Case study

Civil engineer — Neil

Neil enjoys the problem solving nature of his civil engineering role. Find out if a career in this field would suit you…

How did you get your job?

I wrote to a number of companies asking what work experience they had to offer. I applied to a scholarship scheme with the Institution of Civil Engineers at the start of my degree program, I was successful and secured a QUEST undergraduate scholarship, which partnered me with Atkins (a large global civil engineering consultancy). The scholarship meant Atkins gave me summer placements every year in the building, rail and nuclear industry.

Upon graduation Atkins offered me a job in the oil and gas sector working as a structural engineer in Aberdeen. I am part of a small team that supports multidisciplinary design projects, requiring input from engineers with different specialisms.

The variety and breadth of civil and structural engineering, even just in one sector, is staggering which means there is never a dull day as a civil engineer

Is your degree relevant to your job?

Studying civil engineering gave me the breadth of knowledge in the field and also the tools to apply in my everyday engineering work.

Although I studied civil engineering at university, I now work in offshore structural engineering. Civil engineering courses tend to be diverse enough to secure a job in either discipline of engineering. I still think of myself as a civil/structural engineer - however my job title says structural engineer.

What are your main work activities?

Generally I am involved in one project at a time often due to its size or my role. A typical day would involve answering technical queries from the contractor who is physically building something. For me this often means something being built offshore (in the middle of the North Sea) or in an onshore fabrication/construction yard.

I am also heavily involved in correspondence with the client/customer and prepare cost estimates for future work. I sometimes have to travel to site - either an offshore oil platform or a fabrication yard.

How has your role developed?

My responsibility has increased and I am now tasked with addressing complex technical queries and managing construction scopes on site.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I have been lucky enough to work abroad in the Danish oil and gas sector. This involved spending time in Denmark to complete a multidisciplinary conceptual design project for a new development in the North Sea. I worked closely with a number of engineering disciplines including piping, process, mechanical, electrical and technical safety.

Working with other disciplines can be challenging, with each discipline trying to achieve different goals. The oil and gas sector is truly a worldwide industry and offers travel to energy hubs around the globe.

The variety and breadth of civil and structural engineering, even just in one sector, is staggering which means there is never a dull day as a civil engineer.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

The oil and gas sector is a fast paced industry. The engineering challenges are interesting, varied and often not repeated. Things change on a daily and sometimes hourly basis - this is exciting but can sometimes be a bit of a headache.

Being a civil engineer and part of solving some of these problems gives you great satisfaction. Seeing things built on site that were designed in the office is extremely rewarding, even if it is just a small component in a large development.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Gain as much experience as possible in both the consulting and contracting sides, particularly through summer placements and work experience, as this shows prospective employers that you are eager and keen to work as an engineer. Apply for scholarship schemes such as QUEST, and in an increasing digital world - join LinkedIn.

Membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) gives you a chance to interact on a regional level through evening meetings, but also on a national and international level with numerous seminars and online lectures.

Find out more

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