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What does a Construction Engineer do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A construction engineer prepares blueprints and oversees building efforts on large-scale construction projects. Most professionals specialize by working on particular types of structures, such as highways or skyscrapers. With the assistance of engineering technicians and drafters, engineers are able to design schematics for safe, functional buildings and roads. A construction engineer may be employed by a private contracting company, a municipal government agency, or a large construction firm.

Before the design phase of a project begins, a construction engineer carefully reviews land maps and survey information to make sure an area is stable enough to support a structure. He or she then works with geotechnical and civil engineering experts to get a basic idea of which materials and construction methods would be the most appropriate to use. Rough blueprints are usually submitted to the landowners, who make the decision about whether or not to go ahead with a project. Once plans are in place, he or she can begin revising blueprints.

Most construction engineers work with computer-aided drafting (CAD) programs to produce schematics and simulations. CAD software allows engineers to easily make adjustments to their measurements and calculate important figures. After completing several drafts of blueprints and CAD simulations, an engineer can put together a formal report that describes deadlines, cost estimates, materials needed, and other pertinent information for landowners to review.

It is common for a construction engineer to work on-site throughout the building phase. He or she commonly helps supervisors coordinate labor and resources to make sure that deadlines are met. An engineer often personally inspects ongoing projects, confirming that sections are built exactly to specifications. If problems in a design are discovered along the way, the engineer can make quick decisions about how to remedy or work around them. Once construction is completed, the engineer once again inspects the structure. He or she ensures that all elements are safe, durable, and functional.

A person who wants to get into the construction engineering business can do so in a few different ways. Most professionals hold bachelor's degrees or higher in civil engineering, though some workers obtain their positions by gaining many years of experience as construction site supervisors, surveyors, or engineering technicians. Most countries require engineers to pass licensing exams administered by accredited certification boards before they can lead projects. With the appropriate credentials and experience in the field, an individual usually enjoys many opportunities to obtain full-time careers.

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Discussion Comments

By Mor — On Sep 10, 2011

@pleonasm - I think the Burj was an exception, just because it was so massive and was being built in an area that just didn't really need it for commercial purposes. That could happen at any time. Businesses sometimes take stupid risks.

I think it would be so difficult to become a respected skyscraper construction engineer that you would end up in a field without many competitors. So, even in a recession, you would probably be OK.

Plus, I mean, even if your specialty is skyscrapers, I think you'd still be able to draw up blueprints for other kinds of buildings.

So, all in all, I'm sure it's still a very good job to go into, if you don't mind the student loans and all.

By pleonasm — On Sep 09, 2011

Being a construction engineer who specializes with skyscrapers must be amazing. Although I guess it would take a lot of time for each one to be constructed. I wonder if they always devote all their energy to one project at a time, or if they switch between projects as they get to different stages?

I'm not sure if it would be the best job to have during a recession though. I know when they built the Burj (the tallest skyscraper so far) the company that decided to do it almost went bankrupt.

It would suck if you had all the student loans and no way of getting hired because people couldn't afford to build sky scrapers anymore.

I imagine in bad economic times

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