Civil Engineering

March 10, 2009 at 6:33 am 2 comments

Civil Engineering as a career

Civil engineers are the quiet, unsung heroes of the engineering fraternity. While engineers from other branches work in quiet offices or noisy shop floors, the civil engineers’ theatre of operations are the great outdoors.

Civil engineers blast roads through the strongest mountains to make our journeys shorter. They build the massive dams that generate all our hydroelectricity and the reservoirs that capture rainwater in the monsoon so that people can have water through the long summer months. They design the amazing bridges – across rivers, across the sea, across deep mountain ravines – that can take the load of thousands of vehicles every day for years and years without breaking down. They build the flyovers, the airports, the sports stadiums, the sprawling factories and the underground transport systems. It is civil engineers who go in where others haven’t dared, especially in wartime, as they build roads, construct bridges, and clear forests to facilitate the movement of troops.

Whether it is the world-class Mumbai-Pune Expressway or the Sapporo Dome in Japan that played host to some of the most exciting 2002 World Cup football matches, the border roads between India and Pakistan where building is as difficult as it is dangerous or the underground train systems of London, Paris, Kolkata and Delhi, the Konkan Railway that connects Mumbai and Mangalore, an engineering marvel that incorporates 2,000 bridges and 92 tunnels or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Pyramids of Egypt or the massive apartment block in your city, it is teams of brilliant civil and structural engineers who have made it possible.

Are you Civil Engineering material?

If you want to be a civil engineer, you need to:

Have a love of the outdoor life – most of the civil engineer’s life is spent at the mercy of the weather elements, be it sweltering sunshine or pouring rain.

Be more or less happy with your own company – civil engineers are usually the only ones on the building team with such a high level of education.

Be a patient kind of person – civil engineering projects usually take years and years to complete, and almost always take longer than what they were supposed to take.

Be able to handle large teams of blue-collar workers.

Be excited by the thought of designing and then overseeing the construction of gigantic structures.

You should not be:

A creature of the city. While there are city-based projects open to civil engineers, like building sky scrapers or flyovers or underground rail systems, there are definitely more projects in remote locations. Manufacturing and chemical plants, projects involving the railways, interstate highways, dams, and power plants situated mostly very far away from cities.

Someone who loves the good life – you will have to learn to live without the modern luxuries such as air conditioning, big cars, posh restaurants, and more, at least while you are on a project outside a city.

What do civil engineers do?

Civil engineers are required where anything needs to be constructed – whether it is a building, a factory, a bridge, a dam or any such structure. The presence of the civil engineer is required prior to construction, during construction, as well as after the construction.

A civil engineer’s job is perhaps more physically demanding than any other kind of engineer’s. You will spend days outdoors when you are on a project. In the first phase, you will survey the land, take soil samples, check the depth of the water table, and so on. This will help you decide what to do next – maybe, you will need to do some blasting if the ground is rocky, or drain some water out if the land is swampy. Testing the soil will also help you decide what type of foundation your structure will need and how deep it should be.

Once building starts, you will be supervising large teams of contract laborers. Apart from handling all the unexpected problems that come up while building, you will also have to manage your team. As head of the project, you have to keep workers’ welfare in mind while also making sure you finish the project within time. You will have to negotiate with your workers on wages, holidays, providing temporary shelters close to work site and so on. You will have to do it well, if you don’t want them to go on strike and bring all building work to an abrupt halt.


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Wilfried  |  March 25, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Are you serious with all of that? True is: they are heroes and we owe respect to what they do. In contrary to many other branches in engineering there is no place for chitchat, stupid behaviour and megalomania.
    I’m not an engineer but I like to work with them!

  • 2. futuremap  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Look out for more posts, on the subject, coming up shortly.

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