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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Career in Civil Engineering


with the real estate sector buzzing, the demand for civil engineers is on the rise, analysis on the scope of a career in civil engineering

Ancient lore has whispered through time, of the glory of man’s achievements, and the best testimonials to them are his creations that have stood the test of time. While the overwhelming Pyramids of Giza, the Roman Colosseum, the serpentine Great Wall of China and our very own Taj Mahal remind us of the builders of old, the present, not to be outdone, has its own showcase — the lofty Petronas towers, the ultra modern Louvre Pyramid and the eye catching Burj-Al-Arab. No treatise celebrating the progress of man is ever complete without pointing to his building prowess.

For want of a clear definition, the masterminds behind these masterpieces may have simply been named ‘builders’ in the past. It was only as late as the 18 th century, when the field that involved the design and execution of structural works for civilian purposes, came to be termed as ‘civil engineering’.

India, which has been home to one of the oldest civilisations to exhibit developed levels of structural organisation, has a host of such engineering marvels scattered across her length and breadth. Hindu mythology, in fact, also tells us of Lord Vishwakarma, who is the builder of the palaces of gods and the deity of all builders and craftsmen.

The field of civil engineering has undergone tremendous change over the past few years. Here’s a look at the field.


The field of civil engineering is regarded as one of the core engineering fields, along with electrical and mechanical engineering. Simply put, it is the science of designing and building physical structures for general purposes.

These physical structures include, buildings, bridges, flyovers, roads, reservoirs, dams, etc. it may be further divided into structural, environmental, geotechnical, constructional and materials engineering.

Engineering colleges offer a BE/ BTech in civil engineering, which is a four-year course, post one’s 10+2 education or a three-year diploma in civil engineering, post secondary school. In recent times, with the advent of software and IT enabled services, one finds extensive use of such intelligent programmes that help in designing and testing construction works.


Civil engineers can find employment in the private sector with construction firms, as structural designers or construction supervisors (site engineers, project managers), MEP (mechanical electrical and plumbing) contracting firms, etc. They are also recruited by the public works department (PWD), which oversees the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, government buildings, etc.

“Owing to the construction boom witnessed in the past two to three years, civil engineers have been in much higher demand now than before,”remarks Professor Patil,from the civil engineering department of a premier institute in Mumbai, adding, “Starting salaries that formerly were merely Rs 7,000 per-month have increased to a whopping Rs 18,000 permonth in the past two years.”

Due to fewer civil engineering departments in the city, it is also much easier to find internships with private firms. Though an internship is not mandatory in colleges in the city at least, they can go a long way in providing students with hands-on experience in the job, while also boosting their chances of finding permanent employment after their degree.

“Civil engineers have also been quite a rare commodity owing to higher attrition rates and fewer graduates to meet the increasing demand,” informs the HR department of Haware Constructions, a private contracting firm in Mumbai.

A profession that was more or less fragmented and disorganised, in addition to being very opaque in its dealings, has now matured into a much more organised industry. The recent BSE listing of DLF, a real estate behemoth, is only the beginning of an increasingly transparent business. All this has translated into a much clearer path for budding civil engineers.

Construction firms may typically take up trainees initially, and after about six months to a year of probation period, confirm them as permanent employees depending on their performance. A fresher joins a construction firm as a site engineer. The job involves supervision of construction activity on specific projects. Since the field is not factory defined and moves from one site to another, engineers are assigned based on the project.

Construction conglomerates like L&T and Shapoorji Pallonji also recruit directly from campuses at salaries of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month. Usually, about five to seven graduates are recruited by a single company.

IIT Powai naturally witnesses more lucrative job offerings with firms paying up to Rs five lakh (INR) per-annum. “Companies usually require two kinds of civil engineers, for construction work and for structural design; there are obviously more construction contractor openings because of the nature of the job,” says Nimish, a student of the civil department of IIT-Powai. Says a professor in the civil department of S P College, Andheri,“The real estate boom has opened up new doors for young engineering graduates. Moreover, the state government’s initiative of pursuing housing development aggressively in the rural areas with publicprivate partnerships means that a whole new gold mine is just waiting to be discovered.”

The bottom line is: There is a lot of construction yet to be done, not only in the city,but also in places located on the outskirts in addition to rural areas.

Scope abroad

The Gulf has emerged as a hub of commercial activities. It has witnessed the rapid development of private and commercial structures required to accommodate the rich and famous from the world over. The Palm Jumeirah project on the Dubai coast is the stuff of legends. There has also been a steep increase in construction activity in the UAE and adjoining Gulf countries.

Sunil Sharma
Dil Se Desi Group

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