civil engineers to grow as the aging infrastructure fails. However for now it is fairly stagnant.
How many hours are in your typical day?
- I typically spend about nine hours a day at work. But when there are deadlines that number can go up to 12 but those days are rare.
Are there any competitors in this field?
- Absolutely, however there are some civil engineering firms that are highly specialized and do not face intense competition. For example, there are some civil engineers who work exclusively on deep excavation retaining walls. These types of firms have a high expertise in one area and it is difficult for others to compete with them.
How do you deal with displeased clients?
- We do our best to provide a high level of service to our clients to avoid any issues, but when they do come up we are always professional and make sure we understand the client’s complaint fully. As I mentioned earlier, we identify the issue and try and resolve it or make changes so it won’t happen again.
Would you do anything differently while working your way up?
- I would have attended more networking events at the beginning of my career. I have found that jobs and projects are easier to get when people know your face and have shaken your hand.
Do you have any suggestions for someone interested in engineering?
- Do as many internships as possible so you know what kind of company and work you like. And don’t get stressed out about work.
I hope you enjoyed the mini interview. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the comment section or email me directly.
Thanks for reading.