Working in Construction - A definition of a Civil Engineering Surveyor

The civil engineering industry involves the design and construction of the facilities that shape the world we live in. From roads, railways and bridges to water supply pipes and power stations, this is all civil engineering.

Civil Engineering Surveyors are involved in every stage of the project from initial concept through design and construction, to monitoring the condition and performance of the completed structure. Within this profession you could choose to work within Commercial Management (Quantity Surveying) or Geospatial Engineering (Engineering Surveying).

Commercial Management

Commercial Managers, or quantity surveyors, are the financial managers of the civil engineering industry. They work alongside other professionals in preparing the documents on which projects are based, measuring the work completed on site and ensuring that the companies carrying out the construction are paid a fair price for it. Their responsibilities include:

  • Preparing documents, including legal documents;
  • Evaluating prices received from various contractors and subcontractors to see who should be appointed to do the work;
  • Preparing estimates of the likely cost of the construction of a project;
  • Advising engineers on financial issues;
  • Measuring and costing the work carried out;
  • Valuing the contract as work proceeds.

This profession also includes the following functions:

  • Estimating: calculating the cost of a project;
  • Procurement Engineering: purchasing the materials and services needed;
  • Planning: programming the construction and ensuring that it is carried out as specified;
  • Project Management: general management of the construction project;
  • Construction Law: advising on the legal aspects of the construction, including the settlement of claims and disputes.

Geospatial Engineering Surveying

Geospatial Engineers work within construction on the measurement and monitoring of projects, as well as producing maps, plans and charts of different features. The main profession within civil engineering is engineering surveying (sometimes known as land surveying). Engineering surveyors are generally responsible for:

  • Investigating land, using computer-based measuring instruments and geographical knowledge, to work out the best position to construct bridges, tunnels and roads;
  • Producing up-to-date plans which form the basis for the design of a project;
  • Setting out a site, so that a structure is built in the correct spot and to the correct size;
  • Monitoring the construction process to make sure that the structure remains in the right position, and recording the final as-built position;
  • Providing control points by which the future movement of structures such as dams or bridges can be monitored.

The term Geospatial Engineering includes the following specialist areas:

  • Engineering surveying: preparation of maps and plans for the planning and design of structures, as well as ensuring that the construction takes place to the dimensions and tolerances required;
  • Hydrographic surveying: measuring and mapping the earth's surface that is covered by water;
  • Photogrammetry: involves obtaining information from photographic images in order to produce a plan of an area;
  • Geographic Information Systems: involves collecting and manipulating geographic information and presenting the information in the form required;
  • Cartography/Visualisation: accurately and precisely producing maps or plans and representing the information in two or three dimensions.

The civil engineering surveying profession provides an exciting and demanding working environment with the potential to develop a challenging and rewarding career. Many jobs involve working in the open air, with opportunities for travel both in the UK and abroad.


Most people start their career in civil engineering surveying by taking a degree in one of a number of subject areas. On the commercial management side, degrees are available in civil engineering quantity surveying, and civil engineering commercial management. Within Geospatial Engineering, degrees are in Engineering Surveying, Surveying and Mapping Sciences and Topographic Science.

One of these degrees would lead to careers in the financial and project management aspects of civil engineering, or within the mapping and monitoring of land and water features, as listed in the sections above.

In order to gain a professional qualification, it is necessary to take the required academic qualifications and then undertake a period of training whilst in employment. A degree-level qualification is required, which can be a full- or part-time degree; alternatively, a combination of further examinations or post-graduate qualifications may be sufficient.

Want to find out more?

The Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors is the only international qualifying body dedicated exclusively to the education and professional advancement of those working within the fields of Commercial Management and Geospatial Engineering

Professional Body

Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors

If you require further information to guide you in your career choice within property call us on +44 20 3757 5000 or visit our website

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Annabel Drew

7th October

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