Are you intrigued by the built environment? If so, Civil Engineering at USYD could be the degree for you!
We’ll cover everything you need to know about specialisations, core units, assessments, the faculty and more below.
Let’s dive in!
What is a Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) at USYD?
A Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) will equip you with the ability to plan, design, and test all sorts of structures in the built and natural world. This means that you will learn how to manage the process of designing and constructing different kinds of infrastructure — think bridges, buildings, tunnels, and even ports — all while developing skills in management, finance, and problem solving.
Can this degree be studied in conjunction with another?
This degree can also be studied as a double degree, and can be paired with a Bachelor’s degree in a similar field, such as project management or design in architecture, or something different — think arts, law, commerce, science, medical science, or health.
Studying a second degree can allow you to explore other areas of interest, broaden your potential career opportunities, and walk away with two degrees for just one year of additional study (or two if you study law).
This degree has an embedded Honours program, so you can expect to undertake a research project in your final year.
Completing an Honours degree involves investigating a topic of interest from an engineering perspective and writing a research thesis, and enables you to further your knowledge and communication skills while getting a taste of academic research. Once you receive your Honours degree, you can apply for and complete a PhD (a Doctor of Philosophy).
Civil Engineering is a huge area, so you can take your degree into a range of potential careers, including:
- Airport and harbour authorities
- Construction and mining companies
- Engineering and infrastructure consultants
- Municipal councils
- Project management and public works
- Transport systems
- Gas and water supply and sewerage systems
- Water and sanitation in developing countries
- International aid and development
- Humanitarian aid
- Facade drafter
- Emergency management specialist
- Sustainability specialist
- Town planner
- Structural engineer
- Transport operations planner
The Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) is also accredited by both Engineers Australia and the Washington Accord of the International Engineering Alliance. This means that you’ll graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to work in Civil Engineering.
Core Units and Specialisations
Whether you decide to study Civil Engineering on its own or with another degree, there are some core units that you will need to complete. This includes foundational units across maths, physics, and engineering, as well as a professional engagement program and thesis units.
What are the Core Units?
In first year, you will study a mix of first-year maths, introductory computing, and core Civil Engineering subjects — think materials engineering, geology, and surveying.
As you progress into second and third year, there are more maths and Civil core units that you need to complete, such as soil mechanics, environmental engineering, and engineering design. Second year also sees you attending a surveying camp, where you can develop your practical skills as part of a team.
In your final year, the only core units that you will have to complete are the two thesis units, giving you plenty of space for electives, units relating to your specialisation, and other engineering units. Completing the thesis units will help you develop the skills you’ll need to design your honours project, conduct research, and communicate your findings.
If you choose to study Civil Engineering at USYD, you can also decide whether to specialise in a particular area or not. There are seven optional specialisations (formerly called majors) to pick from that cover a range of areas within civil engineering, including:
- Construction management
- Environmental fluids
- Geotechnical engineering
- Humanitarian engineering
- Integrated building
However, studying a dual degree, such as the Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil Engineering)/Bachelor of Laws, can restrict your ability to specialise. This is because your elective subjects — including subjects needed for a specialisation — are replaced with subjects from your second degree.
Internships are a fantastic way of getting some real-world experience while you’re still studying, and the Faculty of Engineering requires Civil Engineering students to complete an internship in their final year of study in order to graduate.
Both Sydney Uni and the Faculty of Engineering advertise a variety of internships that you can apply for throughout the year, or you can organise your own internship with a particular company (or you can do both!). These internships are usually completed over the summer or winter break, so you don’t have to worry about juggling your internship with uni work.
On top of getting some valuable industry experience, there is the opportunity for your internship to translate into paid work too, so make sure to work hard and learn as much as you can!
How to Get into Civil Engineering at USYD
The ATAR cut off for a Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) is an ATAR of 92. If you meet the ATAR requirements, you can find other ways to get into your dream degree here.
Assumed Knowledge and Prerequisites
Engineering is a maths-heavy field, and Civil Engineering is no exception. To study Civil Engineering at USYD you’ll need to have studied Mathematics Advanced (Band 4) or Mathematics Extension 1 or 2 (Band E3).
On top of this, the assumed knowledge for this degree is HSC Mathematics Extension 1 and HSC Physics. But, if you didn’t take these subjects in school, never fear! There are bridging courses that you can take to bring you up to speed, which you can find out about here.
The Faculty of Engineering offers plenty of scholarships, including some especially for Civil Engineering students:
- Frances Marion Smith Scholarship in Civil Engineering: Value of $6,000, Australian citizens and permanent residents that are studying Civil Engineering are eligible.
- LR and BA Browne Undergraduate Scholarship in Civil Engineering: Value of $10,000, eligible students are residents of New South Wales, enrolled in a Civil Engineering undergraduate degree and have demonstrated financial need
- The Winfred Margaret Neirous Memorial Scholarship: Value of $6,000 per year for up to 4 years, female-identifying students who are enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering) and can demonstrate financial need, diligence, and good conduct are eligible.
What’s the Teaching Format?
Undertaking Civil Engineering at USYD requires students to study two semesters a year, attending lectures, tutorials, and labs.
Since Civil Engineering encompasses maths, physics and engineering subjects, you can expect to attend 1-3 hours of lectures each week, as well as a mix of tutorials, and labs.
Lectures cover the theoretical aspects of your subjects and will be the largest of your classes, with up to 200 students fitting into a lecture theatre!
Classes for Maths-based Subjects
For subjects that are more maths-based, you will attend tutorials. These classes are much smaller with around 20 to 30 students in a class, are more interactive, and are where you will solve different problems and get to implement what you learn in lectures.
Tutorials start at an hour-long in first and second year, and will tend to increase as you progress further into your studies. As the amount of content increases and it becomes more difficult, tutorials can run for up to 3 hours to give you enough time to get through everything.
Classes for Scientific Subjects
More scientific subjects, such as fluid mechanics and geology, tend to offer a combination of labs and tutorials. Tutorials for these subjects are similar to those offered for maths-based subjects, while the labs are where you can perform experiments, analyse your data, and work with all sorts of experimental equipment.
Lab classes tend to have more students than tutorials too, with up to 80 students attending. The labs are also great for getting a feel for the kinds of equipment you can expect to use on-site as a civil engineer!
How many hours do you have to go to university?
This degree has one of the higher amounts of contact hours, and full-time students can expect to be at university for about 30 hours a week and a minimum of three days for the first couple of years of your degree. As you head further into your studies, the number of contact hours does reduce, but you should still take into account the extra study you will be doing outside of classes and the time you’ll need to complete assignments.
What are the assessments like?
Since USYD Civil Engineering teaches a mix of practical skills and theoretical knowledge, the assessments are a mix of both too. Although the specific combination of assessments will vary across subjects, assessments generally take the form of assignments, quizzes, mid-semester exams, lab reports, and a final exam.
Quizzes are held anywhere from once or twice a semester to every week! While not worth much (about 10%-20% each), these assessments are a valuable way of testing and revising your knowledge as you learn.
For subjects with labs, you will be assessed via lab reports. These are similarly weighted to quizzes, and often involve reporting on the experiments that you have done in class, analysing data, and discussing observations or related concepts.
Assignments can range in weighting from 3%-20% and in what they assess. Some take the form of answering short questions during tutorials, using particular tools, or presentations that you do on your own or in a group during a tutorial.
As well as these assessments, some subjects might also have a mid-semester exam — these are mostly handwritten and test your mathematical, theoretical, and problem-solving skills. They also tend to be held around mid-semester break or in the latter half of the semester, and are worth around 25%.
Every subject will have some kind of final exam. These exams are heavily weighted, at around 40%-50%, and are hand-written exams that take place over 2-3 hours at the end of the semester. Just like the mid-sem exams, final exams can test your theoretical and mathematical knowledge in the form of short and long answers or problem-based questions.
Skills You Develop
Studying a Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) at USYD will give you the fundamental engineering skills you will need in your working life.
You’ll walk away with the ability to solve a variety of problems using critical thinking and analytical skills. Plus, team-based and presentation-style assessments let you develop your ability to work well in team environments and communicate with others, both of which you can take into any career.
The selection of practical subjects also exposes you to different aspects of Civil Engineering, even if you choose not to specialise. And, you will be exposed to and get to use a range of tools and equipment used by civil engineers out in the field.
“But then when you go into the workforce, you realise that you actually have abstract thinking processes, because of the way that [USYD have] framed certain problems and assignments.” — Fiona Gao
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?
The Engineering Faculty is one of the larger faculties at USYD, and it’s full of friendly and passionate staff. The lecturers and tutors are passionate about their subjects, are very supportive, and are there to help inside and outside of the classroom.
One way that the Faculty does this is by hosting free tutoring sessions throughout the semester. Taking place in different study rooms several times a week, these sessions are run by volunteer students who have performed well in particular subjects in previous years who can help you with problems, concepts, or any other content that you might be struggling with.
With passionate and friendly staff, the culture of the Faculty of Engineering is a laid-back and supportive one.
Resources and knowledge are shared among students across year levels, and there is a general vibe of everyone being in this together. And, the prescriptive nature of the degree means that the cohort becomes tight-knit as you progress and that it’s easy to make friends.
Societies are a surefire way to make friends, socialise, and unwind after a long day of uni work. For Engineering students, the Sydney University Undergraduates Association (or SUEUA) is a great place to start. SUEUA hosts a bunch of different events — from scavenger hunts and pub crawls to first-year camps — and has just as much of a collaborative vibe as the wider faculty.
When it comes to making friends within the Civil Engineering degree, joining the Sydney University Civil Engineers Society (or SUCE) is a must. The society runs social get-togethers — think BBQs, band nights, and end of semester parties — as well as industry lectures and sponsored events where you can mingle with other students and industry professionals.
“The overall aim of [societies] is to get people around each other and organised and making friends. So the more people you know, the easier the degree is because you can just bounce ideas off each other, you’ve got a lot of moral support and motivation.” — Fiona Gao
There are even more specialised societies for Engineering students too. Top choices include the Sydney University Women in Engineering society (or SUWIE) and the Sydney University Queer Engineers (SUQE) society, or you can volunteer your time with Engineers Without Borders.
You can find Sydney Uni’s 250+ societies here!
Rachel Fieldhouse is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education and has just completed a double degree in Science and Arts at The University of Sydney, majoring in Chemistry, English, and Linguistics. Rachel’s writing has been published in Concrete Playground, Inside Enterprise, Planting Seeds, and SURG FM, and she currently writes blog posts for Remi AI, a Sydney-based Artificial Intelligence firm. When she’s not writing, you can find Rachel playing her saxophone or flute, or relaxing with some sudoku.