Civil engineers do not only participate in the design, planning, and execution of infrastructures but also in their maintenance and use. Depending on the scope of the project, one and the same person can be entrusted with all of these tasks or they can be shared out as team work.
One of the civil engineers’ tasks consists of defining the size of the work. As the case may be, they succeed thanks to statics (the calculation of stresses in a structure), their expertise in the behavior of materials (resistance and deformability), their knowledge of geotechnology (soil characteristics), of hydraulics, or in the field or energy or transportation. This work increasingly relies on computer modeling tools. Besides gaining expertise in the primary building techniques, civil engineers must also demonstrate their creativity, in order to offer solutions which are able to gain the broadest possible support for their projects.
During the Bachelor’s studies, the training in basic sciences (mathematics and physics) is spread out over all three years of studies, thus allowing the students to tackle a good number of specific civil engineering classes even in the first year (statics, geology, structures, materials). The second and third years include classes in soil and fluid mechanics, structures (concrete, metal, etc.), and hydraulics, ending with a first project applying and synthesizing the knowledge that has been gained.
Bachelor: simplified study plan
The Master’s training offers several possibilities of specialization: geotechnical engineering, transport and mobility, structural engineering, water and energy. For 30 ECTS credits, this specialization gives a certain individuality to the training without taking away its general character. A strong link with professional practice is guaranteed through project work and a compulsory two-month internship in a company.
Other programs are also open after graduating with the Bachelor’s degree, in particular some interdisciplinary Master’s programs.
Further information on Master’s study programs.
Please note that the information regarding the programs’ structure as well as the simplified study plan may be subject to change and that these are no legally binding. Only the official regulations and study plans are binding.
In this always multidisciplinary and often international context, civil engineering consultancy firms, government departments and construction companies are required to manage ever-more complex projects. It is, moreover, often more difficult to restore existing infrastructures than to build new ones. In the future, civil engineers will increasingly need to get involved in managing the consequences of global warming and natural hazards.
Graduates can also involve themselves in academic research by joining a PhD program.
I always wanted to finish my studies quickly, to start working and see the reality of the job market.
I have been interested in architecture ever since I was a kid, but I had many other ideas and interests before I started studying at EPFL. Actually, when I chose my studies, the most important thing for me was to find a field that would give me as many opportunities as possible for the future. I did a first year in architecture – a year that I failed – and then decided to study civil engineering. Let’s say that civil engineering is the Cartesian side of architecture, and I like it more.
When I applied for my first job, I was in Montreal doing my Master’s thesis. I therefore had a job waiting for me in Switzerland before even coming back. This first job – which is supposed to be the most important one for a young graduate – lasted only four months. The boss actually needed someone much more experienced than I was. After that, a work agency suggested that I changed my profile a little, and that I should not only look for a job in transportation, but also be open to working in other fields. I followed their advice, and I am now working as a project manager in an engineers office in Montreux that give me a chance!
Our office employs about 20 people and manages projects in the building sector (private houses, buildings complexes, renovations, transformations), but also projects less typical for civil engineering, such as the ski lifts in Les Diablerets or the renovation of the CGN boats. To manage different projects is a clear objective in the office. After three years, I am now responsible for managing entire projects, from the first calls to the end of the work. It is always a very special moment to see your project in front of you, once it is finished.
I think that civil engineering is one of the departments that gives you the most possibilities to find a job. I love having responsibilities in the company, being the one to make my own project succeed – or not – having to constantly find solutions, manage a team, and even not knowing what kind of project I will work on tomorrow. Moreover, the salary is good, even at an entry-level position.
But everything is not perfect! It is a job where you cannot always do what you want, and you often have to work long hours to meet the clients’ requirements, or do some training. Just like for any other job, there are good and bad days. You will have to be able to question yourself all the time and remember than nothing is written in stone. You will be the one who has to make your own experiences and seize opportunities.