What Is a Construction Engineer? (Career Guide with FAQs)
Construction engineering is a broad field with many career opportunities in different industries, including business, government and manufacturing. If you're interested in using math and science principles to design new construction projects, this could be a great field for you. Learning more about this career, including the common duties and career steps, may help you decide if it's something you want to pursue.
In this article, we explain what a construction engineer is, show what they do, list the different careers within this engineering field and answer commonly asked questions about this career to help you decide if it's right for you.
Related: 10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs
What is a construction engineer?
A construction engineer is a civil engineer who oversees the design and building process of construction projects. These professionals work to ensure buildings, projects and construction teams are safe. They may also help design infrastructure systems, such as roads, dams, water supply systems and buildings. They typically work with a team of fellow engineers and construction crews to organise and complete projects.
Related: What Is a Civil Engineer and How to Become One
What does a construction engineer do?
A construction engineer oversees building designs and projects. They can specialise in a certain type of construction or an area of engineering, such as environmental engineering.
Their duties can vary depending on their area of focus, but common responsibilities may include:
developing construction project budgets
gathering resources, including employees, tools, machines and physical materials
operating machinery, inspecting equipment and using tools
using computer software to plan and design projects
overseeing progress and safety on construction sites
reviewing the project's design to ensure it's structurally correct
evaluating a project's structural, electrical and mechanical condition before, during and after building.
Related: What Are Common Civil Engineer Skills? (With Examples)
Construction engineer careers
Construction engineers may pursue a variety of career paths and specialisations. Here are some of the job titles you may have within the field of construction engineering:
Civil engineers specialise in designing large infrastructure projects. Construction engineers in this field may work to build new roads, bridges and dams. They may also complete large construction projects for public buildings.
Related: 38 Example Entry-Level Civil Engineering Interview Questions
Environmental engineers use knowledge of math and science to solve environmental challenges. Construction engineers may work in this field to create designs that are safe for particular environments. They may also design new construction projects, such as waste management centres or water supply facilities.
Structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering that focuses on creating construction designs. These professionals oversee other engineers, create structural drawings and perform calculations to ensure buildings are safe structurally. They may work on construction sites, overseeing the building process.
Read more: How to Become a Structural Engineer
A field engineer specialises in construction technologies. They may inspect, design and install equipment and technology for construction projects. They often work at job sites, to ensure all equipment functions correctly.
Related: How to Become a Site Engineer
Surveyors use mathematical principles to survey or assess the land. They may work on construction projects to gain precise measurements before the building process. This career typically involves additional training specifically in land surveying.
A sustainability specialist is a professional who analyses the latest sustainable building practices. They may provide guidance and suggestion during the construction process for new buildings. Construction engineers can specialise in sustainability to consult clients on the best sustainable building methods, tools and equipment.
A construction manager is a professional who oversees the construction project. They may manage the finances, budgeting and scheduling aspects of the project. Construction engineers may also act as the manager of the project.
A cost estimate is a professional who analyses and forecasts costs for all stages of a construction project. They can use mathematical reasoning and a strong understanding of the building process to create detailed estimates. Many estimators enter the role with civil or construction engineering experience.
A facilities manager is a professional who oversees a large building. This can be a public facility or a large private building, such as a residential complex. The facilities manager may oversee the budget, maintenance and repair process for the building.
Related: What Does a Quantity Surveyor Do and How to Become One
How to become a construction engineer
If you're interested in becoming a construction engineer, consider following these steps:
1. Earn a bachelor degree
The first step in becoming a construction engineer is earning a bachelor degree in an engineering field. Consider completing a bachelor degree program in construction engineering, civil engineering or engineering. Typically, these programs involve coursework in math, physics and statistics. This can help you develop technical skills and knowledge for your career.
2. Consider an internship
Aspiring construction engineers may pursue an internship while still in school. Many engineering schools require students to complete internships as part of the program. During an internship, students can gain practical experience in the engineering field of their choice. Internships could last anywhere from four weeks to three months, and most students complete them over their summer breaks or immediately following graduation.
3. Gain professional experience
You can gain experience in entry-level engineering roles to prepare to practise on your own. Construction engineers typically begin as entry-level engineers or assistant project engineers. In these roles, they learn to create purchase requisitions, process change orders, prepare monthly budget reports and participate in meetings. They also assist in the design and implementation of engineering projects.
4. Explore registration options
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
As you gain experience in the field, you may explore the various registration options. To become a registered, professional engineer, you have a few choices, depending on your speciality and location. Consider checking the guidelines in your area for the work you want to do to ensure you meet the regulations.
You may become a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng) through the Chartered Engineers of Australia, or you may apply to become a Registered Professional Engineer (RPEng) from Engineers Australia. To apply, you may submit proof of your education and job experience. You may also take a competency exam that assesses your engineering knowledge. This may be optional for some construction engineering positions, though some firms and projects require registration. A professional designation can help you show employers you're qualified to complete engineering projects.
5. Consider an advanced degree
An advanced degree may be optional but could help you qualify for more engineering positions. Consider applying for a master degree in an engineering field, such as construction engineering or civil engineering. You may also apply for an advanced diploma program in construction engineering. These programs can take two to three years to complete and can help you enter a senior or management engineering position.
Frequently asked questions about becoming a construction engineer
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about this career path:
How much does a construction engineer make?
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
A construction engineer is a type of civil engineer. The national average salary for civil engineers is $105,479 per year. Your specialisation and specific job title within the field can affect your salary.
What skills does a construction engineer use?
Construction engineers may use a variety of technical and soft skills to complete their responsibilities. Here are some important skills you may use in this career:
Construction engineers use computer-aided drafting software to create a variety of blueprints. Knowing these programs is essential in developing and executing plans. They may also use computers to track project progress and monitor time.
This skill involves both written and verbal communication. Construction engineers work with a variety of professionals while in an office setting and on-site. They can use verbal communication skills to discuss plans effectively with all team members and write clear instructions for projects. They may also use their written communication skills to draft email correspondence when updating clients or project partners.
These professionals often create objectives, develop steps, collect resources and monitor progress. Excellent project management skills can help them execute each part of the construction process. Project management skills can also help them complete projects on time and within the budget.
When developing plans for construction projects, construction engineers might encounter challenges relating to budget, size, location or resources. They can use problem-solving regularly to help them overcome these challenges. They may also use problem-solving to overcome obstacles during the building process.
Read more: 12 Key Engineer Skills for Your Resume
What is a construction engineer's typical work environment?
Many construction engineers work for government agencies or private engineering firms. They typically work full time, though some may operate part-time or on a contractual basis. Their hours are usually regular business hours, though they may work overtime to meet deadlines. They often divide their work time between an office and the actual construction site. Office time may involve filling out safety forms, filing important paperwork and revising blueprints. On-site, they may oversee operations, offer input during the process and allocate resources to increase efficiency.
Construction engineers may expect the following from their work environment:
sitting in an office environment while working on a computer
standing or walking at a construction site
wearing protective apparel, such as boots and hard hats
communicating with a variety of construction and engineering professionals
operating equipment or using tools occasionally.
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