Building to stand the test of time
The field of civil engineering has evolved over the centuries to include modern and traditional building techniques. However, one thing remains constant: the need to build things that last.
Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with planning, design, construction and maintenance of various structures such as buildings, bridges, roads, water supply and transportation systems etc. It is one of the oldest engineering disciplines. There are many areas in which a civil engineer can specialise, including: structural, geotechnical, environmental, transportation, urban, water resources and construction engineering.
A brief history of civil engineering
Engineering has been an aspect of life since the beginning of human civilisation.
The construction of the Pyramids in Egypt (circa 2,700-2,500BC) might be considered the first instance of large-structure construction. Other ancient historic civil engineering projects include the Parthenon by Iktinos in ancient Greece (447-438BC), the Appian Way by ancient Roman engineers (c. 312BC), and the Great Wall of China by General Meng Ti'en, under orders from Ch’in Emperor Shih Huang Ti (c. 220BC).
Today, civil engineers have a wide range of career options in various areas like:
- design and consultancy
- construction companies/contractors
- project management
- property developers
- repair, maintenance and rehabilitation
- manufacturing of construction materials
- oil, gas and public utilities
- research and development.
Prospective engineering students should have any one of the following qualifications to enter into a civil engineering degree programme:
- civil engineering foundation programme
- STPM, matriculation, A-levels or equivalent
- Matriculation diploma or other equivalent qualifications from a recognised institution.
- LAN/MQA accredited diploma courses.
Areas of study
In general, civil engineering undergraduates start their studies learning the fundamentals of engineering– ie mathematics, physics and chemistry – during the first year of the programme. Following a thorough grounding in the basics, they will study civil engineering subjects and principles in earnest starting from the second year until the final semester.
Typically, they will study the following subject areas:
- Structural: the design and construction of steel structures, including buildings, bridges, tunnels, and offshore structures such as oil rigs
- Transportation: developing transportation systems, including highways, airports and runways, and rail systems
- Environmental: wastewater treatment, air pollution management, and the handling and processing of hazardous waste
- Geotechnical: Geotechnical engineering includes the design and construction of rock and soil based structures, including foundations and retaining walls
- Water Resources: construction of dams, canals, and water pipeline systems, as well as conservation and resource management.
In addition to the above courses, undergraduate students will also study other technical courses such as engineering surveying, engineering geology, computer programming, and computer-aided design and engineering. The use of computer applications and software is integrated throughout the programme. Undergraduate students will also complete a project in their final year before graduating.
Companies recruiting graduate civil engineers include: construction companies, developers, consultancy companies and public sector undertakings (such as JKR, Syabas and Tenaga Nasional), quantity surveyors, and repair and maintenance etc.
Estimated monthly salary: at least RM2,000 for fresh graduates.
Undergraduate civil engineering degree programmes are designed to provide the students with a knowledge of basic science, engineering science and design. Students will design individually and as part of a design team.
In order to maximise their potential, graduates are encouraged to become registered professional engineers with the Institution of Engineers Malaysia and to continue their education throughout their professional careers.
Sivakumar Naganathan is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Civil Engineering, UNITEN. He obtained his bachelor’s in Civil Engineering with distinction and a Master’s in Structural Engineering from Bharatidasan University, India. He is currently pursuing his PhD in the field of concrete technology.
Mr Sivakumar has more than 20 years of experience teaching civil engineering in various programmes both locally and overseas. He also has vast industrial experience. He regularly presents technical papers in conferences related to civil engineering research. His research interests include concrete technology, materials and waste utilisation.