civil and mechanical engineersYou’ve heard of them, but what makes them different? While civil and mechanical engineers do have some overlap, their jobs are both unique. While they both work in the design and construction field, the projects that these engineering disciplines work on are quite different. That’s why we wanted to highlight each of these disciplines and explain the differences between the two. Let’s first take a look at civil engineers.

What do civil engineers do?

On a construction job, a civil engineer’s primary job function includes the following:

  • Planning
  • Designing
  • Building
  • Maintaining
  • Operating

Civil engineers are responsible for ensuring public safety and environmental health in a construction project, no matter the type. Civil engineering is considered one of the oldest engineering specialties because humans have been building structures since we could stack two blocks on top of one another. The jobs civil engineers are generally called up for include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Roads
  • Railroads
  • Airports
  • Bridges
  • Harbors
  • Canals
  • Dams
  • Irrigation
  • Pipelines
  • Power Plants
  • Sewage Systems

Some civil engineers also have a special area of focus, which can include architecture, water resources and construction forensics. They are generally called upon to design plans for projects, analyze maps and surveys and monitor construction jobs. They may also play a project management role.

Civil engineers must consider the environmental impacts of the jobs they work on and use advanced software systems (such as BIM) to create and implement designs. They must review and understand all local regulations and order and analyze soil, concrete, steel, wood, and/or asphalt. Finally, they oversee infrastructure maintenance and repairs and create estimates and budgets for projects. This could include anything from materials, labor or equipment budgets.

What do mechanical engineers do?

As you can see, civil engineers have a big job to do! And yet, mechanical engineers also have a lot on their plate. If civil engineering is considered one of the oldest engineering disciplines, mechanical engineering is considered one of the broadest. Mechanical engineers must understand a wide array of sciences and principles, including, but not limited to:

  • Materials Science
  • Engineering Physics
  • Arithmetic
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Thermodynamics
  • Structural Analysis
  • Electricity

Like civil engineers, mechanical engineers also use a wide array of software programs such as CAD and CAM to complete their work. They also work very closely with architects, other engineers, project managers, and other construction and job site professionals. They work on both device and structural designs. Some of the projects mechanical engineers work on could include:

  • Manufacturing Facilities
  • Industrial Machinery
  • HVAC Systems
  • Transportation Networks
  • Infrastructure
  • Aerospace
  • Robotics
  • Medical Devices

As you can see, mechanical engineers don’t just work on construction job sites. They can be found in research labs, manufacturing hubs, ports of entry, and many more locations.

Some of the job aspects mechanical engineers must oversee include reviewing design plans and changing designs to remove flaws if any are found. They are also closely involved with developing and testing prototypes, managing a device’s manufacturing process, and finding ways for mechanical processes to solve problems.

Educational requirements for civil and mechanical engineers

As with any engineering discipline, both civil and mechanical engineers need to obtain a minimum four-year bachelor’s degree. Once they have obtained their degree, they must then take a state engineering exam to obtain their license. But the subjects they study and the degrees they earn differ widely.

Once civil and mechanical engineers obtain their degrees and pass their engineering exam, they then move on to receive on-the-job training through internships, apprenticeships and trainee programs. To become a senior civil or mechanical engineer, they must pass additional exams and demonstrate advanced knowledge of their discipline.

The skillsets required for civil and mechanical engineers also differ. Civil engineers generally follow a clear path for working on projects. Their projects are clearly laid out ahead of time and do not require a lot of creativity or innovation. Mechanical engineers, on the other hand, must use their creative skills to create complex designs and solve problems using mechanical processes.

The difference between work environments and project types

Civil engineers usually spend most of their time on-site supervising projects and traveling between job sites. They also collaborate more with architects, regulators, project managers, and urban planners. Mechanical engineers generally work with other engineers, such as civil and electrical engineers and project managers.

Another difference between the two includes the time it takes for their projects to complete. Civil engineering jobs generally take a long time to complete. Their projects are also generally quite large in scale. Mechanical engineers could work on big or small-scale projects; they could include everything from huge structures to tiny tools.

Here’s another way to look at the difference between disciplines. Civil engineers work on the structure itself, whereas mechanical engineers work on individual systems of the structure.

Here at McNeil Engineering, our civil engineers bring many years of experience to the table. If you have a job that requires engineering professionals with a vast wealth of experience, contact us today! (801) 225-7700