What is Civil Engineering – A Brief Introduction

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This article is a brief introduction to Civil Engineering, which contains everything about civil engineering. Some technical keywords have been introduced to you here.

Topic: What is Civil Engineering – A Brief Introduction / Civil Engineering is a branch of engineering that includes Planning, Design, and Construction.

What is Civil Engineering – A Brief Introduction

Civil Engineering: Introduction

The name CIVIL indicates civilization. Civil Engineering is a Branch of Engineering Science that includes the Planning, Design, and Construction of Buildings, Airports, Bridges, Railways and Highways, Sea Ports, Hydro Projects, Power Plants, Drainage & Sewage Systems, etc. Civil Engineering is directly related to the development of any country because Infrastructure plays a crucial role in its development. Civil Engineering is the foundation of any civilization, not only in the modern world but also in the old civilizations. The name CIVIL itself is derived from the word CIVILization. So we can say that Engineering practices for the development and progress of an entire civilization are called Civil Engineering.

History of Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering is the second oldest branch of Engineering. The first oldest branch is Military Engineering, but we can consider Civil engineering the oldest if we count Non-Military Engineering practices only. As we read in history, the present species of Humans were developed on earth around 350 thousand years ago. They were uncivilized then, but they found various techniques to help in their daily lives with time. With the start of Animal husbandry and agriculture, they learned about constructing houses and shelters for their living.

The earliest civil engineering practice may have commenced between 4000 and 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization, and Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) when humans started to abandon a nomadic existence, creating a need for the construction of shelter. Some ancient examples of civil engineering are given below.

  • Pyramids of Egypt (circa 2700–2500 BC)
  • Qanat water management system (older than 3000 years and longer than 71 km)
  • The Parthenon by Iktinos in Ancient Greece (447–438 BC)
  • Appian Way by Roman engineers (312 BC)
  • The Great Wall of China  (220 BC).
  • Stupas constructed in ancient Sri Lanka like the Jetavanaramaya and the 
  • Extensive irrigation works in Anuradhapura
  • The Romans developed civil structures throughout their empire, including aqueducts, insulae, harbors, bridges, dams, and roads.

Apart from these, some of the other ancient historical infrastructures include Sennacherib’s Aqueduct at Jerwan built in 691 BC; Li Ping’s irrigation projects in China (around 220 BC); Julius Caesar’s Bridge over the Rhine River built in 55 BC, Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct, Nimes, France) built-in 19 BC, etc.

Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Peru, built around 1450 AD, at the height of the Inca Empire, is considered an engineering marvel. In old times, people only built the structures according to their needs, but after gaining excellence in the construction field, they started beautifying buildings. Some of these buildings exist today. These structures are perfect examples of a combination of civil engineering and architecture. We all know the Seven Wonders of the world. These man-made structures can surprise you.

  • Great Pyramid of Giza.
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
  • Temple of Artemis.
  • Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
  • Colossus of Rhodes.
  • Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Some Indian monuments are given below, perfect examples of civil engineering and architecture.

  • Taj Mahal
  • Qutub Minar
  • Lal Kila (Red Fort)
  • Konark Temple
  • Hawa Mahal
  • Khajuraho Temple
  • Char Minar
  • Ajanta and Ellora Caves
  • Sanchi Stupa
  • City Palace Udaipur
  • Fatehpur Sikri
  • Mehrangarh Fort Jodhpur
  • Nalanda University

Now you can understand that civil engineering and architecture knowledge existed long before modern techniques, machinery, and instruments were developed.

Modernization of Civil Engineering 

Civil Engineering as a Profession

As discussed above, the traces of civil engineering and architecture can be seen throughout ancient and medieval history. However, this knowledge of architectural design and construction was carried out by artisans, such as stonemasons and carpenters, rising to the role of master builder. Knowledge was retained in guilds and seldom supplanted by advances. Structures, roads, and infrastructure that existed were repetitive, and increases in scale were incremental. 

     Since Infrastructure was an unavoidable need in every field of society, Some genius minds of this sector thought to spread this knowledge to the whole world. In the 18th century, the first institution for the teaching of civil engineering, the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, was established in France; and more examples followed in other European countries, like Spain. 

     The first self-proclaimed civil engineer was John Smeaton, who constructed the Eddystone Lighthouse. John Smeaton is Also known as the Father of Civil Engineering. In 1771 Smeaton and some of his colleagues formed the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. In 1818 the Institution of Civil Engineers was founded in London. Thomas Telford became its first president in 1820. After 8 years of successful operation, the Institute received a Royal Charter in 1828 by the Queen of England, Incorporating Civil Engineering as a Profession. This charter was quoted as:

“The art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man, as the means of production and traffic in states, both for external and internal trade, as applied in the construction of roads, bridges, aqueducts, canals, river navigation and docks for internal intercourse and exchange, and the construction of ports, harbours, moles, breakwaters and lighthouses, and in the art of navigation by artificial power for commerce, and in the construction and application of machinery, and the drainage of cities and towns.”

Educational Institutes of Civil Engineering

The first private institute for the teaching of Civil Engineering was Norwich University (the USA, 1819), founded by Captain Alden Partridge. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (USA) was the first to award a degree in civil engineering in 1835. Nora Stanton Batch was the first woman awarded a civil engineering degree in 1905 by Cornell University, Newyork. In the 19th century, the United Kingdom coupled the division between Military Engineering with Civil Engineering due to the need for Transportation systems like Railways, Highways, and Ports in Military operations.

Professional Practices of Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering is an Ocean of different types of Infrastructural knowledge categorized based on their uses and purpose. These Categories are:


Runways at Airports



Power & Energy

Hydro Power Plants
Wind Mill Towers
Thermal Power Plants
Solar Power Plants

Administrative Buildings

Corporate offices
Govt. Buildings

Under Ground Pipelines

These projects contain the pipelines laid underground for Water Supply, Gas Supply, Sewage, and Drainage purposes.

Water Supply
construction of the gas pipeline
Gas Supply

Specialized Civil Engineers

According to the categories of work in construction industries discussed above, each field requires a different type of skill set. These skills fall under the subcategories of civil engineering knowledge. Different Civil Engineers having excellent knowledge in different categories of Civil Engineering are known as Specialized Civil Engineers in that particular field. For example, If you are recently awarded a civil engineering degree but do not have practical knowledge of Site Construction works, you will be known as a Fresher.

You go to work with a company which is constructing a highway then you will work as a trainee engineer in any department. There are various departments in Highway Construction which are Material Engineering (Quality Assurance and Control), Billing (Estimating and Costing), Planning (Design and Estimation), Structure (Road Bridges, Fly Overs, Under Passes, Culverts, etc.), and Highway (Layout and Execution).

With a Bachelor’s Degree, you can work with Contractor Firms in any stream of highway construction. Here you will learn practical knowledge and gain experience about the construction techniques of the modern era. However, after spending some years working, you think you are more interested in a particular field such as structure works (Road Bridges, Fly Overs, Under Passes, Culverts, etc.). You have to gain a master’s degree from a reputed Institute in Structural Engineering.

After completing this master’s degree in structural engineering, you can work as a consultant Bridge Engineer. At this stage, on behalf of the client, you will have to verify and assure the correctness of methods used in constructing structures (Road Bridges, Fly Overs, Under Passes, Culverts, etc.) by contractor firms. You will be a specialized civil engineer in bridges or a Bridge Engineer. Some of the Specialized Areas in Civil Engineering are:

  • Transportation Engineering
  • Structural Engineering
  • Material Engineering
  • Construction Management
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Site development and planning
  • Surveying
  • Water Resource Engineering

Some of the other branches of Engineering are Directly connected to civil Engineering like Architectural Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Earthquake Engineering, Municipal or urban engineering, Coastal engineering, Mining, etc.

Contents to Study in Civil Engineering


Civil engineering knowledge is mainly based on computational Methods of Physics and Mathematics. Some parts of chemistry are also involved in assessing the structure’s environmental effects and life span. Material Engineering is also a branch of civil engineering studied under some influences of chemistry. So all the subjects related to Civil Engineering are combined Practices of Mathematics and Physics. Some subjects are also based on chemistry.

Some important subjects are listed below.

  • Basic Civil Engineering
  • Engineering Mechanics
  • Surveying
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Strength of Materials
  • Theory of Structure
  • Concrete Structures (RCC)
  • Hydrology and Irrigation
  • Hydraulic Structures
  • Steel Structures
  • Transportation, Bridges, and Tunnels
  • Soil Mechanics
  • Geotech Engineering
  • Traffic Engineering
  • Estimating and Costing
  • Construction Materials
  • Construction Equipments
  • Construction Management
  • Environment, Energy, and Ecology
  • In higher education, let us say post-graduation, we study sub-branches of these subjects.

Rules, Laws and Standard Codes

In college, we gain theoretical knowledge of civil engineering with practicals organized by the Institution in Lab. In designing subjects like RCC and Steel Structure, we follow some Standard Codes for computation. These codes contain different sets of rules and regulations for different countries as per their demographic situations. Governments and Departmental Authorities sometimes publish their Standard Codes, which are revised from time to time.

These codes are prepared for the engineers to follow in the construction process, keeping quality, cost, time, durability, easiness, public health, and environmental measures in mind. Scientific research Institutions decide the rules regulations for design and construction procedures based on principles given by various scientists previously and various surveys done like Geological survey, Hydrological, Demographic Survey, Contouring Etc. Some Extensively Used Codes are AASHTO, IRC, MORT&H, ASCE, British Standard Codes, IS Codes, etc.

Role of a Civil Engineer High Scale Construction Project

There are many roles to play by a Civil Engineer in construction projects. First of all, before commencing any project, a reconnaissance survey of the area at which the project has to be built. The geodetic survey, contour survey for terrain, geological survey, population, and other properties of that land should be assessed. The next step is to assess the estimated value for the project with a virtual plan. After assessing the value of the project, some modifications can be made by Authorities for economic purposes, but these modifications can be made only according to existing laws and regulations.

After modification, a final plan is created according to the modified cost and plan. Now the final design of each element with Ground Plan, Elevation, and Cross-section are prepared. The total target cost of the project is calculated with the contractor’s profit, contingencies, and other expenses. In this stage, we need Architectural Engineers to prepare the Design & Drawings with the help of software like AutoCAD, STADPro, MS Project, Primavera, Calquan, Civil 3D, Calquan, Road Estimator, Open Roads, Revit Architecture, etc. After completion, the contractor starts the construction according to these designs and drawings with the help of a team of civil Engineers. After completing the project, the contractor hands it over to the client.

From The Author

This article is a brief introduction to Civil Engineering, which contains everything about civil engineering. Some technical keywords have been introduced to you here. Since this is a starting Blog, all these keywords will be explained in the following blogs. Stay tuned, and you will get all the knowledge about civil engineering subjects, software, instruments, and methods. The articles will be uploaded subject wise but if you need an article on a particular topic, then comment on this blog. We will help you and publish the article according to your needs.

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