BlogUniversityPros and Cons of a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW

Pros and Cons of a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW

If you’re all up to date with what it’s like studying a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW and you’re now looking for an in-depth opinion on the course, you’ve come to the perfect place. 

We got to chat to Lute, a Civil Engineering student at UNSW, who told us everything there is to know about the course: the highs and lows, the pros and cons and the ups and downs. 

Let’s get into it! 

Why should you study a Civil Engineering degree at UNSW?
Top 3 Pros of a Civil Engineering Degree
Top 3 Cons of a Civil Engineering Degree
Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make
Things to Know Before Starting UNSW Civil Engineering
What Makes this Degree Different
Motivations for Studying UNSW Civil Engineering
Potential Career Paths

Why should you study a Civil Engineering degree at UNSW?

The Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree at UNSW is a four-year, full-time program that will get you ready and raring to go in the engineering world and beyond. It’s a degree that’s all about managing, construction and sustaining modern infrastructure with maths, physics, mechanics and innovation. 

Civil Engineering UNSW - Quote

The work of civil engineers is everywhere. Sitting in a well built home reading this article? That’s the work of a civil engineer.

Catching the train to school? Yep, work of a civil engineer. Getting yourself a glass of water from the tap? You guessed it, civil engineer.

Dreaming about the day you get to take flight in a functioning aeroplane? Civil engineer. 

That means that there’ll always be a demand for civil engineers to make the things we need and consume. If you graduate with UNSW’s Bachelor of Civil Engineering, there’ll be a job and a project waiting for you. 

As an Engineering student at UNSW, you’ll be amongst the best of the best. UNSW is ranked number one in engineering in the whole of Australia! That’s pretty good. You’ll spend your degree studying water engineering, transport engineering, geotechnical engineering and structural engineering… So, you’ll cover it all! 

Top 3 Pros of a Civil Engineering degree

#1: Broad and far reaching content 

According to Lute, one of the best features of the degree is the wide scope of information that you’ll be getting your head around as you study. “It’s good in the sense that you try a bit of everything before you decide what you want to do or what you’d like to specialise in,” Lute said. 

While this is a degree that won’t give you many chances to explore your own interests or choose electives, its prescriptive format ensures that you’re learning everything there is to know.

Your studies will be broken up into four distinct categories:

    • Disciplinary component (which is all about your major, in this case, that’s civil engineering)
    • General Education
    • Optional Minor
    • Discipline Electives

You can take a deeper look at UNSW’s handbook right here

Lute added, “It’s really good at setting a broad idea of what you’d want to do. If you’re someone that likes problem solving and sort of anything to do with infrastructure, or anything that you can physically see, then you’ll cover it to a degree.”

You can also look forward to being able to specialise a bit in your final year when you get to choose your professional electives and pretty much decide what you’d like to focus on! 

#2: Passionate and invested faculty and cohort 

“I remember researching [UNSW’s Engineering] — it’s one of the best faculties, like, in the world. I’d say it has a good foundation of experience, especially the lecturers and the PhD students that we have,” Lute explained. 

Engineering is kind of what UNSW is known for. It’s ranked the highest and offers some of the best engineering education out there. So, you can be confident that the staff will match this level of experience and prestige. 

Within UNSW Engineering, there are eight separate schools that provide essential support, information and academic assistance to all current and potential students. As a Civil Engineering student, you’ll fit suitably into the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering.  

Lute also told us that, in her case, her tutors were mostly international students who had finished the course in the past and therefore had loads to offer current students. 

“So, they’re really good at teaching you in the way that you would understand as a student — not from a lecturer’s perspective — which is why I felt that they were super helpful. It was so much easier to ask questions,” Lute explained. 

Lute also mentioned the positives of having such a large cohort. Not only is it a great place to make friends but it’s a perfect change to begin networking. 

“There’s a massive student body. I actually went to the first year camp and everyone was super nice, a little quiet, but as a whole, everyone’s really helpful. Everyone helps each other out in their courses and assignments so it’s a pretty collaborative culture.”

#3: Lots of work experience opportunities 

Another valuable feature in the Bachelor of Civil Engineering course at UNSW is the number of work experience and internship opportunities.

The Industrial Training requirement makes it compulsory for students to get involved with the industry for a minimum of 60 days.

It sounds like a lot but it’ll be such a great addition to your resume — you’ll be gaining essential professional experience, you’ll get to experiment in different parts of the industry and you’ll be networking and making some great connections that are bound to pay off in the future. 

Lute confirmed, “Basically you can’t graduate without completing 60 days of industrial training. It’s not really a program where they set you up — you have to go and find the internship yourself.” 


Top 3 Cons of a Civil Engineering degree

#1: Easy to feel pigeonholed 

“I think for most Civil Engineering students, you kind of get stuck with the specialisation you choose once you get out of university. It’s kind of difficult to choose what you want to do because you may be stuck in that industry. So, it’s hard to move but it’s possible,” Lute explained. 

While this won’t always be the case, Lute explained that sometimes it’s easy to feel isolated in one specific area of engineering. Once you’re in your final year and it’s time to choose a specialisation, there is this assumption that you’ll pursue that one avenue forever. But like Lute said, it is possible to move around — it just may be a bit tricky. 

#2: Not all transferable skills

Lute also explained that oftentimes your degree won’t always be teaching you the skills that are required in the industry once you graduate. Instead, you’ll be developing more conceptual skills that will lay the foundations but may not teach the exact skills that you’ll need later on. 

“From a lot of people from the industry that I’ve talked to, it seems like a lot of what we learn at university prepares you for critical thinking, but not so much the actual content, because a lot of what you learn is on the job… Our understanding of everything is pretty basic in comparison to the industry.” 

Lute added, “I think a lot of people think engineering is maths-based, like scientific all of the time. But there’s also a really big administration side to it where you have to collaborate.” 

#3: Large workload 

It’s quite a heavy workload in terms of contact hours and independent study, like working out a lot of problems on your own,” Lute told us.

As expected, a Civil Engineering course at UNSW won’t be easy. It’s a degree that will take a lot of dedication and commitment to get through your weekly content and stay on top of assessments. It’s tricky but if engineering is where you see yourself in a few years time, it’ll be worth it! 

Lute told us that as a first year you can expect your contact hours to be something like 22 hours a week. This will account for labs, tutorials and your weekly lectures so it sounds a little daunting, it’ll fly by when you’re actually in it! 

Any regrets? 

Lute told us that if she could do anything differently in her degree, she’d make the effort to get out there and get involved in the first few years.I wish I participated more in my first and second year because then that establishes a good foundation for you to network with people,” Lute explained. 

So, if you’re considering the course, this is your sign to get out there and participate! The reality is, everyone will be in the same boat as you. Everyone wants to make new friends and form some long-term connections, but it’ll take one brave person to make it happen. Let that be you! 

“I think first and second year should be spent more on professional development and getting to know people in your degree and people from the year above. That would provide a stepping stone for you to get more involved,” Lute advised. 

What do you wish you had known before starting the degree? 

#1: Focus during your tutorials (like, really focus)

If you weren’t aware, tutorials pretty much simulate a high school classroom. There’ll be a tutor up the front of the class and you’ll be encouraged to facilitate class discussions, answer questions, ask questions and get to know your peers.

It’s an environment that you should feel comfortable to talk in but it’s also an environment where some serious getting-your-head-around-things should go down. 

“The tutorials are where I learnt the most. Like if I was ever going to miss a lecture, I could still attend the tutorial and feel like I’m on top of my work,” Lute explained. 

So, listen in those tutorials and try and actually get a grip on the content you’re covering because it’ll pay off once you get to assessments. 

Lute gave us an idea of what the Civil Engineering tutorials look like: 

“With tutorials, they give you a set of questions every week that are based on the lecture slides for that week. It’s not compulsory to complete them all beforehand — they don’t really check. It’s all up to you to decide whether you do it.” 

#2: Group projects may actually not be that bad 

We’ve all heard it before. Group projects are the worst! You’re never able to coordinate with everyone, someone in the group won’t contribute at all, you’ll be stuck doing all the work, or the world will be on the verge of exploding.

But, as legend has it, Lute didn’t find them all that bad. So, maybe it’s better to shove your biases to the side and be prepared to not actually hate group projects that much. Weird, I know. 

“I’ve actually been lucky. Most people say that group work is hard, especially in engineering, because you can get stuck with really unreliable people, but I’ve never had a terrible experience.” 

What makes this degree different from the ones offered at other universities? 

UNSW’s main point of difference in the engineering world is their consistently high rank. But, statistics aside, Lute has thoroughly enjoyed studying the Bachelor of Civil Engineering course at UNSW and if engineering is your thing, it’s likely that you’ll like it too. 

Another great feature of the degree at UNSW is the wide scope of engineering specialisations that they have on offer — more than anywhere in Australia. So, while this article is all about the Civil Engineering major, there are actually plenty of other options.

The other specialisations in engineering at UNSW include:

And, surprisingly, many more! 

You can read up on Engineering at UNSW right here

What inspired you to choose this degree?

Just like we suspected, Lute told us that UNSW’s national and international position in Engineering was what sold the uni to her. 

It’s very well recognised. Especially around Sydney because Sydney has a lot of infrastructure projects and construction going on, like job prospects. Civil engineering is generally pretty good around this region. So, it makes sense coming to study and work in Sydney.” 

What are the possible career paths?

Civil Engineering UNSW - Careers

As a graduate from the Bachelor of Civil Engineering course at UNSW, you’ll be set with the variety of skills and qualities that are highly sought after by employers. Whatever you decide to pursue, you can be pretty confident that the degree will provide you with a direct and valuable avenue into the engineering industry. 

If you’re looking to become a fully fledged civil engineer, you can expect to be designing and producing all sorts of practical infrastructure and equipment that we use on a daily basis. We’ll be on the lookout for you at the next dam, bridge, airport, road or gas project! 

Gemma Billington is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an undergraduate student at the University of Technology Sydney. While studying Journalism and Social and Political Sciences, Gemma enjoys spending her time at the gym or reading about Britain’s medieval monarchy – ideally not at the same time. She currently creates and administers social media posts for Central News and writes for the student publication, The Comma. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to study a Masters of Medieval History and is very excited about the prospect!


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