Explore Careers by Essential Skills
The essential skills profiles can:
- Help determine, based on skill sets, which career may best suit a particular individual.
- Assist job seekers to write a résumé or prepare for a job interview.
- Help employers to create a job posting.
Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as 'building blocks' because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Civil Engineers (NOC 2131)
Civil engineers plan, design, develop and manage projects for the construction or repair of buildings, earth structures, powerhouses, roads, airports, railways, rapid transit facilities, bridges, tunnels, canals, dams, ports and coastal installations and systems related to highway and transportation services, water distribution and sanitation. Civil engineers may also specialize in foundation analysis, building and structural inspection, surveying, geomatics and municipal planning. Civil engineers are employed by engineering consulting companies, in all levels of government, by construction firms and in many other industries, or they may be self-employed.
- Read text entries in administrative and reporting forms. For example, structural engineers may read comments about roadways, interchanges and bridges in police accident reports. (1)
- Read instructions on the labels of workplace materials. For example, environmental, municipal and water management engineers may read handling and storage instructions on the labels of chemical products such as chlorine. (1)
- Read short e-mail from co-workers, colleagues and clients. For example, they may read messages from colleagues on matters such as meeting schedules, technical specifications and the coordination of work on joint projects. (2)
- Read trade magazines and professional associations' newsletters to stay abreast of technological advances, legislative changes and other matters affecting their work. For example, a geomatics engineer may read a news article posted on the website of provincial land surveyors' association to learn about changes to certification requirements. (3)
- Read manuals and guides to learn about methods and procedures for their work. For example, they may read project management software manuals to review the operations needed to control their whole portfolio of projects, produce Gantt charts, identify underperforming projects and problem areas, assess resource efficiency and determine recruitment needs. (3)
- Read 'requests for proposals' for projects requiring structural, building, hydraulic, surveying, geotechnical, municipal, environmental, water management and transportation engineering expertise. They may read proposal requests to learn about the scope of proposed work, mandatory requirements for credentials and experience, evaluation criteria and selection processes. (4)
- Read codes, standards and other legislation to verify rules and regulations and provide advice to co-workers, colleagues and clients. For example, building engineers may review building codes, zoning and energy consumption laws, municipal bylaws and other national, provincial and municipal legislation when designing residential, commercial and institutional structures. (4)
- Read lengthy reports and studies on topics such as environmental impacts, structural analysis, feasibility, hydrology and geology. For example, a transportation engineer may read land use, roadway configuration and other reports to learn about existing roadways and traffic patterns. A municipal engineer may read about a terrain analysis and hydrogeological investigation conducted at a proposed residential development site to investigate the sufficiency of groundwater supply and the requirements for sewage disposal systems. A public works engineer may read a geotechnical report about the nature of a harbour bottom prior to designing a wharf structure. (5)
- Read articles in professional and academic journals such as the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, the Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering, Materials and Structures and the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering. They select and read relevant articles to learn about new simulation models and experiments on materials, structures, infrastructures, procedures and equipment. For example, a civil engineer may read about experiments conducted to compare the performance of several asphalt mixtures at low temperatures. (5)
- Scan labels for various data. For example, water management engineers may scan container labels to identify chemical products, concentrations and other data. Building, structural and hydraulic engineers may scan labels on construction materials for technical specifications. (1)
- Enter data into tables and schedules. For example, a transportation engineer may enter traffic data into tables to study traffic flows. A municipal engineer may enter dates into a schedule for the maintenance of water, sewer and solid waste processing facilities. (2)
- Locate data in lists, tables and schedules. For example, a structural engineer may scan a list to identify materials to be used in a wharf reconstruction project. A municipal engineer may locate data on a bridge's location, value, deck length and width in a bridge inventory table. An environmental engineer may locate tasks and deadlines in a project schedule for the design of a sewage trunk main. (2)
- Locate data in entry forms. For example, a public works engineer may review tender submission forms completed by contractors to locate data such as names, addresses and overall bid amounts. (2)
- Complete forms. For example, a municipal engineer may complete a bridge inspection form. A public works engineer may complete a request for tender call form. The engineer may collect and enter data such as the project number, title and location, the names of the client and funding departments, the work completion date and other details. (3)
- Locate data and identify trends in graphs. For example, a transportation engineer may locate data on community disruption resulting from several road interchange alternatives in a series of traffic flow graphs. A geotechnical engineer may scan graphs from a watershed study to locate data on precipitation and drainage patterns. A water management engineer may scan graphs generated by supervisory control and data acquisition systems to locate water readings and other data. (3)
- Locate dimensions, angles and other construction features in various technical drawings. For example, a building engineer may analyze load carrying capacity and structural forces in drawings of roof trusses. A municipal engineer may locate dimensions in underground construction drawings prior to digging up a section of water main. (4)
- Locate data in schematic drawings. For example, they locate devices, device specifications, flow directions, capacities, voltages and other data in electrical, electronic, pneumatic and other schematic drawings. (4)
- Write entries in reporting and administrative forms. For example, a public works engineer may write a short project description in a 'request for tender' call form. A municipal engineer may write brief entries in the recommendations section of a bridge inspection form. (1)
- Write e-mail to co-workers, colleagues and clients. For example, a structural engineer may write a message to project staff to outline a change in priorities and the reallocation of tasks. A civil engineering consultant may write a message to a client asking for clarification of project requirements. (2)
- Prepare procedures for technicians, technologists, engineers and other workers. They establish the steps that other workers have to follow when carrying out job tasks. They must be explicit and precise to reduce ambiguity and the possibility of misinterpretation. For example, environmental engineers may write comprehensive procedures for monitoring air, water and soil quality and cleaning up contaminated sites. (3)
- Write specifications for the construction, repair and maintenance of buildings, powerhouses, roads, airports, bridges, dams, ports and other structures. They prepare detailed descriptions of the tasks to be performed, materials, products, accessories, standards and processes to be used and other contract requirements such as the need to respect plans, permits, codes and regulations and to repair deficiencies. (4)
- May write lengthy proposals for projects requiring civil engineering expertise. In these proposals, they address project objectives and discuss complex mathematical and physical science concepts. They identify project team members and describe their academic backgrounds and relevant work experiences. For example, a civil engineering consultant may prepare a proposal for the assessment of a building's structural integrity. (4)
- Write technical reports for employers and clients. In these reports, they describe mandates, backgrounds, objectives and methodologies, discuss findings and offer conclusions and recommendations. For example, building and structural engineers may write reports to describe the evaluation of construction materials and to make recommendations for particular applications. Geomatics engineers may write reports reviewing and approving survey design work. Geotechnical engineers may write reports analysing drainage patterns, investigating the properties of soils, rocks and ice and recommending slope stability solutions. Environmental engineers may write reports about the environmental impacts of industrial developments. (5)
- May write articles for scientific journals, conference proceedings and research publications. They summarize research protocols, outline difficulties encountered in conducting experiments, discuss scientific principles used to analyse data, present results obtained and explain their significance. For example, a structural engineer may write an article about the effects of pack ice on bridge structures. A transportation engineer may write an article about the development of a simulation model to assess public transit priorities. (5)
- Calculate and verify travel claim amounts. They calculate reimbursements for use of personal vehicles at per kilometre rates and add amounts for accommodation, meals and other expenses. (2)
- Calculate and verify invoice amounts. For example, building engineers approve contractors' invoices for work done on construction projects. They make sure that contractors have used contract prices for equipment, materials and labour and have calculated taxes correctly. (3)
- Determine the best value among competing tenders for large construction, repair and maintenance work. They perform comparative analyses of data submitted by several contractors and determine which bids offer the best prices. (3)
- Prepare resource allocation matrices and schedules for large construction, repair and maintenance projects. For example, a transportation engineer may prepare resource allocation matrices and schedules for a multi-phased highway rehabilitation project. The engineer may also have to reallocate human resources and adjust schedules several times throughout the project to ensure that the majority of work occurs during non-peak traffic periods. (4)
- Prepare and monitor budgets for large engineering projects such as the construction of buildings, earth structures, powerhouses, roads, airports, railways, rapid transit facilities, bridges and water distribution systems. They take into consideration the actual and projected costs of materials, equipment and labour. They factor in probabilities of delays and other events which may influence costs. They need to be fairly accurate to minimize budget overruns. (5)
- Measure the physical properties of geological formations, structures of all types and materials such as concrete and steel. They use specialized instruments such as soil compaction meters, flow meters, vibration analyzers, laser distance meters and transits. They identify measurement parameters and acceptable measurement methods. (3)
- Measure distances and determine locations using satellite, terrestrial, airborne and marine sensors. For example, a geodetic engineer may determine positions on the sea and water levels using radio positioning and satellite sensors. A surveying engineer may determine the location of contours and boundaries using surveys. A navigation and positioning engineer may determine the position of land, air and sea vehicles using navigation systems. A photogrammetric engineer may determine the location of several earth features using aerial photography and remote sensing technologies. (4)
- Determine quantities of equipment, materials and labour needed for large earth-moving, construction and material processing projects. For example, a municipal engineer may determine the amount of crushed limestone needed to cover a section of roadway. The engineer may also determine the size of crew required to dig a trench with backhoes, trenchers and bucket wheels and to lay a pipe system considering established production rates for machines and workers. (4)
- Calculate dimensions, forces and loads for structures and landforms. For instance, a structural engineer may calculate the carrying capacity of a proposed bridge given roadway geometry, drainage and soil conditions. A public works engineer may model the behaviour of a proposed concrete deck slab for a boat slipway. To this effect, the engineer may calculate the bending moments due to handling stresses, design shear force and shear stress carried by concrete and force at each lifting point. (5)
- Investigate covariance, correlation and causation. For example, a transportation engineer may analyse historical collision data for a substandard vertical curve in a roadway to investigate the correlation between the illumination that exists along that curve, attainable speeds and accident rates. (4)
- Collect and analyse data to describe structures, landforms and civil engineering systems. They identify measurement parameters and determine data collection methods. For example, a transportation engineer may collect and analyse data on transit service frequency, fleet size, person throughput and travel speeds to quantify the impacts of various transit priority strategies. A water management engineer may collect water turbidity readings and other data using supervisory control and data acquisition tools to detect deficiencies in wastewater collection and water distribution systems. (5)
- Estimate life spans of materials, structures and equipment. They may use formulas which take into account corrosion or material degradation, but these equations do not incorporate all of the variables and engineers' judgement is also required. For example, a structural engineer may estimate the remaining life span of an earth dam. (3)
- Talk to suppliers and contractors about technical specifications, price quotes, service options and delivery times for materials, equipment and supplies. For example, a civil engineer may speak to a road building contractor about asphalt composition and compaction specifications. (1)
- Discuss ongoing work with co-workers and colleagues. For example, they discuss project objectives, priorities, schedules and progress with engineering managers and ask for their guidance and approvals. They assign tasks to workers and contractors, answer their questions and provide them with direction. (2)
- Discuss technical and legal matters with co-workers and colleagues. For example, a building engineer may discuss design and construction processes with architects, mechanical and electrical engineers and technologists at site meetings. A structural engineer may speak to colleagues in government departments about national, provincial and municipal regulations governing the design and construction of bridges and highways. A transportation engineer may speak to urban planners about the collection and analysis of traffic data and the development of a simulation model to assess transit priority strategies. (3)
- Present proposals, recommendations, designs and research findings to senior management, clients and senior representatives from client organizations. They may also negotiate project deadlines and budget amounts. For example, a structural engineer may present proposals, designs, schedules and budgets for the construction of a length of pipeline. A transportation engineer may present the findings from a feasibility study of proposed airport development plans. (3)
- May facilitate and lead public information sessions on the construction and repair of structures and systems related to highway and transportation services, water distribution and sanitation. During these sessions, they may present information, designs and concepts, facilitate discussions and answer questions from participants. For example, a public works engineer may facilitate and lead a public information session on a bridge construction project. A municipal engineer may facilitate and lead a public information session on the closure of a landfill site. (4)
- Realize there are human resource shortages to complete projects. They alert co-workers and managers and discuss whether resources can be reallocated so that they can complete projects. (2)
- Miss project deadlines because of missing, inaccurate and inadequate data. They meet project managers and clients to review project plans and negotiate new deadlines. For example, a structural engineer has to locate and mark underground wires from area drawings provided by a client. Realizing that the drawings are inaccurate, the engineer asks the client to allocate additional time and money to allow for the area to be resurveyed and for new drawings to be prepared. (3)
- Deal with failures of structures and systems which constitute hazards to the environment, to the health and safety of populations and to local economies. For example, a municipal engineer learns that a gas spill was detected downtown. The engineer contains the spill, identifies its origin and stops the flow. Then, to ensure that no further contamination occurs, the engineer shuts the water drainage system down, cleans up the spill and reassesses the area. (4)
- Select technologists, technicians, land surveyors, trades people and engineers to carry out tasks. They consider individual academic backgrounds, skills, experiences, interests, strengths, weaknesses, workloads and availabilities. (2)
- Select contractors for construction, repair and installation work. They review various tenders and determine which contractors offer the best prices and most feasible work plans. If they select contractors who perform poorly, their organizations may lose considerable time and money. (3)
- Choose the methods, times, locations, durations and resources needed to train workers. They may have to study the cost and feasibility of several different options and consider the need to replace workers during their training. (3)
- May choose to bid on and accept work on specific projects requiring structural, building, hydraulic, surveying, geotechnical, municipal, environmental, water management and transportation engineering expertise. For example, self-employed civil engineers may review 'requests for proposals', identify tasks and requirements and bid on projects for which they have the necessary time, skills and resources. Once projects are started, they may incur significant losses of money and credibility if they decide to withdraw their participation. (3)
- Evaluate the quality of construction, installation, inspection, repair and maintenance work. They verify that requested tasks have been performed, specified materials, products, accessories, standards and processes have been used and engineering designs, codes and regulations have been respected. (3)
- Assess the suitability of equipment and software for particular civil engineering applications. They identify important performance criteria for particular applications and contexts. They gather and analyze specifications and expert opinions. For example, a transportation engineer may assess the suitability of transportation planning software for light rail traffic analyses and simulations. A structural engineer may assess the suitability of computer-assisted design software to prepare two and three-dimensional drawings of bridges and highway designs. (3)
- Evaluate the performance of technologists, technicians and engineers on their engineering project teams. As part of the assessments, they determine the extent to which junior staff have met performance objectives, respected health, safety and environmental policies and procedures and adhered to plans, schedules and timelines. Subsequent to performance evaluations, they may recommend new project assignments and further training for team members. (3)
- Evaluate the appropriateness of construction materials for specific applications. They use their engineering knowledge and review journal articles on the properties and characteristics of materials. For example, a civil engineer may assess the appropriateness of several asphalt mixtures for the pavement of a new highway. (3)
- May assess the quality and readiness of articles for publication in academic journals. For example, a transportation engineer may be asked to review a colleague's article on the development of a simulation model to assess traffic flows through various types of intersections. The engineer evaluates the article using criteria such as the soundness of the research approach, the consistency of explanations, the appropriateness of conclusions reached and the clarity of the text. (3)
- Lead teams which evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of proposed construction, repair and installation projects. They determine evaluation criteria which may include costs, benefits, technical, operational and legal viabilities, public perception, risks to health and safety and environmental impacts resulting from project implementation. They collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data on these variables. They write reports in which they describe evaluation methodologies, discuss findings and offer conclusions and recommendations. For example, transportation engineers may assess the feasibility and acceptability of proposed highway designs, rail transit systems and airport development plans. (4)
Own Job Planning and Organizing
Civil engineers work in dynamic environments with many conflicting demands on their time. Their work is team-oriented so that they must integrate their own tasks and work schedules with those of many other engineers, technicians, technologists, architects, land surveyors and trades people to design, develop and manage construction, repair and installation projects. Their ability to work on several tasks at the same time and manage priorities is critical to their jobs. Resource shortages, delays in getting accurate information, public complaints, pressures from managers and clients, health and safety emergencies and other unexpected events force them to frequently reorganize job tasks. (4)
Planning and Organizing for Others
Civil engineers play a central role in organizing, planning, scheduling and monitoring the activities of project teams and contribute to the long-term and strategic planning of public and private sector organizations. They are responsible for assigning tasks to other engineers, civil engineering technologists and technicians, land surveyors and tradespeople. (4)Significant Use of Memory
- Remember portions of codes, standards and regulations governing their work.
- Remember health, safety and environmental policies and procedures.
- Remember security codes to access computers and networks.
- Remember procedures to prevent and recover from software errors.
- Recall the names of the many engineers, technicians, technologists, architects, land surveyors and trades people working with them in order to facilitate communication.
- Find information about past projects by talking to co-workers and searching databases and project files. (2)
- Find information about materials and equipment by talking to other engineers and manufacturers' representatives and by searching manufacturers' websites. (2)
- Find information about the various rules and regulations applying to construction projects by searching building and design codes, zoning regulations, energy consumption regulations, by-laws and other national, provincial and municipal documents. (3)
- Find information needed to plan construction, inspection, repair and maintenance projects by collecting, analysing, synthesizing and integrating information from a wide range of sources. For example, a municipal engineer may find information about an area of land that has been proposed for development by consulting legal, land surveyor and city plans and topographical, soil classification and flood plane maps. (4)
- Use the Internet. For example, they may access on-line software manuals and bulletins using Internet browsers such as Explorer and Netscape. They may also perform keyword searches to get information about codes, standards, materials, equipment and suppliers from websites. (2)
- Use word processing. For example, they may create lengthy procedures, contract specifications, proposals, technical reports and journal articles using word processing programs such as Word. They may supplement text with imported graphs, photographs and spreadsheet tables. They use formatting features such as page numbering, heading levels, indices, footnotes and columns. (3)
- Use databases. They create and modify databases for their projects using programs such as Access. They also search, display and print data from these databases. For example, a transportation engineer may create a database to manage data on signal light timings. A municipal engineer may create a database to track water treatment and road maintenance data. A bridge engineer may create a database to handle flow rate and fish population data. (3)
- Use spreadsheets. For example, they use spreadsheet programs such as Excel to create scheduling, human resources allocation and budgeting matrices with which to monitor the progress of project activities. They embed formulas to perform calculations. (3)
- Use communication software. For example, they may use e-mail software such as Outlook to create and maintain distribution lists, receive correspondence and send e-mail and attachments to colleagues, co-workers, contractors and clients. (3)
- Use graphics software. For example, they produce schematic drawings using diagramming and drawing programs such as Visio and Draw. They may create slide shows using presentation software such as PowerPoint. In order to develop effective presentations for managers, co-workers, colleagues and clients, they import graphs, scanned images, schematic drawings, word processing files and spreadsheet tables. They may use photo editing software such as Photoshop to develop and enlarge photos taken with digital cameras. (4)
- May use statistical analysis software. For example, transportation engineers may use statistical analysis programs such as SPSS and SAS to perform statistical analyses of travel demand survey data, obtain means, medians, standard deviations and confidence intervals and to perform linear regressions. (4)
- Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, structural engineers may use computer-assisted design software such as AutoCad, MicroStation and P-Frame and S-Frame to prepare two-dimensional and three-dimensional drawings of bridge and highway designs. They may also use sheet pile design software like Prosheet to design steel sheet pile walls. Water management engineers may use supervisory control and data acquisition tools such as Aqua Cad Suite to monitor water readings, assess the operational status of wastewater collection and water distribution systems and detect pipe deficiencies. (4)
- Use other computer and software applications. For example, they use project management software such as Project to control portfolios of projects, produce Gantt charts, identify underperforming projects, trends and problem areas, assess resource efficiency and determine recruitment needs. They may also use specialized and industry-specific modelling software to simulate engineering processes. For example, transportation engineers may use transportation planning programs such as TransCAD to conduct traffic analyses and simulations. (4)
Working with Others
Civil engineers generally work closely with engineering managers, technicians, technologists, architects, land surveyors, tradespeople and other engineers. They coordinate design and construction processes with architects, architectural technologists and mechanical and electrical engineers. They supervise civil engineering technologists and technicians, land surveyors, tradespeople and other engineers who assist them with survey, engineering design, technical investigation and planning tasks. (3)Continuous Learning
Civil engineers are required to stay abreast of legislative changes and of advances in technologies, materials, procedures and equipment affecting their work. On a day-to-day basis, they acquire new learning through private study and experimentation and by speaking with co-workers and colleagues. They read scientific journals, trade magazines, professional associations' newsletters, manuals, guidelines, rules, regulations and research reports. They attend conferences, seminars, symposia, workshops and enrol in university courses. Civil engineers are governed by engineering societies in the provinces in which they practise. They may be required to develop their own learning plans and engage in continuous learning to maintain their professional certification. (4)
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