Civil engineers working on a bridge

The world around us, the towns and cities we live in, our bridges, roads and water supplies – almost everything in fact, in the modern built environment, is the work of civil engineers. They make sure that things that are built work correctly, in both theoretical and practical terms. So, a career as a civil engineer is a very rewarding one.  

But should you take an apprenticeship to become a civil engineer? How long does it take to get qualified? What are the other ways to develop a career in civil engineering? Find out more below.  

What is a civil engineer?

Civil engineers are responsible for the planning, design and management of significant construction projects, including transportation links, buildings and other structures. They assess how buildings have an impact on and are affected by the built and natural environment and identify the challenges contractors will face within the construction phase. Some civil engineers focus on specific areas, such as transportation, environmental, geotechnical, maritime or structural projects.   

As a civil engineer, you could work on huge construction projects like the Shard, Wembley Stadium or the London Eye.  

Do you need an apprenticeship to be a civil engineer? 

You don’t need to undertake an apprenticeship, as there are other routes into a career as a civil engineer. You could complete a college course, take a university degree in engineering or directly apply to an employer and do on-the-job training. 

However, completing an apprenticeship is a highly regarded route to qualifying as a civil engineer. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) list up-to-date apprenticeship opportunities on its website. 

What are the entry requirements? 

The entry requirements for a civil engineering apprenticeship will vary depending on the level of apprenticeship. A Level 3 Civil Engineering Technician apprenticeship (BTEC) will usually ask for 5 GCSE grades at 9-4 (A*-C) including Maths, English and Science.  

To enrol on a Level 4 Civil Engineering Senior Technician apprenticeship (HNC), you will need 5 GCSE grades at 9-4 (A*-C) including Maths, English and Science, plus two A-Level passes or the Level 3 apprenticeship qualification.  

A Level 6 Civil Engineering degree apprenticeship is open to applicants with three A-Level passes, usually at grades amounting to 120 UCAS tariff points (such as BBB). One of these is likely to be in Maths.  

What are the different levels of apprenticeship available?

Civil Engineering Technician Apprenticeship - (Level 3 - BTEC) 

The Level 3 civil engineering apprenticeship is equivalent to A-Levels and gives apprentices an introduction to engineering principles and techniques, which will enable them to support technical problem-solving, carry out calculations and data analysis.  

The Construction Site Engineering Technician Apprenticeship - (Level 4 - HNC) 

Apprentices who take this Level 4 apprenticeship (offered by ICE) will develop a range of skills and practical experience. By the end of the programme, apprentices will be able to supervise specialist contractors and contribute to health and safety, sustainability and engineering aspects of construction projects. 

The Civil Engineer Degree Apprenticeship - (Level 6 - degree) 

Degree apprenticeships in civil engineering are offered by a range of universities, enabling apprentices to spend 20% of their time studying for a degree while working for an employer. Degree apprentices develop their general understanding of civil engineering, focusing on geotechnics, materials and structures.   

How long is a civil engineer apprenticeship? 

The length of time it takes to complete a civil engineering apprenticeship will vary, depending on the level of the apprenticeship. A Level 3 intermediate apprenticeship will take 2 years; a Level 4 advanced apprenticeship usually takes up to 3 years, and a Level 6 degree apprenticeship can take 5 years to complete.  

What careers could you get with a civil engineering degree?

Civil engineer 

Civil engineers plan, design and manage large construction projects. This could include bridges, buildings, transport links and other major structures. Civil engineers use computer modelling software and data from surveys, tests and maps to create project blueprints. These plans advise contractors on the best course of action and help minimise environmental impact and risk. 


Surveyors provide professional advice on a range of construction-related matters. They could be ensuring that new-build properties are built to regulations and specifications; advising on maintenance and repair of existing structures or assessing damage for legal and insurance purposes. Many surveyors specialise in one area as the role carries many responsibilities. 

Construction manager 

Construction managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a construction site. They ensure that construction work is taking place according to the project’s schedule and budget, that deadlines are being hit and costs are kept under control.  

Construction managers and construction directors meet regularly with clients, set and agree budgets, deal with contracts and oversee the logistical requirements of a project.  

CAD technician 

Computer-aided design (CAD) technicians use computer software to produce 2D and 3D drawings for construction and manufacturing projects. As a CAD technician, you may be designing buildings, machinery or component parts. Also known as CAD operatives, CAD engineers or BIM technicians, in this role, you will be taking complex information and using it to produce technical building diagrams for architects, engineers and other construction workers. 

Structural engineer 

Structural engineers are responsible for ensuring that structures can withstand various forces and conditions. This includes calculating ability, strength and rigidity, as well as ensuring the appropriate materials are chosen for each project. Structural engineers may work on a variety of projects, including residential buildings, commercial spaces, bridges, offshore rigs, cultural institutions and even space satellites.  

Degrees in civil engineering would be ideal entry routes to careers in structural engineering.  

Find out more about apprenticeships in construction 

There are hundreds of apprenticeships available in the construction industry. Earn while you learn and gain the qualifications and experience you need for a role in the construction sector.   

Civil engineering apprenticeship opportunities

A wide range of civil engineering jobs, graduate schemes and apprenticeships are advertised regularly on Talentview. You can filter your searches by job role, location and also look for management traineeships, work experience, placements and internships.  

Find the latest civil engineering apprenticeship vacancies.