What Does a Senior Civil Engineer Do?

Nick Mann

A senior civil engineer plays an integral role in the design and construction of structures like dams and bridges. These individuals are responsible for making sure these structures meet their intended needs and are safe for public use. In general, a person must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, but having a master's or doctorate degree is ideal. While the specific type of structures that a senior civil engineer may work on can vary, his basic job duties are the same. These include designing structures, checking code compliance, performing safety testing and supervising workers.

A senior civil engineer is responsible for ensuring that structures are safe and meet their intended needs.
A senior civil engineer is responsible for ensuring that structures are safe and meet their intended needs.

Designing structures is perhaps the most fundamental responsibility of a senior civil engineer. For example, he might develop a design for a new bridge that connects opposing sides of a waterway. It's his responsibility to make sure that each structure is sturdy and able to handle the stresses resulting from prolonged use. In some locations, he will also have to take into account the potential for natural disasters, such as earthquakes or hurricanes. Most of the time, designs start off with a rough sketch and are fine-tuned through the use of computer aided drafting (CAD) software.

Senior civil engineers typically have more experience planning projects than junior workers.
Senior civil engineers typically have more experience planning projects than junior workers.

Checking for code compliance is another part of this job and is usually necessary before a project can begin. In the case of a bridge, this might involve looking into traffic patterns of an intended location to ensure it won't conflict with traffic. Basically, the designs of a senior civil engineer must comply with government and safety guidelines prior to construction. Besides this, he may be required to meet with a council of city leaders or government officials to discuss the details of a project. These discussions can prevent unforeseen issues from arising during construction.

Along with this, a senior civil engineer will usually perform extensive safety testing before a structure is built. For example, he might complete mathematical calculations to make sure the foundations of a bridge can handle the stress of vehicles traveling over it. Since miscalculations could have catastrophic consequences, it's important for a senior civil engineer to be highly skilled and detailed in his testing.

In addition, an individual in this role will typically supervise workers throughout the construction process. In some cases, he will hire and train workers on the specifics of a project, making sure everyone understands the details. Besides this, he is likely to perform routine inspections to ensure that each stage of construction is done safely and correctly.

Civil engineers design and help build public structures like dams.
Civil engineers design and help build public structures like dams.

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