The role of a Civil Engineer

Robert Walters Sub-Saharan Africa recruitment division talks to a civil engineer in Ghana, West Africa about what the role involves.

What do civil engineers do?

People see and feel the effects of civil engineering daily. Civil engineers develop and improve the services and facilities we use every day: from supplying energy and clean water to homes, to processing and recycling waste, to finding solutions to problems like pollution.

Civil engineers design and build bridges, roads, railways, and tunnels. They design and build complicated structures and large buildings such as multi-storey car parks, train stations, stadiums, hospitals and airports.

What skills do you need to become a civil engineer?

As a civil engineer you would need planning and designing skills as well as the ability to manage a variety of construction projects. You could work on everything from bridges and tall buildings to transport links and sports stadiums. If you are interested in designing and building things then civil engineering could be the perfect job for you.

To become a civil engineer you will need excellent maths and IT skills. You'll also need to be able to explain design ideas clearly and be well organised. Ideally, you would need to complete a degree or postgraduate master's degree in civil engineering.

What specialist areas could you work on as a civil engineer?

As a civil engineer, you could work in any one of the following specialist areas of engineering:

  • structural – dams, buildings, offshore platforms and pipelines
  • transportation – roads, railways, canals and airports
  • environmental – water supply networks, drainage and flood barriers
  • maritime – ports, harbours and sea defence
  • geotechnical – mining, earthworks and construction foundations.

You would normally work on projects alongside other professionals, such as architects, surveyors and building contractors.

How did your career progress?

I started studying for a BSc Eng, Civil Engineering at university in South Africa and then took my Master of Science (MSc), Civil Engineering. My first job was as a Site Engineer at one of the largest construction companies in Southern Africa and I really enjoyed the technical, supervisory and organisational elements of my role. After 5 years  I found myself in my current position as a Civil Engineer at a global firm providing consulting, design, and construction services - it was a natural fit for me . My current responsibilities  include engineering design, costing, planning, reporting, and project management for the development of mine and water infrastructure. I also oversee the construction quality assurance.

What's the best thing about being a civil engineer?

I like the fact that being a civil engineer means I can work towards something tangible. The problem-solving, variety of work and challenges you are faced with in design is really rewarding.

What's the best thing about living and working in Ghana?

For me, the best thing about living in Ghana is the rich culture, ancient traditions, and the incredibly kind people. My job as a civil engineer keeps me grounded and, a simple thing, but it’s hot in Ghana so air conditioning is my saving grace.

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Samantha Gravett, Manager
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