Civil engineer

Civil engineer

A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering, one of the many engineering professions. Originally a civil engineer worked on public works projects and was contrasted with the military engineer, who worked on armaments and defenses. Over time, various branches of engineering have become recognized as distinct from civil engineering, including chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering, while much of military engineering has been absorbed by civil engineering.

In some places, a civil engineer may perform land surveying; in others, surveying is limited to construction surveying, unless an additional qualification is obtained.

Education and licensure

In most countries, a civil engineer has graduated from a post-secondary school with a degree in civil engineering, which requires a strong background in mathematics, economics and the physical sciences; this degree is typically a four-year degree, though many civil engineers continue on to obtain a masters, engineer, doctoral and post doctoral degrees. In many countries, civil engineers are subject to licensure, and often, persons not licensed may not call themselves "civil engineers".



In Belgium, Civil Engineer (abbreviated Ir) (Ingénieur Civil in French, Burgerlijk Ingenieur in Dutch) is a legally protected title applicable to graduates of the five-year engineering course of one of the six universities and the Royal Military Academy. Their speciality can be all fields of engineering: civil, structural, electrical, mechanical, chemical. This use of the title may cause confusion to the English speaker as the Belgian "civil" engineer can have a speciality other than civil engineering.

The formation of the civil engineer has a strong mathematical and scientific base and is more theoretical in approach than the practical oriented industrial engineer (ing.) educated in a four-year program at a polytechnic. Traditionally, students were required to pass an entrance exam on mathematics to start civil engineering studies. This exam was abolished in 2004 for the Flemish Community, but is still organised in the French Community.


In Scandinavian countries, some Master of Science and Master of Technology degrees are called civil engineer (civilingenjör (Swedish), sivilingeniør (Norwegian), civilingeniør (Danish)). That is if they have their graduation, or "diploma", from an institute of technology. As in English the word has its origin in the distinction between civilian and military engineers, as in before the start of the 19th century only military engineers existed and the prefix "civil" was a way to separate those who had studied engineering in a regular University from their military counterparts. During the middle of 19th century (before 1874), its Swedish interpretation also became "a person graduated from an institute of technology", and now the profession represents all fields within engineering professions, like civil engineering, computer science, electronics engineering, etc.

There is generally a slight difference between the Master degree and the Scandinavian civil engineer, the latter's programme having closer ties with the industry's demands. A civil engineer is the most well-known of the two; still, the area of expertise remains obfuscated for most of the public. A noteworthy difference is the mandatory courses in mathematics and physics, regardless of the equivalent master degree, e.g. computer science.

Although a 'college engineer' (högskoleingenjör, diplomingenjör/mellaningenjör (Swedish), høgskoleingeniør (Norwegian), diplomingeniør (Danish)) represents a Bachelor of Science in Scandinavia, to become a 'civil engineer' one often has to do up to one extra year of overlapping studies compared to attaining a B.Sc./M.Sc. combination. This is because the higher educational system is not fully adopted to the international standard graduation system, since it is treated as a professional degree. A Scandinavian "civilingenjör" will in international contexts commonly call itself "Master of Science in engineering" and will occasionally wear an engineering class ring. At the Norwegian Institute of Technology (now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology), the tradition with a NTH Ring goes back to 1914, before the Canadian iron ring.

In Norway the title "Sivilingeniør" will no longer be issued after 2007, and have been replaced with "Master i teknologi". In the English translation of the diploma, the title will be "Master of Science", since "Master of Technology" is not an established title in the Englishspeaking world. The extra overlapping year of studies have also been abolished with this change to make Norwegian degrees more equal to their international counterparts.


In Spain, a civil engineering degree is obtained after six years of study in the various branches of mathematics, physics, mechanics, etc. The official title of Civil Engineers in Spain, Ingeniero de Caminos, Canales y Puertos (often shortened to Ingeniero de Caminos) literally means Engineer of Roads, Canals and Harbors, though civil engineers in Spain practice in the same fields beyond those as civil engineers do elsewhere. The first Civil Engineering Institute, the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Caminos Canales Y Puertos de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid:

North America

United States

In the United States, most civil engineers practice in particular specialties of civil engineering, such as geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, hydraulic engineering, earthquake engineering or environmental engineering. Civil engineers are typically employed by municipalities, construction firms, consulting engineering firms, architect/engineer firms, state governments, and the federal government. Each State requires engineers who offer their services to the public to be licensed by the State. Licensure is obtained by meeting specified educational, examination, and work experience requirements. Specific requirements vary by State. Typically licensed engineers have to graduate from an ABET-accredited University or College engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, obtain several years of engineering experience under the supervision of a licensed engineer, and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam. After completing these steps and granting of licensure by the State Board, engineers may use the title "Professional Engineer" or PE in advertising and documents.


See also

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