For a career as a site engineer, you'll need good communication skills and the ability to think critically in order to problem solve
As a site engineer, your input to construction projects will be technical, organisational and supervisory. You'll set out and determine the location for infrastructural installations, both above and below ground, and will apply designs and plans to mark out the site. You'll also share responsibility for site security, health and safety and the organisation and supervision of material and human resources.
Projects can range from small scale to multi-million pound ventures and may include civil, road, rail and other infrastructure projects. Working as part of the site management team, you'll work alongside and liaise with:
- construction managers
As a site engineer, you'll need to:
- act as the main technical adviser on a construction site for subcontractors, craftspeople and operatives
- set out, level and survey the site
- check plans, drawings and quantities for accuracy of calculations
- ensure that all materials used and work performed are in accordance with the specifications
- oversee the selection and requisition of materials
- agree a price for materials and make cost-effective solutions and proposals for the intended project
- manage, monitor and interpret the contract design documents supplied by the client or architect
- liaise with any consultants, subcontractors, supervisors, planners, quantity surveyors and the general workforce involved in the project
- liaise with the local authority (where appropriate to the project) to ensure compliance with local construction regulations and by-laws
- communicate with clients and their representatives (architects, engineers and surveyors), including attending regular meetings to keep them informed of progress
- day-to-day management of the site, including supervising and monitoring the site labour force and the work of any subcontractors
- plan the work and efficiently organise the plant and site facilities in order to meet agreed deadlines
- oversee quality control and health and safety matters on site
- prepare reports as required
- resolve any unexpected technical difficulties and other problems that may arise.
- Typical starting salaries range from £22,000 to £26,000 for graduate site engineers.
- Salaries for those with experience and qualifications range from £25,000 to £35,000.
- Site engineers at senior level can expect to earn between £35,000 and £55,000 - sometimes more.
Additional benefits may include a pension, company car, private health care and life assurance. Salaries vary considerably according to the location, sector and size of the employing organisation, with salaries normally higher in London.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
The working week is usually 35 to 40 hours, but may include early starts or late finishes. Some weekend working may be necessary to meet deadlines.
Part-time work or career breaks may be possible in some organisations.
What to expect
- You'll be both on site and office based. Site visits and inspections are conducted outside in all weathers and office facilities may be located in temporary buildings or converted premises.
- Self-employment or freelance work is possible, especially once you gain experience and chartership.
- Women continue to be under-represented in the profession. However, associations such as WISE (Women into Science, Engineering and Construction) and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) have been set up to help attract more women into the industry.
- There are opportunities to work overseas for experienced engineers.
- A reasonable level of fitness and mobility is required, as the work can be physically demanding. Site inspections may involve climbing ladders or visiting areas of sites where access is difficult. Appropriate safety equipment, such as protective boots and headgear, must be worn on site.
Employers usually ask for a degree or HNC/HND in a construction-related or engineering discipline. In particular, the following subjects may increase your chances of securing employment:
- building engineering
- building surveying
- civil engineering
- construction studies
- structural engineering.
To progress to chartered membership of a relevant professional body, it's important that your degree is accredited and meets the body's academic requirements for membership. The main professional body in construction is the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), while in engineering the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) are the key professional bodies in the field.
If you have a non-accredited or non-cognate degree you will need to undertake an academic assessment in order to gain membership of ICE or IStructE.
There are many dedicated postgraduate courses available in the construction and engineering field, designed for existing professionals in the industry. These may help to enhance your career progression or enable you to teach in the subject.
Initial entry without a degree or HNC/HND is possible, with apprenticeship opportunities or options to work in lower positions, such as a trainee technician, while taking further study. Progression on to more supervisory roles can be achieved with experience.
You will need to show evidence of the following:
- communication skills, written and oral, with the ability to liaise effectively with a range of other professionals, e.g. construction managers, quantity surveyors, subcontractors, architects, designers, other engineers
- organisation skills and a methodical approach to work
- strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- accuracy and attention to detail
- negotiation skills
- strong teamworking skills
- excellent IT skills
- project-management skills
- knowledge of relevant building and health and safety legislation
- a driving licence, which is usually needed.
Pre-entry experience in a construction or engineering environment is desirable and highly regarded by employers. Vacation or sandwich placements are useful ways of gaining industry experience, particularly if your degree is not directly relevant. A work experience placement can also provide a good understanding of the industry as a whole, show what skills are required and help you to assess your suitability for the work.
Check out which major construction and engineering firms offer industrial placements. You may be able to meet and talk to representatives from these at on-campus presentations. Finding sponsorship with an employer may also be a possibility and developing contacts in the industry, through work experience, academic departments and professional bodies and associations is often useful.
The main employers of site engineers are:
- building companies and contractors
- civil engineering companies - ranging from small, locally-based firms to multinational organisations
- public sector organisations - such as transport authorities, water, gas and electrical supply companies
- consultants – working on government and local authority projects
- consultants – working for developers and multinational corporations.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Career Structure
- Careers in Construction
- CIOBjobs - recruitment site of the Chartered Institute of Building
- Just Construction
Recruitment drives by large construction groups generally match academic timetables. Applications usually open in October/November of your final year for graduate training programmes starting the following October or November. However, recruitment may take place all year round, particularly in the case of small to medium-sized companies.
Your training will usually start with an induction period and continue with a mix of on-the-job training and relevant short courses. It's essential to keep on top of legislation, compliance and reporting requirements through training and continuous professional development (CPD).
By attending internal and external training courses, relevant seminars and conferences, you can keep up to date with current issues and refresh your knowledge. Most large firms offer structured training and encourage professional status.
For future career development, it may be worth gaining chartered status of a relevant professional body, and for a site engineer, there is a choice to make depending on your area of work.
Graduates in the building industry will find CIOB the most appropriate professional body to join. For site engineers working for engineering firms, gaining chartered status of the ICE or IStructE may be preferable. Both institutions require members to undertake a programme of initial professional development (IPD) to develop the special skills and competence as a practising engineer. To gain chartered status, members will also need to undertake a professional review.
See the ICE and IStructE websites for full information on membership criteria and routes to chartership.
If you begin your career on a graduate training scheme, this will usually last two years. Following this, you may move on to manage your own projects or work as assistant site engineer. You may find relocation necessary in order to progress and this may also involve a change of employer. Complex projects may involve posts for assistant site engineers as well as site engineers.
The general route of advancement is:
- site engineer
- senior engineer
- site manager
- project manager
- contracts manager.
With experience, there may be opportunities abroad, as the big civil and structural engineering construction companies operate throughout the world. The developing world has provided opportunities due to population growth and tourism. New-build projects include housing, commercial building and transport infrastructure.
In the construction industry, unlike many other sectors of British industry, it's possible to reach higher management positions while remaining in a hands-on role.