Jobs and Skills Sets: Civil Engineering
When we talk of civil engineering, the first things to come to mind are buildings and bridges. Truly, they are the most obvious and conspicuous creations by civil engineers. But did you know that civil engineering has been around ever since people decided to give up nomadic culture and put a roof over their head. In fact it is one of the oldest forms of engineering that we have today.
Civil engineering is a very exciting profession as at the end of the day you can see the results in concrete form (pun intended). Traditionally this form of engineering has many sub-disciplines like architectural engineering, geotechnical engineering, forensic engineering, and many more.
But whatever the details of their roles, civil engineers must often manage very complex projects, so if you have entertained a notion of becoming a civil engineer, you need to first of all have a basic knowledge about the basic skills that are required for becoming a civil engineer. The following skills are those required besides the specific skill sets based on your chosen civil engineering specialization:
A very useful skill to have, leadership does seem to crop up in most professions, but, ultimately it is the engineer who carries the responsibility of an entire project’s design as well as its implementation. The engineer has to take up the lead of what is typically a very diverse team that includes surveyors, construction managers, technicians, contractors, architects, urban planners, transportation engineers and others. They also need to maintain the confidence of the involved planning authorities.
The effectiveness of the civil engineer’s leadership skills are a major factor in keeping any project on time and on budget.
Many a time civil engineers are faced with complex problems. They need to be ready to analyze strengths and weaknesses of possible solutions and come up with the most reasonable approach in dealing with them.
Another one of the most important skills that a civil engineer must have is the ability to imagine how something will look when it is finished and visualize how every complex component will come together to form the finished product. They must have very flexible and dynamic visualization skills so they can identify and resolve issues even before they become fully fledged problems.
In large-scale projects there are a lot of complex components and a civil engineer needs to be prepared to envision how the interrelationships are affected when one or more individual aspect is changed.
As mentioned above, civil engineers need to be great leaders, and one of the marks of a great leader is their impeccable communication skills. As the engineers interact with a wide variety of professionals, each from a different background and area of expertise, they need to be active listeners so they can get the full benefit from the ideas of their own team as well as from others involved. It is a very important aspect of leadership; one should always be open to hear new ideas. They also need to be able to communicate their own ideas effectively, keeping in mind the diverse backgrounds of their team.
At the end of the day, the project is the engineer’s baby. They need to be the ones managing it every step of the way, evaluating everyone’s work and responsibilities, making sure that everything is in compliance with the applicable laws, regulations and standards. The success and reputation of a civil engineer depends heavily on their ability to accurately estimate costs, resources and materials as well as the time that will be taken to complete the various aspects of the project.
In the last position because of the obviousness of the requirement of this skill, one has to realize that civil engineering is not an easy job and it has a lot of responsibilities, and so needs a lot of skills as well. A civil engineer must have advanced skills in mathematics, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus and statistics. For all those who asked why we need to learn mathematics in school – civil engineers need those formulas and knowledge to apply in their design work as well as problem solving.
As budgets and costs too are an integral part of such projects, a civil engineer must also be good at reading and interpreting financial statements and spreadsheets.
Similarly Physics and practical application of scientific rules, methods and technology is equally important (for example design principles, construction methods and materials, soil analysis, and numerous other environmental factors.
A civil engineer must also be proficient in architectural design techniques to enable him to work with blueprints, maps, drawings and models, as well as computer programs used in architectural design and construction.
So how many of these skills do you already have and how many do you need to work on? Feel free to share your own opinion / experience / thoughts with us in the comments section.