Construction Engineering: Graduate Area of Work

Graduates who choose careers in construction engineering get to leave very visible marks on the world around them.
The gradsingapore Team
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Construction engineering is primarily related to the built environment, including infrastructure (e.g. roads, buildings, railways, harbours, airports, and tunnels), buildings, and the facilities within buildings (e.g. power generation and ventilation systems).  

Civil and structural engineers are indispensable in this sector, but depending on projects, they may be joined by specialists from other disciplines as well. Increased global awareness concerning the environment and pollution problems have also given environmental engineers a new importance in this sector.

Core employers in this sector typically fall into two categories: consultants (e.g. Mott MacDonald, Surbana Jurong Consultants, and Arup) and contractors (e.g. Lend Lease and SembCorp Construction).

However, graduates in this field may also be scouted by developers, retailers, and even the public service (e.g. Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority and the Housing Development Board).

Trends and developments in the construction industry

Prevalent issues within the current industry include cost efficiency and environmental concerns. Government spending and client budgets are decreasing for most projects in general, so it falls upon engineers to look for alternative solutions to help minimise expenses without compromising on safety standards.

Concerns over global warming, water shortages, and sustainable energy use have also prompted engineers to keep a lookout for new and environment-friendly materials and processes, particularly in regards to carbon emissions and footprints.

The growing use of advanced technology within the sector is another trend that graduates should take note of. 3D modelling technology, for instance, is growing in popularity as it can help engineers project and identify setbacks in the planning stage itself, instead of encountering them only after construction has started.

Singapore’s construction industry has also been encouraged to experiment with other productive methods to reduce project expenses and dependency on construction workers. “Pre-fab” construction, where complete flats and units are pre-manufactured in factories, then simply assembled at the construction area, is one example of such alternatives.

What it’s like working in the built environment

The built environment is a fast-paced industry, where you’ll be kept on your toes with brisk responsibilities, which you’ll often share with a team of other engineers. This means that the ability to perform under pressure and to work well in teams is essential.

Depending on the type and location, project timelines may vary from a few months to several years, with the occasional site and client meetings. There may even be opportunities to transfer overseas, since consultants and contractors in this industry often operate on an international level.

Aside from technical engineering duties, you’ll also be expected to manage teams and liaise with clients on a regular basis. For that, be sure to build up good managerial, interpersonal, and problem solving skills – although how much you need to exercise those is dependent on your position in the team.

Getting a graduate engineering job in construction

Young engineers generally start with small responsibilities that are part of a larger project. Most will also usually be limited to only one project at a time, although this also depends on the scale of the project.

Once you’re more adept at your work, you’ll be assigned concurrent projects, giving you the opportunity to take charge of your career early on. This is especially true for engineers who are working with consultants.

A basic understanding of other engineering disciplines may also be advantageous because it lets you consider a project from various perspectives. You should also consider upping your communication and people skills – you’ll often need to explain highly technical concepts to clients from non-engineering backgrounds.

The highlights of a career in the built environment

Engineers working in the construction and built environment sector tend to find great satisfaction in seeing the completed project that they are in charge of. Working in this field also gives you the opportunity to meet with engineers from other disciplines, which will greatly enhance your understanding of the sector and engineering in general.

Certain positions in selected employers may also give you the chance to travel and see the world.

Deadlines and the need to take responsibility for every decision that you make even early on are some of the difficulties that you will encounter in this industry. Because of the huge investments that go into built environment projects, you may often have to deal with highly demanding clients hungry for returns on their investments. This will call for a high level of patience.

The construction industry seeks graduates in...

  • Chemical
  • Civil/structural
  • Control
  • Electrical
  • Electronics
  • Environmental
  • Instruments
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical
  • Physics
  • Power systems
  • Software
  • Telecoms