Civil engineer

Construction and building

Career outlook for civil engineer

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would plan, design and manage construction for infrastructure projects like transport, water, flood alleviation, building structures, etc.

You’d explain your ideas to the client and make sure that the project is finished on time and to budget.

The projects you’d work on could be anything from bridges and tall buildings to transport links and sports arenas.

You could work in one of these specialist areas:

  • Structural - dams, buildings, offshore platforms and pipelines
  • Transportation – roads, railways, canals and airports
  • Environmental – water supply networks, drainage and flood barriers
  • Maritime – ports, harbours and sea defences
  • Geotechnical – mining, earthworks and construction foundations.

You might work on feasibility and design, preparing drawings, models and specifications in a design office, or work on site ensuring the construction work is completed accurately, on time and to budget.

At the start of the project you would:

  • Plan the project requirements with your client and colleagues
  • Use computer modelling software to analyse data from surveys, tests and maps
  • Create computer aided designs and models
  • Assess the environmental impact and the risks of a project

Once a project is underway you would:

  • Direct and check the progress during each stage of a project
  • Make sure the construction site meets the legal, and health and safety, requirements.
  • Report to your clients, public agencies and planning organisations

You’d work closely with other professionals such as architects, other engineering disciplines, surveyors and building contractors.

Working conditions


You would normally work between 35 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You may also have to provide out-of-hours cover to deal with any problems.


If working for a design consultancy, your time would be split between an office and the project site. If working for a contractor building the project, you would spend most of your time on site, which could be in all weathers.


Site work may involve a lot of travel. Depending on the contract, you may sometimes need to travel overseas.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Cooperating
  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Problem solving
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Time management

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Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

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You can become a civil engineer by doing a Modern Apprenticeship, Graduate Apprenticeship, or part-time or full-time college or university courses leading to qualifications such as SVQ, NC, HNC, HND, BEng or MEng degrees. There are clear progression routes from each level.

You can enter Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 5 qualifications and one to two Highers or a relevant National Certificate.

To enter a BEng or MEng degree (SCQF level 9/10) usually requires National 5 qualifications and four to five Highers or a relevant HND.

Useful subjects

Most courses require:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Physics, another science or Engineering Science

Helpful to have

Civil engineering covers a wide range of subjects, so any science, social science or artistic/creative subjects will help. Other skills outside of academic qualifications are very important, such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, creativity and resilience.