Construction engineering is a professional discipline that deals with the designing, planning, construction, and management of infrastructures such as roads, tunnels, bridges, airports, railroads, facilities, buildings, dams, utilities and other projects. Construction engineering is considered a professional sub-practice area of Civil engineering.
Construction technology is a related field that deals more with the practical aspects of projects. Construction technologists or construction technicians learn some of the design aspects similar to civil engineers and some of the project site management aspects similar to construction managers. These technicians are unique such that they are a cross between civil engineers and construction managers.
At the educational level, civil engineering students concentrate primarily on the design work, which is more analytical, gearing them toward a career as a design professional. This essentially requires them to take a multitude of challenging engineering science and design courses as part of obtaining a 4 year accredited degree. Also, education for construction managers is primarily focused on construction procedures, methods, costs, schedules, and personnel management. Their primary concern is to deliver a project on time, within budget, and of the desired quality.
The difference between a construction technologist and a civil engineer is that civil engineering is an engineering discipline. Construction technology students take basic design courses as well as construction management courses. This allows them to understand both basic design functions as well as the building requirements needed to design and build today's infrastructures.
Depending on which career the construction engineer has chosen to follow, an entry-level design engineer normally provides support to project managers and assist with creating conceptual designs, scopes, and cost estimates for the planning and construction of approved projects. It should be noted that a career in design work does require a professional engineer license (PE). Individuals who pursue this career path are strongly advised to sit for the Engineer In Training exam (EIT) while in college as it takes five years (4 years in USA) post graduate to obtain the PE license.
Entry-level construction manager positions are typically called project engineers or assistant project engineers. They are responsible for preparing purchasing requisitions, processing change orders, preparing monthly budgeting reports, and handling meeting minutes. The construction management position does not necessarily require a PE license; however possessing one does make the individual more marketable, as the PE license allows the individual to sign off on temporary structure designs.
Construction engineers are problem solvers. They contribute to the creation of infrastructure that best meets the unique demands of its environment. They must be able to understand infrastructure life cycles. When compared and contrasted to design engineers, construction engineers bring to the table their own unique perspectives for solving technical challenges with clarity and imagination. While individuals considering this career path should certainly have a strong understanding of mathematics and science, many other skills are also highly desirable, including critical and analytical thinking, time management, people management, and good communication skills.
Individuals looking to obtain a construction engineering degree must first ensure that the program is accredited by EAC or Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation is assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards established by the profession for which it prepares its students. In the US there are currently twenty-five programs that exist in the entire country so careful college consideration is advised.
A typical construction engineering curriculum is a mixture of engineering mechanics, engineering design, construction management and general science and mathematics. This usually leads to a Bachelor of Science degree. The B.S. degree along with some design or construction experience is sufficient for most entry level positions. Graduate schools may be an option for those who want to go further in depth of the construction and engineering subjects taught at the undergraduate level. In most cases construction engineering graduates look to either civil engineering, engineering management, or business administration as a possible graduate degree.
Job prospects for construction engineers generally have a strong cyclical variation. For example, starting in 2008 - continuing until at least 2011 - job prospects have been poor due to the collapse of housing bubbles in many parts of the world. This sharply reduced demand for construction, forced construction professionals towards infrastructure construction and therefore increased the competition faced by established and new construction engineers. This increased competition, and a core reduction in quantity demand is in parallel with a possible shift in the demand for construction engineers due to the automation of many engineering tasks, overall resulting in reduced prospects for construction engineers. In early 2010 the United States construction industry had a 27% unemployment rate, this is nearly three times higher than the 9.7% national average unemployment rate. The construction unemployment rate (including tradesmen) is comparable to the United States 1933 unemployment rate - the lowest point of the Great Depression - of 25%.
The average salary for a civil engineer in the UK depends on the sector, and more specifically the level of experience of the individual. A 2010 survey of the remuneration and benefits of those occupying jobs in construction and the built environment industry showed that the average salary of a civil engineer in the UK is £29,582. In the United States, as of May 2013, the average was $85,640. The average salary varies depending on experience, for example the average annual salary for a civil engineer with between 3 and 6 years experience is £23,813. For those with between 14 and 20 years experience the average is £38,214.
- Architectural engineering
- Building officials
- Civil engineering
- Construction estimating software
- Construction management
- Cost overrun
- Cost engineering
- Earthquake engineering
- EPC (contract)
- International Building Code
- Structural engineering
- Work breakdown structure
- Index of construction articles
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