Rattle, Rat-a-tat, Roll! Build Your Career


When you think of construction, what comes to your mind, architects or construction workers? Young Post meets Wincy So, who works as a senior civil engineer currently at the only Chartered Recruitment Consultancy for the Asia real estate, property and construction markets, 3C Synergy.  She has been a civil engineer for 8 years, and she is also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.


Civil engineers are people who carry out large public works projects, like roads, airports, dams, and bridges and so on to make modern life possible.  Using highly sophisticated mathematical skills and computers to manipulate precise data, civil engineers design solutions to structural problems that are safe, long-lasting, and within budget. In doing so, a whole picture has to be considered: environmental issues, weather patterns, surrounding structures, community regulations, and sometimes even aesthetics. There have been misconceptions that it is a job only for men, but So proves the opposite.



Civil engineering is a career which requires excellent mathematical, scientific and computer skills.  You should be good with data and problem-solving as well. Highly self-reliant, a good working attitude and a high level of professionalism and integrity are fundamental.


Not only should you have the talent and the design ideas, but you should also have the ability to explain them to other people.  Good communication and interpersonal skills, good command of both spoken and written English and Chinese, and excellent spatial reasoning are required.  Fluency in Mandarin is advantageous.


“Since the planning, design and management of construction projects are all involved in the job, the duties are actually quite wide-ranging,” So added.  “There will be some office based work, but there may also be extensive travelling, even overseas, depending on the specific contract being worked on at the time.”


It is essential to be able to work within specific budgets and to deadlines, and to see a project through from beginning to end.  Therefore, you should be a good team player and adaptable to a dynamic environment, so that your coordination with colleagues and clients can be facilitated.



This is a career path needing aptitude and good examination results from school, followed by a three year university degree course leading to a qualification of Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) or a four year Master’s degree (MEng).  Almost all civil engineers have at least a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, but you can also pursue a civil engineering technician degree, which can range in education from computer-aided drafting and design to geology.  For those who wish to be heavily involved in research or teach, graduate school is a must.

“People can choose  a civil engineering technician degree for either 4 years or 2 years.  He or she will be trained in application over theory, and the person often has similar duties and responsibilities as an entry-level civil engineer,” So explains.

“However, since this tends to be a more ‘hands-on’ degree, it generally prevents the individual from becoming a licensed professional engineer.”

A way to make yourself get a leg up is to attend classes in a wide range of fields and get as much work experience as you can in the summers.  Even though you are interested in one field while you are in college, you can’t be sure where you will be on the career path.

All civil engineers should expect to continue their education throughout life in order to stay on top of new technologies as they are changing with each passing day.


A day at work

“It is hard to say what a normal day is for a civil engineer,” So says. “There are so many different fields of civil engineering.”

“My days,” she continues, “can be both going outdoors to attend site meetings and monitor work progress, or simply staying indoors to prepare proposals, plans, documents and designs.  It just depends on the progress of the project.”


Providing civil or structural design and analysis calculations, preparing engineering plans, designing documents and schematic layouts for submission, reviewing and evaluating technical drawings/plans for submissions, organizing and coordinating technical documents and preparing proposals detailing development can be all included in the career.


Work prospects

If you aspire to and are willing to put your effort into the work, there shouldn’t be any difficulty for you to procure a job.  “This is a field which often takes all different types of people and personalities,” says So.  What a successful civil engineer needs are a willingness to work with others and a desire to make a difference.

Civil engineering can be a challenging career, but its outcome is something real and solid that helps the society.  “My job permits me considerable flexibility to help others outside and inside of the office,” she continues. “I get to do something real to make this world a better place.”


After gaining an academic qualification recognized by an appropriate local or overseas professional institution, you can first begin the career as a building or civil engineering fresh graduate.  Preparing construction work proposals, designing temporary works, monitoring and coordinating site activities, and preparing reports and compiling records are some of the duties of an entry-level engineer.


Long-term prospects

The job outlook for civil engineers is optimistic in the coming years since the population grows and demands more infrastructures.  Civil engineers can also find work repairing and renewing older public works.

Since public works programs and construction projects are closely tied to the economy, civil engineers, however, may find at times less work is available.  As a result, they may have to travel or relocate to areas where much construction is underway.