Studying at school
See what subjects you need to study to become a civil engineer
Once you have A-levels, level 3 BTEC, Scottish Highers or an international equivalent your options are:
These qualifications can give you the academic base to become professionally qualified as an engineer or engineering technician with letters after your name.
You can apply for free ICE student membership while studying at college or university.
Apprenticeships allow you to work and be paid while getting a qualification. You'll usually be directly employed by a civil engineering company. You can build up technical skills and industry knowledge and your employer pays for your courses.
At the end of your apprenticeship you should be in a full-time, permanent job have an industry recognised qualification and no student fee debts.
We see many people come to civil engineering after taking A-levels, Scottish highers or vocational subjects and hence we include advice on apprenticeships at the same level (i.e. level 3) as well as higher level apprenticeships all the way up to degree-level.
You can approach engineering companies direct for apprenticeship opportunities.
Level 3 apprenticeships are equivalent to A-levels. You need at least five relevant GCSEs or equivalent including English, maths and science.
Typically level 3 apprenticeships means going to college for one day and work the rest of the week.
Level 3 apprenticeships are an option for those moving into civil engineering at a later age although the entry requirements are the same.
Apply for either an advanced apprenticeship or one of the new trailblazer apprenticeships.
ICE is co-ordinating a consortium of civil engineering employers under the Work+ Civil Engineering Apprenticeships scheme. You can apply through this scheme to your chosen employer(s) and they will help you choose your FE College.This apprenticeship can also lead to EngTech professional qualification.
Please see the Work+ website for details and entry requirements. You can apply for alternative apprenticeship pathways outside the Work+ scheme too.
You can choose a modern apprenticeship at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 6/7.
Once you have completed a level 3 apprenticeship you can apply to become a professionally qualified engineering technician (EngTech). You can also move on to a higher or degree apprenticeship by studying part-time while you work with the support of your employer.
Government and industry in the UK are investing heavily in apprenticeships, including higher level qualifications up to degree level. They are a genuine alternative to a traditional full-time undergraduate degree and set to grow markedly over the next few years.
A higher apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship involves working while studying for a level 4-6 qualification – usually a HNC, HND, foundation degree or part-time bachelor's degree (BSc or BEng). You should already have a level 3 apprenticeship, a relevant BTEC or A-levels.
A higher apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship involves working while studying for a level 4-7 qualification. ICE is co-ordinating a consortium of civil engineering employers under the Work+ Civil Engineering Apprenticeships scheme, offering Level 5 (foundation degree) and Level 6/7 (BEng/MEng degree) qualifications.
You should already have a level 3 apprenticeship, a relevant BTEC or A-levels. You can apply through this scheme to your chosen employer(s) and they will help you choose your FE College (Foundation Degree) or University course (Degree).
This apprenticeship can also lead to EngTech, IEng or CEng professional qualification. Please see ice.org.uk/workplus. You can apply for alternative apprenticeship pathways outside the Work+ scheme too.
Modern and graduate apprenticeships offer similar opportunities. For example, with a graduate level apprenticeship in civil engineering you’ll gain an HND or DipHE qualification in civil engineering.
A degree apprenticeship should help you progress towards becoming professionally qualified as an incorporated engineer.
Find apprenticeship openings across from the UK here:
For these apprenticeships ICE will carry out the end-point assessment in combination with the appropriate professional review. This enables apprentices to gain professionally qualified membership of ICE and registration with the Engineering Council as an incorporated engineer (IEng) or engineering technician (Eng Tech) when their course finishes.
Outside the UK refer to the qualifications’ authority in your own country to find apprenticeship opportunities.
The International Engineering Alliance’s Dublin Accord is used by different countries to recognise each other’s civil engineering technician level qualifications.
Many universities specialise in particular areas of civil engineering such as structural engineering, environmental engineering or coastal engineering.
Some courses arrange a year’s work placement as part of the course while others let you spend a year studying abroad.
If you’ve done an undergraduate degree (BEng or combined master’s MEng) you could go on to do an MSc or a PhD. This post-graduate study can lead to research careers and specialist roles in industry.
A bachelor's degree (BSc or BEng) usually takes three years to complete, while a master's (MEng) will take an extra year and is often combined in a four-year course.
It normally takes four years to complete a bachelor's degree and five years to gain an MEng degree.
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees vary across the world. The International Engineering Alliance accords are used by different countries to recognise and accept each other’s civil engineering qualifications.
Across the UK entry requirements vary but for most you’ll need A-level maths or equivalent (some will ask for further maths) and many will ask for physics as well.
Design subjects and languages are also useful. BTECs may be accepted too but you'll usually need a distinction or merit.
Apply through UCAS for undergraduate degrees. For post-graduate courses and part-time undergraduate degrees apply direct to the universities.
If you’re applying to study for an ICE accredited undergraduate degree in the UK then you can apply for a QUEST Undergraduate Scholarship which offers funds to study and a potential industry sponsor.
If you’ve already passed a BTEC level 3 or have A-levels or Scottish highers in maths and physics many colleges and some universities offer:
You can study full-time or part-time.
After completing an HND or foundation degree you can go straight into a job. But there's often an opportunity to transfer to a university to take a one or two year top-up degree to a BSc or BEng and become professionally qualified as an incorporated engineer (IEng).
For an HNC, HND or a foundation degree you'll normally need one of the following:
Research local college websites for courses or search the Hotcourses database and apply direct.
You can also apply for higher nationals and foundation degrees through UCAS.
Check courses are approved by the Engineering Council – look out for their logo.
If you’re applying for, or already studying a vocational course in civil engineering, you may be eligible to apply for one of two ICE QUEST Technician Scholarships.
What’s it like to compete for a QUEST Undergraduate Scholarship? Students at the company interview day tell us all.
Why civil engineering? Find out from civil engineering student Sam Whelan in this interview by vlogger and YouTube star Jack Edwards.
These uni friends got together during the Covid-19 lockdown to talk careers, motivations and rollercoasters.
This content is sponsored by the Institution of Civil Engineers. Views expressed are the opinions of Jack and Sam.
See your study options if you want to become a civil engineer