Studying Civil Engineering
Civil engineers ensure that buildings are constructed safely, cost-effectively and taking into account environmental aspects.
An article by Meike Fries in collaboration with Oliver Burgard
Civil and Environmental Engineering
That is what it’s about
Buildings and roads, dams and canals, railway tracks and airports, power plants and sewage treatment plants: all of these are designed and built by civil engineers. Environmental issues play a role because they shape the environment – be it energy-efficient houses, water conservation or the infrastructure for energy production. Unlike architects who focus on concept and design, here the focus is safety and functionality. The degree course comprises two main areas: planning and construction. The subjects related to planning include transport, hydraulic engineering and water management while construction covers structural engineering, timber construction, steel-girder construction, solid construction, geoengineering and construction technology. First, however, students learn the basic principles upon which structural engineering will build later on, including mathematics, mechanics and computer science in particular. The curriculum also includes construction materials science, cost planning, contract law, surveying and environmental engineering. In projects, students design virtual models, for example for bridges or sewage treatment plants. They use special software such as computer-aided design (CAD) or building information modelling (BIM). At most universities, students can choose what to specialise in during later semesters of the Bachelor's degree course, otherwise specialisations are predefined. These specialisations range from high-rise construction to reconstruction and traffic planning all the way to project management and construction site management. At the universities of applied sciences, there is usually a practical semester, usually in the third academic year. At the universities, there are fewer practical components. "The projects or final theses should be used to explore the practical side," advises Peter Schaumann, a professor at the Leibniz Universität Hannover and chair of the faculty conference for Civil Engineering, Geodesy and Environmental Engineering.
suitability, obstacles, misconceptions
Many students have difficulty with engineering mathematics and underestimate the amount of work: "You have to expect a 40-hour week – minimum," says Birger Gigla, professor at the FH Luebeck and chair of the faculty conference for Civil Engineering. It is also important to have a strong interest in natural sciences. Future engineers should also have good organisational and communication skills because they will need to engage with different dialogue partners later on, e.g. investors, government officials and manual labourers. They can't be afraid of taking responsibility. They are responsible for the safety of many people on construction sites and their decisions can influence living spaces for decades. And they don't get a second chance: "If the prototype of a refrigerator has problems, these problems are fixed before it goes into production. In the case of a building, everything has to be right from the very beginning," says Gigla. The degree course does not have restricted admission at about half of the universities. If there are course entrance restrictions, they are often in the two to three grade range.