What is civil engineering?

Ready to start your career in civil engineering in Australia? Here’s everything you need to know to crack into the industry. 

What is civil engineering

Civil engineering covers all aspects of infrastructure in the built environment— everything from roads and transport systems to water supplies, buildings, and airports.  

Working as a civil engineer, you’ll play a key role in improving people’s lives. For example, you might help cities adapt to climate change or accommodate growing populations or design high-speed transport systems that revolutionise how people get around. 

Sound like it could be a dream career? Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a civil engineer in Australia.  

Types of civil engineering

There are quite a few sub-categories within civil engineering—let’s look at some of the common ones that you can choose to pursue. 


As a structural engineer, you’ll be responsible for the materials and design of buildings and other structures. Crucially, you’ll apply your expertise in maths and physics to ensure structures can effectively bear weight and remain safe within their environment. 

Increasingly, structural engineers are considering how to design for climate change and natural disasters and how to select sustainable, low-emission materials. 


If planes, trains, and automobiles are your thing, you might consider transport engineering. You’ll design transportation systems that meet the needs of expanding cities and help get people where they need to be faster and at a lower cost. 

You can specialise even further within this sub-discipline—for example, you may choose to specialise in rail transport—and can select a course that will specifically put you on that track (…sorry not sorry for the pun). 


Geotechnical engineers are experts in soil and earth materials. Working in this discipline, you’ll likely spend some of your time out in the field collecting samples and some of your time analysing them back at the lab. 

Example projects you may work on include decontaminating the soil of a building site, designing safe landfills, or examining seabed sediment for offshore engineering. 


Working in water engineering, you’ll make sure populations have safe and sustainable water supplies. You might focus on urban stormwater, flood management or wastewater recycling. 

You could also focus on coastal management, where you’ll consider how we manage rising sea-levels and how we can adapt our water usage to a changing climate. 


Working in civil construction, you’ll help bring the vision of the structural engineer to life. You’ll manage all the people and resources within a project to make sure it’s delivered safely and efficiently. 

You can start developing the management skills you need in this role in a course like a Diploma of Civil Construction

Is civil engineering in demand in Australia?

Civil engineers are in very high demand in Australia. In fact, it’s the most in-demand type of engineering thanks to the number of major infrastructure projects underway across the country. 

Interestingly, Australia has also seen a recent engineering skills shortage, according to Engineers Australia, due to factors like border closures and decreased migration in the last few years. 

Demand for civil engineers is expected to continue—or grow—in the future, so it’s a great time to consider studying civil engineering to help the country meet this need. 

How much does a civil engineer earn in Australia?

You may also be wondering about your earning potential as a civil engineer. According to SEEK, at the time of writing, the average salary for a civil engineer in Australia is between $90,000 and $110,000—but this may change based on your qualifications, experience, and exact role. 

Which state is best for engineering jobs in Australia? 

The most populous states—Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland—tend to have the highest demand for civil engineers. 

At the moment, there are some major infrastructure projects on the go—such as Victoria’s Big Build, which includes road upgrades and new metro tunnels. Engineers Australia recently found that civil engineering job ads in New South Wales totalled almost 42% of all engineering vacancies advertised in the state in 2022—so you’ll likely have no trouble securing a civil engineering job in one of the larger states. 

How to become a civil engineer 

To start your career as civil engineer, you can consider an undergraduate course, such as an Associate Degree in Engineering or a Bachelor of Engineering Systems and choose to specialise in civil engineering. You may take on some additional postgraduate study to specialise even further. 

Many aspiring engineers also choose to take on an internship while they study or shortly after graduating, so they can gain some on-the-job experience that will help them crack into the industry. 


Keen to build your career in this field? Explore online civil engineering courses offered with leading universities through Open Universities Australia. 


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