Civil engineers (NOC 2131)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Civil engineers plan, design, develop and manage projects for constructing or repairing building structures and systems. This includes:

  • Buildings
  • Earth and water retaining structures
  • Roads, bridges and tunnels
  • Airports
  • Railways and rapid transit facilities
  • Canals and dams
  • Ports and coastal systems
  • Systems related to highway transportation services, water distribution, and sanitation

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a civil engineer is like.

Civil engineers work in a wide range of industries including construction, transportation, waterways and utilities. People in this job can work for both the private and public sectors, which includes engineering consulting companies, construction firms, and government organizations. Civil engineers can work as employees for a company or can be self-employed.

Civil engineers may specialize in foundation analysis, building and structural inspection, surveying, geomatics and municipal planning.

Common job titles
  • engineer, appraisal
  • engineer, architectural
  • engineer, asphalt / highway
  • engineer, bridge / tunnel / builiding
  • engineer, cartographic / mapping
  • engineer, civil - environmental

Duties

In general, civil engineers:

  • Work with clients and other members of the engineering team
  • Research and identify project needs
  • Plan and design large projects such as buildings, roads, highways, bridges, dams and waste management systems
  • Review and approve designs, calculations and cost estimates
  • Create construction guidelines and procedures and make sure that plans meet building code requirements and other regulations
  • Review and recommend project materials
  • Approve proposals for construction projects and prepare contracts
  • Supervise technicians, technologists and other engineers
  • Organize and oversee construction work schedules
  • Act as the project or site supervisor for land survey or construction work
  • Investigate the feasibility of a project, prepare economic analyses reports, carry out municipal and regional traffic studies, and environmental impact studies
  • Oversee air, water and soil quality, and develop processes to clean up contaminated sites
  • Prepare reports, including those about technical survey and field data on the topographic (natural land features) and hydrological (natural water features) before development

Work environment

Work is usually performed in an office, but civil engineers also visit outdoor work or project sites. A civil engineer must be able to work in various weather conditions. A civil engineer’s office can be at their employer’s place of work, a client’s office, or a home office. Access to technology makes working from home easier because people in this job can complete most of their work remotely. They often attend project planning and review meetings either in person or by remote conference call.

A civil engineer usually works regular office hours (Monday to Friday), but large projects may require the civil engineer to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.

Insights from industry

Civil engineers work with people with a diverse range of skills and roles on a project. Good communication skills are needed for project meetings with supervisors, clients, other employees and partners. In addition, civil engineers can be asked to present project reports to clients, government officials or the public, and at conferences.

People with this job must understand the sustainable – or green – elements related to how a project will affect the environment. Project plans need to address sustainability, the impact of the project on the environment and how it will affect the community where it is being built.

People in this career often work with others who have diverse backgrounds and skills sets, experience and knowledge, which can help the civil engineer continue to grow in their career and learn on the job.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Additional education and experience from working on a range of projects provides the necessary opportunities to move into supervisory or senior positions. Some civil engineers reported their first jobs were working for companies on big projects, before gaining enough experience to open their own civil engineering consulting firms.

Additional resources