Civil engineering is one of the oldest engineering disciplines, since civil engineers of one form or another have been around ever since humans started building major public works such as roads, bridges, tunnels, and large public buildings. It is also an incredibly broad discipline, spanning treatment of environmental issues, transportation, power generation, and major structures. To become a civil engineer, a person must typically study engineering at a university and then participate in field work for practical training. Many nations also require that students pass a competency exam to ensure that they will be able to design and build safe, stable structures.
There are many branches of civil engineering, and a wide range of specialties. Some engineers focus on conception and initial design of a project, analyzing the site, the needs, and the resources to come up with a workable project plan. Others specialize in contracting, physically building the structure, managing the site crew, and handling materials and supply. In other cases, civil engineers focus on maintenance of the project after it is completed, to make sure that it is safe and useful.
Most people pick a focus while they are receiving an education. Engineers who focus on transportation, for example, might choose to specialize in building bridges, tunnels, and roads. Others might lean towards power generation facilities, water treatment, waste management, construction of light railways and subways, or other disciplines. In all cases, extensive training is undertaken so that the prospective civil engineer understands his or her chosen field in depth. Behind every major public works is a team of civil engineers.
One of the primary concerns of civil engineering is public safety and health. A value is also placed on building structures that are functional, efficient, and also aesthetically pleasing. Structural soundness, conformity with local codes, and functionality are all issues which are faced in the discipline. Some civil engineers work directly for the public in the form of government agencies, while others find employment with public firms.
Education does not end with a degree and a course of fieldwork with trained and experienced civil engineers. Continuing education is also an important part of this discipline. As advances are made in the field, engineers are expected to keep pace with them, especially when the advances improve safety for workers and the public. There are many trade journals and annual conferences in the field to keep engineers updated.