Contracting civil engineers implement and oversee the construction projects that are designed and planned by consulting civil engineers.
Essentially, these guys are the technical project managers on construction sites, who oversee the hands-on technical work and actually get things done and dusted.
We’re not going to say that consulting civil engineers are ‘the brains’ and contracting civil engineers are ‘the brawn’, because engineering contractors are also highly-intelligent people with a strong understanding of research, development and design, but you get the idea! These engineering professionals get the job done! Simple.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be responsible for the procurement of the materials, equipment and labourers required to carry out construction projects in accordance with targeted budgets and time schedules.
Furthermore, you’ll be closely monitoring site activities throughout the different phases of construction, inspecting the completed work and signing everything off with your expert seal of approval.
Throughout your professional life, you’ll be working with quantity surveyors and estimators to source, procure and check the quantity and quality of construction materials, heavy engineering equipment and other necessary tools.
Finally, you’ll be in charge of handling construction problems, such as budget setbacks and project delays. Indeed, you’ll be the calm and collected professional responsible for working out the feasible solutions to any niggling issues.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for civil engineers in the early stages of their careers range between £17,000 and £25,000, while engineers with plenty of experience can expect to earn anywhere up to £55,000.
Once you have gained status as a chartered or incorporated engineer and obtained membership from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), you could even earn up to £90,000 a year.
Most employers also provide benefits such as pensions, healthcare insurance and a variety of lifestyle benefits.
Contracting civil engineers work mainly on construction sites and their schedules are usually characterised by long and irregular hours. Extra weekend work is quite often the norm, rather than the exception.
Engineers handling more than one project concurrently (usually only experienced professionals) are frequently required to travel across various locations.
Engineers employed by multinational construction companies may also be assigned to work on projects in overseas locations for periods ranging between six months and two years.
An honours degree in civil or structural engineering, accredited by the Institution of Civil Engineers, is the minimum entry-level requirement for graduates in this line of work. Candidates with MEng degrees are usually preferred. If you have a BEng, you may be required to obtain a relevant postgraduate degree before you can become a chartered engineer.
Some candidates with HNDs may be able to start off in lower-level technician positions and progress to become contracting engineers after completing a degree on a part-time basis.
Training & progression
Most employers in this field offer structured graduate development programmes, which culminate in achieving ‘incorporated’ or ‘chartered’ engineer status. Graduate trainees are supported by experienced line managers and senior mentors throughout this training process.
Employers also provide financial and learning support during this period, covering in-house or external tutoring assistance and study leave over and above the standard annual leave entitlement.
Career progression is mainly dependent on overall project experience, performance and completion of appropriate professional qualifications. As you progress and gain more expertise, you will begin to take on bigger and better projects.
Alternatively, you could choose to take a step back from the on-site contracting work and become a consulting civil engineer. Freelance contracting is also a viable option once you have gained sufficient experience and established a reputation.