Your Career In… Civil Engineering

Civil engineering deals with the construction of massive projects in the built and natural environment. Roads, bridges, canals, dams and even buildings fall under its auspices but despite the scope of the discipline, the UK is currently suffering a massive skills shortage.

Service-leavers may already have impressive experience in large engineering projects. Camp Bastian, for example, wasn’t a mirage but a city raised from scratch in the desert, by British Soldiers. Between 2005 and 2014 it served as the logistics hub for operations in Helmand and accommodated around 32,000 people. The current marketplace for talent of this calibre means that the outlook for those aiming to resettle into roles in the civil engineering sector has rarely been better.

Last year the Royal Academy of Engineering estimated that over one million new civil engineers would be required until 2020. Almost half of recruiters surveyed by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) suggested that civil engineering vacancies were the most difficult to place candidates in, due to the lack of skills available.

Civil engineering companies look for technical competence (borne from training), strong numeracy and IT skills, excellent communication and team-working skills, an ability to work within budgets, attention to detail and an ability to oversee large projects as well as negotiation and leadership skills, along with a creative approach to problem-solving. These make it an incredibly attractive opportunity for Service-leavers who have developed many of these attributes throughout their Service.

Good prospects

Civil engineering is also a lucrative option. Typical graduate starting salaries for civil engineers are around £24,000 and these grow to around £30,000 with five years of experience. However, the average salary for members of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is much higher, at around £50,000 per year.

Those wishing to become civil engineers require an Honours degree level qualification in Civil or Structural Engineering. The Institution of Civil Engineers have accredited the courses of a number of universities and finding one in your area will be key to ensuring membership with the organisation later.

Typically employers look for candidates with relevant experience in the industry rather than educational qualifications beyond honours level. With that in mind, choosing a course which offers a year in the industry may be prudent.


After achieving Chartered Engineer (MICE CEng) status with the ICE, there are a number of courses and other forms of professional development available that enable members to reach new heights within the industry. As well as structured training and development, these schemes also provide support through a mentor or supervising civil engineer.

There are a wide variety of jobs available to graduate members of the ICE and as many as 62% find employment before, or immediately after, they graduate. Both private and public sector employers are looking for engineers to work on projects including massive transport constructions like new motorways or major structural improvements to transport infrastructure including the likes of High Speed 2, etc. There are even opportunities to work on sustainable and green projects through the Environment Agency and private sector organisations. These new skills and approaches are becoming vital in the industry and new graduates are able to offer excellent insight into the latest approaches.

Latterly there are opportunities for civil engineers to move into management and directorship roles in their chosen sector thanks to fellowship within the Institution of Civil Engineers.


According to ICE, qualifications gained while in the Military can provide the academic qualifications required by ICE. This together with relevant experience, which may be obtained in or out of Military service, would enable progression to professional qualification with the Institution. Detailed guidance can be found through our online Routes to Membership tool, or by contacting a local Membership Development Officer. Find out more at:

ICE also told Civvy Street that a new Associate Membership level for people with experience in working on civil engineering projects (in lieu of higher qualifications) has been voted through by members but requires the approval of the Privy Council (no less) because ICE has a Royal Charter.

Institution of Civil Engineers:

Despite estimates by the Royal Academy of Engineering regarding skills shortages, women are still being underutilised and account for less than 10% of the total workforce.

Women’s Engineering Society:

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