Civil Engineering or Architecture: How Should You Choose?

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While the fields of civil engineering and architecture overlap and share numerous details in several ways, there are notable differences between the two. It is best for students to understand these differences before choosing which career path is right for them, since each position requires its own set of training and skills. Determining whether to embark on a career in civil engineering or architecture requires an understanding of the daily tasks and responsibilities involved with each position.

Architecture – building plan and design

The field of architecture focuses on the design, planning, and development of various construction and building projects including houses, office buildings, factories, bridges, and much more. Students looking to enter a career in architecture must be trained in the various aspects of building plan and design. Unlike civil engineers, who oversee most of the details involved with projects from start to finish, architects are more focused on the preparation stages of building and structural design.

The daily tasks of an architect

Architects largely focus their attention on a variety of issues, since a wide range of details are involved with the planning and design phases of various structures and buildings. Responsibilities may include:

  • Meeting with different professionals and clients to plan out the goals of each project, including the required types of work and responsibilities for meeting these objectives.
  • Determining the specifications of each structure.
  • Providing a timeframe and cost estimate based on the nature of each project.
  • Overseeing employees responsible for project drawings and documents.
  • Developing scaled project drawings, whether by hand or using different types of software.
  • Providing building contractors with the necessary contracts and documentation.
  • Overseeing all construction contracts.
  • Scheduling onsite visits to ensure the construction matches the prepared architectural plans.
  • Finding new types of projects via marketing techniques, and presenting different ideas to potential clients.

Architects are usually not focused only on one type of structural project. The field of architecture may focus on designing anything from a small room to an entire building complex, making the occupation a varied and wide-ranging career choice. Architects may also design safety and security systems, fire escape layouts, ventilation systems, lighting, and other structural elements.

Civil Engineering – supervising and maintaining construction projects/infrastructure

While the field of architecture may concern a wide range of different types of projects in the public and private sectors, civil engineering mainly focuses on structures related to infrastructure. This includes supervising the development and construction phases of each project, as well as the maintenance required for each structure once it has been built.

Before embarking on a career in the civil engineering field, students should know what to expect regarding the profession. Following is a summary of typical daily tasks.

  • Civil engineers prepare for each project by analyzing maps, surveying the environment, and planning ahead for the long-term development and use of each project.
  • It is the responsibility of a civil engineer to obtain the required permits for each project, whether on a federal, state, or local level.
  • The building materials must be tested and analyzed to make sure they are suitable and safe before construction begins. This includes any wood, steel, concrete, and other types of materials.
  • Cost estimates must be determined, as well as labor requirements, necessary materials, and other project details.
  • Civil engineers use various types of software for structural design purposes.
  • A civil engineer supervises any operations pertaining to surveying. This includes determining the building locations, site layouts, and other key details to prepare for construction.
  • Once the project has been completed, a civil engineer continues to manage the structure. This includes managing the required maintenance, repairs, and other related work.

It is important to note that one of the major differences between architects and civil engineers is that architects usually focus solely on the interior of a building, while civil engineers may focus on the exterior and beyond, which may include parking structures and other outside projects.

Different career paths

Since the fields of architecture and civil engineering share numerous characteristics, students embarking on each career path are required to take many of the same classes and training programs. While there is some educational overlap, there are several differences as well. Architecture training focuses on architectural engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials science. Civil engineering training includes work in geology, hydrology, materials science, and mechanical engineering.

In choosing a career path, students must consider which type of projects they wish to work on, since architects and civil engineers often focus on different types of buildings and structural details. It is important to note that the initial stages of training and education are the same for both career choices. It is only after the early stages of training that students are able to specialize, whether in architecture or civil engineering.

Learn More

Civil engineers play a crucial role in engineering the structural solutions of tomorrow and plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructure essential to our modern lives. As a student in the online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program, you can enhance your quantitative decision-making skills and learn how to justify managerial decisions with data. You will also explore the capabilities of modern management technologies and discover how to successfully leverage these tools to maximize efficiencies in your projects and on your teams.

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