What is Civil Engineering?

What is Civil Engineering

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Civil Engineering is a discipline within the engineering field that focuses on designing, constructing, and maintaining the physical built environment.

Civil Engineering focuses on designing, building, and managing infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and buildings, to ensure safety and durability.

The discipline is vital for developing sustainable communities and improving the quality of life. Civil Engineering is crucial in shaping communities by ensuring efficient, secure, and sustainable infrastructure.

Within the branch of civil engineering, there are a variety of specialties, including structural, building, materials, construction, transportation, environmental, geotechnical, and water resources engineering. Each focuses on different aspects of infrastructure development and maintenance.

Civil engineering enhances public safety and promotes environmental sustainability by designing and maintaining infrastructure. It drives economic growth by enabling efficient transportation, water management, and urban development.

History of Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is one of the oldest disciplines and dates back to ancient Egypt. The discipline evolved significantly during the Roman Empire, and it was renowned for its advanced engineering feats, including aqueducts, bridges, and roads that have stood the test of time.

Modern construction techniques and materials were introduced during the 18th and 19th centuries, which marked a significant turning point. This era saw the construction of canals, railways, and the steel-framed skyscrapers that define modern cityscapes.

Today, Civil Engineering continues to push the boundaries of innovation for sustainable development, climate change, and urbanisation.  

Importance of Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering plays a crucial role in shaping the world by designing and constructing the infrastructure that underpins society. It ensures the safe, efficient, and sustainable development of roads, bridges, water supply systems, and buildings.

Civil engineers address climate change and urbanisation challenges to create resilient and adaptable communities. Their work facilitates transportation and enhances public health safety through improved water and waste management systems. It drives progress, fostering the growth of civilisations by making them more livable and accessible.

Types of Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is a vast field divided into several specialised branches, each focusing on different aspects of the built environment and natural landscape.


Building Engineering focuses on the design and construction of buildings and structures. This type of engineering ensures structures withstand environmental forces and integrates essential systems for optimal functionality and efficiency.

Building Engineers work closely with other engineering professionals, contractors, and architects to deliver safe and sustainable buildings. The skills they hold are crucial for the development of modern and sustainable built environments.

Structural Engineering

As one of the most well-known branches of civil engineering, structural engineering deals with designing and analysing buildings, bridges and dams. Structural Engineers ensure that infrastructure can withstand both the loads and stresses encountered.

Structural Engineers are generally responsible for determining the materials, dimensions, and configurations of structural elements such as beams, columns, and foundations.

Click here to read more about Structural Engineering.

Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical Engineering provides the foundation for safe and sustainable construction practices, helping to design strong foundations, prevent landslides, and manage environmental impacts.

Geotechnical Engineers focus on understanding the behaviour of soil, rock, and groundwater. The data obtained provides insights for safer and more efficient designs.

Click here to read more about Geotechnical Engineering.

Environmental Engineering

Environmental Engineering focuses on protecting the environment and public health by designing systems for water supply, waste disposal, air pollution control, and remediation of contaminated sites. Environmental engineers develop sustainable solutions that minimise pollution and conserve resources.

Click here to read more about what an Environmental Engineer does.

Construction Engineering and Management

Construction engineering integrates project management principles with civil engineering design and ensures projects are completed on time. Professionals specialising in this field coordinate labour, materials, and equipment, apply cost-control measures, and ensure compliance with safety and building codes.

Transportation Engineering

Transportation Engineering aims to optimise the efficiency and safety of transportation systems, including highways, railways, air transportation, and urban transit.

This branch addresses the planning, design, operation, and maintenance of transportation infrastructure, integrating technology to improve system performance and sustainability.

Water Resources Engineering

Water Resources engineering involves managing water-related projects, such as dams, reservoirs, and other distribution systems. Water Engineers design water supply, irrigation, flood control, and wastewater treatment infrastructure. 

Engineers in this field must develop systems to distribute and treat water efficiently to ensure access to clean water.

Materials Engineering

Materials Engineering is a specialised field that focuses on developing, testing, and applying materials used in construction. This discipline involves selecting suitable materials that meet infrastructure projects’ specific structural, durability, and sustainability requirements.

Materials engineers study the properties and behaviours of different materials, including metals, concrete, plastics, and composites, to determine their suitability for specific applications. They also innovate new materials and improve existing ones to enhance performance, reduce costs, and minimise environmental impact.

Responsibilities of Civil Engineers

Civil Engineers plan, design, construct, and oversee the operation and construction of roads, bridges, water systems, buildings, and other types of infrastructure. They apply principles of physics, mathematics, and engineering to ensure structures are safe and efficient.

Civil engineering professionals determine construction methods, materials, and standards and ensure the accurate follow-through of project specifications and plans. They manage labour, material delivery, and site coordination and estimate and control the overall project costs. Civil Engineers also need to analyse structural integrity to ensure safety and design efficient transportation systems for the future.

Engineering professionals work in both an indoor and outdoor environment. They often work in various weather conditions and require adaptability to technical office tasks and hands-on fieldwork.

Click here to read more about what a Civil Engineers does.

Civil Engineering projects across Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand have a wide range of infrastructure projects showcasing innovation and diversity in the civil engineering industry.


Sydney Metro – Sydney, New South Wales

Sydney Metro is Australia’s biggest public transport project under construction in New South Wales. Four metro lines, 46 stations, and 113km of new metro rail are currently being built, with construction expected to finish in 2032.

Click here to read more about the Sydney Metro project.

Below are more civil engineering projects currently taking place across Australia.

Cross River Rail

M80 Ring Road Completion

Parramatta Light Rail

New Zealand

City Rail Link is a $5.493b underground rail project in Auckland to improve the city’s rail system. The project involves constructing a 3.45km long twin-tunnel underground rail and re-developing four stations to bring more train station connections.

Click here to read more about the City Rail Link project.

Below are more civil engineering projects currently taking place across New Zealand.

Waitematā Harbour Connections

Civil Engineers in demand across Australia and New Zealand

The demand for skilled professionals in Australia and New Zealand remains high across civil engineering. Many states and regions are planning record levels of infrastructure in the coming years.

With a growing population and increasing investment in infrastructure projects, the need for qualified civil engineers continues to rise.

If you are a Civil Engineer, a Construction Professional or a Surveyor who would like to be part of the infrastructure boom in Australia or New Zealand, register your CV here or search our jobs.

ConsultANZ Recruitment  –  We consult our Clients on their hiring needs and our Candidates on their career prospects.

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