Introduction to Civil Engineering as a Profession in NZ

Civil engineering is a broad professional category that encompasses a diverse range of roles and responsibilities, with clear career trajectories from entry level graduate roles through to senior leadership positions.

And with New Zealand’s growing population and ongoing investment in infrastructure projects, it is an industry specialisation that is in demand!

As well as having well defined and accessible educational pathways available in New Zealand, a career in civil engineering can be both fulfilling and rewarding for motivated individuals.

Decipher Group are leaders in specialist recruitment. We work with a range of businesses to source candidates with strong technical skills to fill engineering roles. With a thorough knowledge of the market, unmatched technical understanding and broad talent networks, our team offer the very best insights and advice for individuals who are exploring a career in civil engineering.

Overview of Degrees and Certification Requirements

A university degree (four-year Bachelor of Engineering) is required to pursue a career as a Civil Engineer in New Zealand. There are a number of universities throughout New Zealand offering civil engineering degrees and courses including the University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Waikato (Hamilton), Auckland University of Technology, Lincoln University, and Massey University (Palmerston North).

In addition to a tertiary qualification and following at least five years industry experience, Civil Engineers seeking to progress their careers can apply to become a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng), a competency mark with international accreditation.

Some senior positions, such as managerial roles, may also require a master’s or doctoral degree.

As with any profession, continuous learning and upskilling is considered vitally important for the growth and development of Civil Engineers. It is likely that professional development will be required for the duration of your career as a Civil Engineer.

Different Fields and Roles within Civil Engineering

According to Wikipedia, civil engineering is defined as:

“…a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways.”

There are a broad range of sub-disciplines and a variety of roles, the most common including:

  • Structural Engineer
  • Project Manager
  • Site Engineer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Construction Engineer
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Civil Designer

In terms of career opportunities, Civil Engineers can pursue roles within consulting or contracting businesses including local, regional and central government, infrastructure and utility companies, as well as iwi organisations.

Engineering in general is a diverse field of study that is required in countless industries which can lead to some alternate and unexpected career pathways. In addition, engineering or STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are highly respected even outside the field, which can open up opportunities in other industries including law, medicine, business development, sales and marketing.

FAQ: What does a Civil Engineer do on a daily basis in New Zealand?

On a daily basis, a Civil Engineer might create design concepts and blueprints using computer software tools; evaluate potential project sites; lead project management efforts; conduct on-site visits to oversee activities; compile detailed reports; and collaborate with clients, stakeholders, and relevant authorities.

Navigating the Civil Engineering Job Market in New Zealand

According to government agency Careers New Zealand, there is a shortage of Civil Engineers. This is due in part to few skilled workers and high demand for their services. The profession also currently sits on Immigration New Zealand’s construction and infrastructure skill shortage list which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled workers from overseas to relocate to New Zealand.

According to the 2018 Census, there are 8,430 Civil Engineers working in New Zealand.

Once your qualification has been obtained, you may also want to consider working abroad within the engineering sector. For more information and advice about pursuing a career overseas, visit the Engineering NZ website.

Salary Expectations

According to online employment site SEEK, the average annual salary for Civil Engineer jobs in New Zealand ranges from $90,000 to $110,000. As with most technical professions, the level of salary is linked to experience. As an example, an entry-level Civil Engineer with less than 1 year experience can expect to earn an average salary of $60,000 whereas an experienced Civil Engineer with 20+ years’ experience can earn $130,000+*.

The construction industry is currently the top hiring sector for Civil Engineers in New Zealand.


How to Craft a Winning CV for Civil Engineering Jobs

Regardless of whether your role title or position is “in-demand”, if career growth is a priority, then you need to put effort and time into job search and submitting an application for a role. This applies to early career professionals through to experienced senior leaders.

Looking for help to create an impactful CV and cover letter tailored for New Zealand employers? Check out these useful online resources available on our website:

Resume CV Guide
Writing a killer cover letter
Top interviewing tips for corporate professionals

Challenges faced by Civil Engineers in NZ

Despite being a highly technical profession, non-technical abilities (commonly referred to as soft skills) are vitally important for Civil Engineers to succeed in their role. An often-overlooked proficiency, soft skills are growing in relevance as they enable a person to thrive in the workplace in partnership with others and importantly, standout from their peers which is key for career progression.

Here are five essential soft skills to consider.

  1. Communication Skills: Clear and effective communication is crucial for conveying ideas, discussing plans with colleagues and clients, and explaining complex technical concepts in a way that non-engineers can understand.
  2. Adaptability: Civil engineers need to adapt to changing project conditions, unexpected challenges, and evolving technologies. Flexibility is key to successfully navigating the dynamic field of civil engineering.
  3. Problem-solving: Civil engineers are responsible for finding solutions to complex engineering challenges. Strong problem-solving skills are vital for identifying and resolving issues that may arise during the design and construction process.
  4. Empathy: Understanding and considering the needs and concerns of clients, stakeholders, and the public is important for creating projects that are both functional and socially responsible.
  5. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution: Civil engineers often encounter conflicts and disagreements during projects. The ability to negotiate and resolve disputes in a fair and constructive manner is invaluable.

FAQ: What are the challenges of working on-site vs in an office in New Zealand?

Working on-site and in an office in New Zealand present unique challenges and benefits. Things to consider on-site include weather variability, physical demands, safety, transportation, and limited access to office amenities. Challenges of working in an office are consistent across most professions and include the impact of a sedentary lifestyle, long hours and office commutes. Roles like Civil Engineers, often need to strike a balance between on-site and office work to meet project requirements and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Mentorship and Networking in Civil Engineering

Engaging in a meaningful mentorship can provide benefits for your career development. This applies regardless of the stage of your career.

Mentoring can be both a formal or informal, structured or unstructured connection with a role-model who is either part of your current workplace (also referred to as a ‘sponsor’) or external to it. They provide advice and guidance typically linked to professional and personal development.

This could be a one-on-one relationship or group mentoring. You may also want to consider reverse mentoring, where a junior employee mentors a senior professional.

Importantly, seeking out a mentor can expand your professional networks which can lead to future job opportunities.

From a diversity and inclusion perspective, mentors can be a particularly valuable tool for advancing the careers of typically underrepresented workers. Providing much needed encouragement and motivation, while also advocating for your advancement.

The key to choosing the right mentor is finding the person best positioned to advise you, based on your current career development needs and goals. This may include looking within your current organisation, or your broader professional network/industry/field.

Where else to look for mentorship programmes:

  • Your local chamber of commerce
  • Industry groups like Engineering NZ
  • Your alma mater


Civil Engineers design, build, supervise and maintain the infrastructure we use every day – it’s a profession that is expected to remain in demand for some time!

If you are considering a career in civil engineering, you’ll find abundant prospects in various sectors, especially in construction. You can choose to work directly for different organisations or opt for positions within engineering consultancies. Furthermore, the diverse skills you acquire through your qualifications and work experience will open doors to a wide array of applications in various fields and corporate opportunities.

If you are an employer looking to attract the very best talent, learn more about Decipher Group and our specialist engineering recruitment expertise

For job seekers considering a career change, find your next exciting opportunity on our website, or reach out to our team today. We’d love to chat.

The Decipher Team

To stay on top of current recruitment trends and hear about new role vacancies, follow Decipher Group on LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

A short Q&A with our team on related questions that people commonly search for on Google.

What is the best career path for a civil engineer?

A tertiary qualification is the starting point to a career as a Civil Engineer – during this time you may also want to consider an internship in an engineering consultancy. Following your education, you will likely prioritise work experience gained in an entry-level position. You can become a chartered professional after you have demonstratable industry experience. This can open up opportunities for advancement and professional growth. You may also want to consider a specialisation or transitioning into a leadership/management role.

Is civil engineering a stressful career?

Burnout and stress are pressing issues that can impact on overall wellbeing and job satisfaction for Civil Engineers, as with most professions. With a shortage in skilled workers, employers may place unrealistic expectations on their people in order to manage projects. When considering new job opportunities, it is important for job seekers to understand the work-life balance offered by potential employers as well as expectations placed on performance.

Are civil engineers in demand NZ?

Yes. Demand for Civil Engineers is at an all-time high with roles available throughout New Zealand. It is a profession that commands a high average salary and can offer individuals a stable and secure career pathway. Civil engineering is a rewarding and challenging career that offers a lot of benefits.

What is the highest paying field in civil engineering?

Salary is commensurate with experience. There is a clear career pathway from entry-level graduate positions through to senior roles. Civil Engineers who have obtained accreditation or furthered their professional development with a specialisation, can expect to command higher salaries. Consulting and freelance project work may also offer improved salary prospects.

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