Construction Engineer Career Facts

Construction engineers have careers which cover every aspect of construction from basic building to infrastructural projects, like massive dams. This is the epitome of the engineer's historic role as a builder, and construction engineers can find themselves working on iconic programs and some of the world's most advanced architecture. 

The Work Environment

The engineer's role covers the technical elements of architecture including:

  • Site assessment and analysis: Prior to construction, the topography and physical nature of a site must be assessed to evaluate the site's needs for construction purposes. For example, some soils are unsuited to take the weight of large buildings. The engineer has to provide a working design concept for the site which addresses these issues.  
  • Materials: An important quality issue. This is a formal assessment of materials which relates to practical requirements like loads on structural elements and contract specifications. Some materials may be unsuitable for the project, which affects cost and contract requirements.
  • Loads and stresses: Essential work related to the structural integrity of the construction. In all forms of architectural design, the mass of the structure has to be accurately defined. From this definition, engineers include additional safeguards. In common engineering practice a building's structure is provided with load capacity and stress provisions which exceed actual requirements. 

Skills Requirements

Construction engineers require natural characteristics and aptitudes which are very important in terms of their work:

  • Communications skills:  A construction engineer must be able to effectively communicate with people at all levels of project operations. The engineer acts as the direct link between construction teams and management in all technical aspects of the project. This involves making often highly technical issues clear to non-experts who may need a lot of information to fully understand issues. 
  • Problem solving: Solving construction problems is a team effort, with the engineer directly responsible for results. Each part of the engineer's job has the potential for serious problems. There may be site issues, like drainage, subsidence, unstable soil or steep slopes affecting the project unexpectedly. Some areas of construction include their own types of problems, like steel reinforcement and foundations, or problems with building frames.  The engineer is also responsible for creating and the practical response to problems, often working on site to do so. 

Wages and Hours

The baseline salary is $50,000 per year. Salary relates to qualifications, contracts and experience. Consultancy fees apply at higher professional levels. An engineer's schedule includes office hours, on-site work, briefings and consultation time frames. 

The Career Environment

Construction engineers start with a primary level of qualifications and skills, progressing in terms of employment roles in the early stages of their careers. Experience and higher qualifications add scope, providing new career paths, some of which involve specialization in areas like infrastructure or commercial construction. The top of the career scale is consultancy for major construction projects.