Exploring Graduate Careers in Construction: Architect or Civil Engineer

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If you have a keen interest in seeing how buildings are made or you like to admire some of the most famous buildings that this world has to offer (like St Peter’s Basilica and the Burj Khalifa), then you’re likely to be interested in the construction sector.

And if you’re also fortunate to be able to go to university, then you can combine this with your passion for construction to pursue a career in either civil engineering or architecture.

Both professions play an extremely important role in the design and implementation of a building or monument. Even though they do work together whilst working on the initial design & planning stage, both professions are extremely different. But understandably, it is very easy to get confused between the two.

Many people think civil engineers are involved in designing buildings from scratch, but that is far from the truth. If that were the case, then they’ll be no need for architects in the first place.

So the aim of this post is to clearly define the difference between the two professions and to help you decide which of the two career paths would be ideal for you.

The Architect

Exploring Graduate Careers in Construction: Architect or Civil Engineer

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Architects mainly focus on the creative approach to designing buildings and structures. They see themselves more as artist and visionaries. And most of their designs apply a great deal of principles in mathematics and scientific methods.

When architects design a new structure, they are more interested in developing a unique character for the building that can exude a certain atmosphere.

If you take a look at some modern buildings like the Burj Khalifa (Dubai), One World Trade Centre (New York) and the Shard (London), then you’ll notice these buildings do catch your attention. And you can’t help but to admire them.

Professional Duties
  • Blueprint drawings.
  • Design techniques.
  • Reviewing various architectural styles and history.
  • Applying theoretical physics and calculus during the design phase.
  • Model building.
How to become an Architect?

To become an architect, you would need to obtain a degree in architecture and complete a period of professional experience, which would be recorded as part of your logbook.

In the UK, a degree in architecture lasts for 5 years. Once completed, you need to complete a two-year work experience in order to be fully qualified. In the US, it is a little different, you would still need to go university to gain a degree in architecture.

And once you have completed your degree, you would need to enrol onto an Internship Development Program (IDP) where you would need to complete 700 training units (with each unit representing 8 hours).

Types of Projects You Would Work On
  • City Planning.
  • Design and planning of both private and public structures (i.e. urban, graphic, interior design and landscape).
What Type of Person Would Prefer Architecture?

If you’re a type of a person who has an artistic flair and has a good grasp in both physics and maths, then architecture is the right career for you. As an architect, you should be able to use your creativity to come up with various ideas and concepts in terms of building designs, which are in line with theoretical principles.


The Civil Engineer

Exploring Graduate Careers in Construction: Architect or Civil Engineer

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Whereas the architect is able to use their creativity to come up with ideas for building designs, it is the job of the civil engineer to turn those ideas into a real life structures. Civil engineers apply a systematic and practical approach to structural design.

When working on a construction project, civil engineers typical work with an architect’s blueprint. But whilst they are adhering to help bring the architect’s vision to life, the civil engineer’s main priority is to ensure the structure is safe and fit for purpose.

Professional Focus
  • Reviewing blueprints and applying various scientific and mathematical applications which can include, but not limited to:
    • Thermodynamics.
    • Chemistry.
    • Physics.
    • Algebra and Calculus.
  • Good knowledge of materials and environmental surroundings.
  • Good knowledge of government standards and business policies.
How to Become a Civil Engineer?

Like architecture, civil engineering also requires a university degree. In the UK, you would need to complete either an BEng or MEng degree at university. Once you have completed this degree, you can then find an graduate-level job in the field. You can progress even further by attaining chartered status.

In US, you would need also complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and then complete an internship to gain some experience. When you graduate, you would then need to select a speciality and apply for the relevant certification. Once you have gained this, you can then look for an entry-level job.

Types of Project You Would Work On
  • Planning & development of publics and private structures.
  • More focus on the development on publics structure such as bridges, canals and hydroelectric dams.
What Type of Person Would Prefer Civil Engineering?

If you’re someone who enjoys problem-solving, being practical whilst engaging in maths and science, then a career in civil engineering would be absolutely perfect for you.

When presented with a challenge (i.e. the architect’s blueprints), you will apply both your problem-solving skills and your scientific knowledge to bring the architect’s vision to a reality, whilst ensuring the structure is fit for purpose.

Why Both Professions Need to Work Together?

As you may have noticed throughout this post, the architects comes up with the ideas and design. And the civil engineer helps to bring that idea to life. The two professions need to work and collaborate together, otherwise no construction project will ever come to life.

Without an architect, individuals will not have a clear direction to formulate different types of structures. And if there was no engineer, the architect’s design will only be a pile of drawings and ideas that didn’t come to life, and only gathering dust.

We do hope that this post has helped you understand the difference between the two professions. And we also hoped that it has helped you decide which of the two professions is more suited to you. If you’re quite a creative person and can grasp both mathematical and scientific principles, then a career in architecture is best for you.

Whereas, if you’re more practical, systematic and enjoying applying scientific principles to solve complex problems, then you’re best suited to becoming a civil engineer.

Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Please let us know in the comments section below.

Written By
Mayur Mistry is a freelance copywriter and blogger from Manchester, UK. He regularly contributes for The Learning Station, an online training provider, where he writes about careers advice, study tips and industry related content, in particularly the construction sector and health and social care.
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