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Infrastructure/transportation or buildings
#1
Hi,

I just want to get my fellow professionals and graduates opinions on working within Civil Engineering. I work currently in buildings as a structural engineer where we do a lot of technical design work. I just feel in the long run it is very limited compared to infrastructure.

From what I have seen on LinkedIn and speaking to senior engineers from other companies etc, infrastructure has far more broader fields and requires much more skills outside of design engineering e.g. contracts, managerial etc. Is this the case?

Is it harder for an engineer to switch from buildings to bridges for example or vice versa? Is it better to make the move earlier on in your career than a decade down the line?

Thanks!
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#2
I 100% agree that infrastructure projects bring about a lot of management and commercial work, due to the exponentially increased number of interfaces between clients, consultants, contractor and the gazillion subcontractors involved. Your personal role in these projects can still be very oriented towards technical or whatever you desire. Hence you should use your Development Action Plan and CPD records to identify what interests you.

What does everyone else think?
EUR ING CEng MIMechE
Co-founder of The Structural ExamThe Civil Engineering Exam 
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#3
Hi Enyel,

One reason to stay within buildings for the moment is to take advantage of the fact that the scale of a building project is much smaller than that of an infrastructure project. If you're interested in the management of an engineering project, you can position yourself from within your role to start managing work packages or process on site, initially specifically related to structural solutions that you were involved with developing and have a stake in. In doing so, you will be more likely to have complete ownership over a package of work that encompasses multiple phases of a construction project, as opposed to if you were working within infrastructure, where a similar-sized package will effectively be a small cog in the project machine, and you may miss out on the context needed to develop an appreciation for how your management meets the requirements of the project.

From such a position in building construction, you will surely be able to demonstrate your ability to take on a similar sized package of work in infrastructure, so I wouldn't necessarily say your limiting yourself down the line if you remain in buildings. Similarly, all buildings have foundations, earthworks, services, permits, contracts, etc. that you can develop experience in and use as transferable skills to infrastructure.

On the other hand, there are certainly niches in structural engineering and if you were to go from working on buildings to bridges, you would have to demonstrate you're ability to design using the appropriate eurocodes (e.g. EN 1991-2, 1992-2 & 1993-2). An employer or project manager would also prefer an engineer with experience in the field, as an experienced bridge engineer would have an inexplicable catalogue of lessons learnt from all scales and sizes that a building engineer simply wouldn't have. However, the engineering teams for large infrastructure are, themselves, large, and if everyone around you has experience in bridges, you can still be very useful having not had any previous bridge experience.

Final thoughts are that almost all infrastructure projects have 'building' structures in them. The majority of an airport project is constructing the fancy, large-span, portal, glass-clad terminal, which is all structures, and even underground stations have significant over-ground works for ventilation shafts and operations/services control centers. There will always be a route into an infrastructure project at any level if you have superstructure experience and start with the superstructure of an infrastructure project.
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