Types of civil engineering jobs and their primary duties

Updated 10 November 2023

Civil engineers play a significant role in the maintenance and development of the public environment. They design and construct infrastructures such as roads, bridges, airports, pipelines, dams and railways. If you've decided to pursue a career in civil engineering, it's important to know the different types of civil engineering fields to decide which area to pursue. In this article, we explore the different types of civil engineering jobs, their average base salary, their primary responsibilities and the skills needed to succeed in this profession.

Related: 10 Types of Engineer Jobs (With Salaries)

Types of civil engineering jobs

There are different types of civil engineering jobs that individuals can practise. Below are some examples:

Geotechnical engineer

National average salary: £37,123 per year

Primary duties: Geotechnical engineering is the study of the behaviour of soils and their properties to assist in the development of structural foundations. Geotechnical engineers check the quality of the soil where a civil structure is already existing or where construction is to begin. This is most especially in areas that are prone to landslides and flooding. They identify and analyse the environmental risks that could affect the structural fitness of the project and ensure the safety of the workers. These professionals often know soil science, earth-retention structures, theory of vibrations and experimental soil mechanics.

Related: What is civil engineering? (Definition and types)

Structural engineer

National average salary: £39,138 per year

Primary duties: Structural engineers analyse and design the physical structures of infrastructures such as bridges and railway lines. They work to ensure that the buildings or structures are not only aesthetically pleasing but also structurally sound. They take measurements and perform calculations to determine the weight a structure can carry in its lifespan and ensure they're durable enough to withstand the pressure.

Structural engineers also conduct risk assessments at the beginning of a construction project to determine the appropriate materials needed for a serviceable and safe structure. This ensures that the building can withstand environmental conditions like flooding and strong winds.

Related: How to become a structural engineer (plus salary)

Fire engineer

National average salary: £30,840 per year

Primary duties: A fire engineer designs and provides advice on fire safety measures for new buildings and older buildings undergoing renovations. They assess and identify structural flaws in structures that violate fire safety regulations, such as buildings with improper exits, smoke detector placements or emergency exit signs. Fire engineers also analyse the construction of a building and make the necessary adjustments to the building's features and layouts to ensure they meet up with industry fire regulations and legislative requirements. This helps to protect lives, environments and properties from the risk of fire.

Related: 12 examples of jobs in the fire service (with salary info)

Traffic engineer

National average salary: £44,510 per year

Primary duties: A traffic engineer is also sometimes referred to as a transport engineer. They share the responsibility of designing roadways to enable the convenient flow of automobiles and reduce the amount of traffic buildup. They also study assigned roads and make recommendations on traffic safety enhancement projects to ensure the safety of the public. Traffic engineers work in collaboration with a construction team to determine the safest and most efficient path to construct the road. They're not only limited to working on-road transportation, but they also work on aeroplane, boat, pedestrian and train travel.

Water hygiene engineer

National average salary: £26,135 per year

Primary duties: Water engineering seeks to understand how natural water bodies respond to human intervention. Water hygiene engineers work to enhance the quantity and quality of water resources in a particular locality. They do this by building and maintaining structures that can hold water, such as canals, dams and water distribution systems. They also manage and monitor the supply of clean water in specific areas to avoid it depleting without replacement. Water engineers also construct sewage systems and monitor coastal waters to prevent flooding. To efficiently carry out their duties, they receive in-depth training in meteorology, hydrology and resource management.

Related: 20 jobs that help the environment (with duties and salaries)

Environmental engineer

National average salary: £31,839 per year

Primary duties: Environmental engineering is that branch of civil engineering that studies how the environment reacts to projects. They identify and conduct detailed analyses on the environmental impact of projects on the surroundings and provide adequate solutions to mitigate the problems. They collaborate with cities and districts and work to treat water, manage waste, solve water pollution problems and improve the quality of water or air in a specific area. Environmental engineers have a strong knowledge of hydrology and atmospheric science. Their main goal is to assist in developing projects with the least impact on the environment.

Read more:

  • How to become an environmental engineer

  • 15 environmental engineering jobs (with salaries and duties)

Marine engineer

National average salary: £33,410 per year

Primary duties: A marine engineer is responsible for building, designing and testing water transportation apparatus such as ships, boats, yachts, deep-sea drilling equipment and underwater craft. Using their extensive knowledge of physics, they create and design long-lasting and heavy-duty modes of transportation. They are also skilled in maintaining and repairing auxiliary machines and propulsion engines of marine machinery systems. Marine engineers perform other functions such as fuel oil bunkering, proper record-keeping and inspection of marine equipment to ensure they're in perfect condition.

Related: How to become a marine engineer (with salary and job info)

Highway engineer

National average salary: £40,966 per year

Primary duties: Highways and roads are important transportation routes for man and goods. It's the duty of highway engineers to construct and maintain major structures like roadways, tunnels and flyovers to ensure safe commutes. They work with other professionals to plan road improvement projects and design road schemes and networks. They also supervise construction teams, administer risk assessments and prepare tender documents for contracts. Highway engineers adhere to safety and health guidelines and also work to provide solutions to transport issues.

Related: How to become a highway engineer in 7 steps (with tips)

Civil engineer

National average salary: £36,770 per year

Primary duties: Civil engineers design, plan and manage huge construction projects like buildings, bridges, sewage systems and transport links. They repair and perform relevant checks to ensure the functionality of the infrastructure. They also create the project blueprints using data from surveys, computer modelling software, tests and maps. Civil engineers also assess costs, materials and potential risks involved in the construction while taking into consideration environmental factors, government regulations and durability of the project.

Related: How to become a civil engineer: a comprehensive guide

Project engineer

National average salary: £39,263 per year

Primary duties: Project engineers are the intermediaries between the construction team and the owner of the project. They oversee and manage different aspects of a project, including planning, construction and budgeting. Depending on the size and dynamics of the project, the project engineer trains the construction staff and ensures they adhere to stipulated safety requirements. They also identify engineering problems and prefer solutions to them. At different stages of the project, project engineers conduct evaluations to ensure alignment with the project plan and make alterations where necessary.

Read more: Engineering skills: definition and examples

Skills needed to become a civil engineer

There are diverse sets of skills civil engineers use to carry out their responsibilities. Below are some of the major necessary skills:

  • Project management skills: During construction, civil engineers often supervise and manage the activities of other professionals such as technicians, construction managers, surveyors, planners and labourers. They need project management skills to effectively coordinate the project, set goals and create work plans.

  • Numerical skills: Mathematics and physics are important for resolving complex engineering challenges. Strong numerical skills and good knowledge of mathematics and physics help in calculating and determining the technical requirements for projects.

  • Organisation skills: Civil engineers often work with projects that have specific or tight deadlines. Organisational skills help civil engineers to balance their tasks with their deadlines while ensuring that the project is executed in an orderly manner.

  • Communication skills: Most civil engineering projects are constructed for public benefit and interest. Strong communication skills help civil engineers explain their written and verbal technical plans to the average person clearly and simply.

  • Problem-solving skills: Every stage of a construction project comes with a unique set of challenges. Civil engineers need problem-solving skills to generate creative and long-lasting solutions to these technical issues.

  • Technical skills: The complex nature of many civil engineering projects requires these professionals to have good knowledge of computer software needed to complete different projects. Their knowledge of mathematics and physics also helps to ensure that the project is technically and structurally sound.

  • Critical thinking skills: Civil engineers often come across different on and off-site challenges which require solutions. With critical thinking skills, they're able to come up with the most appropriate solution to the problem.

  • Interpersonal skills: Depending on the size of the project, engineers often work in a team. Interpersonal skills help you to interact efficiently with your employers and collaborate effectively with your team members.

  • Attention to detail: The smallest mistakes when carrying out an engineering project can lead to loss of money, time and energy. Engineers need precision, accuracy and attention to detail when handling projects.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

Related:

  • Technologist vs engineer: what is the difference?

  • How To Write a Civil Engineer Cover Letter (With Examples)

  • What is consultancy in civil engineering? (With duties)

  • How to become a traffic engineer (including duties)

  • A guide to civil engineer skills (and how to improve them)


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