BlogUniversityWhat It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW

What It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW

UNSW Civil Engineering Fact Sheet

Thinking of sinking your teeth into a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW? 

As a prospective civil engineer, you’re a natural born problem-solver and your passion in life is making things run as smoothly as possible.

Why not let us take over this time? We’ve got everything you need to know about this prestigious degree tied up in one neat little article so all you have to do is send in your application.

If this sounds like what you’re looking for, scroll down for more!

What is a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW?
Core Units and Majors
How to Get into a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW
What’s the Teaching Format?
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

What is a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW?

UNSW Civil Engineering is ranked number one in Australia in the field. It’s the undergraduate degree that will set you up to design, construct, manage, operate and maintain the infrastructure that supports modern society. 

Civil engineers are the backbone of humankind. They are the very reason you’re able to catch a train to school, daydream in your structurally sound classroom and fill up your water bottle (during a much-needed study break we’re sure).

The degree allows you to lay the groundwork (yes that was a pun) in a variety of engineering disciplines and by your fourth year, you’ll get to take your pick and specialise through a range of electives. 

Through the years you will be studying structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, transport engineering and water engineering, as well as construction and management. Basically, it’s every future civil engineer’s dream degree!

Thinking of attending UNSW? Before you go any further, our BEST advice for you is to attend multiple University Open Days! Don’t limit yourself, pick and choose from our Master List of University Open Days to give yourself as many options as you can!


One of the even more special things about UNSW Civil Engineering is that it has a built-in Honours program. A little heads up though, degrees with Honours programs have stricter progression rules than other degrees. 

Students that fail more than two core subjects and or have a WAM (UNSW’s grade point average) lower than 50 by the time they reach their final year they will not be able to continue through the course.

Where can this degree take you?

UNSW Civil Engineering - Student Quote

It goes without saying that graduating with this degree will have you working in engineering in some capacity. What’s more pressing is the area that you decide to specialise in – to start, here’s a few ideas of where you could end up after graduation from this program:

    • Specialist consulting
    • Construction
    • Large public companies
    • Government
    • Financial and management consultancy

UNSW Engineering also has a whole suite of double degree programs, which could even further broaden your – already very bright – career horizons. Check out the possible dual program list here!

Core Units and Majors

What are the core units?

The Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW is a highly regimented degree, mostly built up of core units. Unlike other degrees, you won’t have much room for electives outside of the Engineering faculty. 

Throughout the four year degree, you will only have access to 12 Units of Credit (two courses) in General Education courses (GenEds). GenEds come from a prescribed list of electives that must be taken outside of your faculty – the rest of your courses will be core units and electives within the Engineering faculty.

What can you expect from each year of study?

First Year

In your first year, you will be taking introductory courses for Maths and Physics. This is also where you’ll dive into some general engineering courses.

Pretty much every stream of engineering will have similar core courses in the first year, meaning that it isn’t super specialised.

Second Year

Your second year will dive deeper into engineering practices. This is where you’ll have the opportunity to learn about computations, modelling and mechanics.

Third Year

Third year courses will really give you the chance to zoom in on the good stuff. Jumping between structural, geotechnical, transport, and water engineering – this period will expose you to the specialisations of civil engineering.

Fourth Year

By the time you get to your fourth year, you should have a pretty good idea of the area in which you’d like to specialise. The course was designed this way so that students could use their final year to choose the area of civil engineering they like most based on the exposure they got in the years leading up.

The fourth year is also when students buckle down for their Honours thesis (which takes a year to complete).

Are there any majors?

Well no, but the thing is you don’t really need one. A Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW is a specialised stream of a Bachelor of Engineering, so basically, the degree itself is a major – if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

You’ll also get to choose which area of civil engineering you want to focus on in your fourth year, which you can also think of as a pseudo major. 

Is there a built-in internship component?

Thankfully, yes. Clearly UNSW’s school of engineering realises how important real-world experience is for new graduates. 

60 days of Industrial Training (IT) is required to graduate from this program. You will generally commence your placement anytime between the end of your second year and before you start your fourth year. 

It’s best not to start the placement too soon because you won’t have enough engineering experience and if you leave it too late, you’ll already be stressing about your Honours thesis. Good things really do come in threes (or third year in this case, but same thing).

Another super cool thing about IT is that it can be studied interstate or overseas! 

UNSW School of Engineering has set up this helpful guide that comprises all the important information you need to know about how to facilitate your IT, where to do it and what requirements need to be met before commencing it. 


How to Get into a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at UNSW

An ATAR of 91 will grant you guaranteed entry into the course. The absolute minimum ATAR score for entry in 2020 was an 88, so it’s best to aim for the 90s.

Otherwise, UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering Admissions Scheme (FEAS) offers alternative paths of entry for students who don’t meet the guaranteed entry requirements. Ways to apply can be found here! 

Are there any pre-requisite subjects or assumed knowledge?

Due to the intense focus on both Maths and Physics in the first year, it goes without saying that students should have assumed knowledge in both areas. In other words, it’s assumed that students will have taken HSC Mathematics 1, as well as HSC Physics or equivalent. 


UNSW offers a variety of scholarships specific to each year and field of study. A list of those scholarships can be found here! 

What’s the Teaching Format?

Brace yourself, because this one’s going to sting – as of 2019, an academic year at UNSW is built up of three 10 week long sessions (also known as trimesters). Don’t stress too much though, you’ll get used to them, plus you’ll finish your degree faster (so maybe you’ll learn to love them).

If you want to finish in the prescribed four years, you’ll need to take three subjects per academic session. Each subject is built up of a lecture, workshop or lab, totalling about 18 contact hours per week. 

UNSW Civil Engineering - Class Structure


Generally you will have 2 lecture sessions per week, which go for 2 hours each. Almost everyone in the course will be enrolled in the stream so expect anything up to 500 other students in the theatre. 

Lectures are used purely to introduce the content and there is almost no interaction with the lecturer. It’s presentational-style teaching that will probably feel more like you’re watching an informational video rather than being in a normal classroom.


Workshops will go for roughly 2 hours a week with a much more intimate class size of around 30 other students. They’re taught by high-achieving students of the years above and PhD candidates. 

They are way more interactive and are a super helpful way to learn the course content. The teachers are also much more approachable. 

The classes are used to go over the tutorial questions (quiz-like problems based on the lecture content). They aren’t marked but it’s important to focus in the workshops because the working out (solutions to questions) is never published after the class.


You will only really be doing labs in your first and second year when taking physics classes. You might also do them in your final year during your thesis depending on what you choose to research. 

Labs will focus on the more practical components of the course. Here you will be assessed on your “core” and “non-core” laboratory skills. 

You will be keeping a lab book, which will act as an assessment. A large amount of time in your lab will be quite passive (i.e. making observations).


A lot of the assessments in UNSW Civil Engineering are project-based with a focus on group work. 

This means that you will get assigned a project with a group with multiple assignments throughout the semester. Although, individual projects are also common in the core engineering courses. 

Almost every subject will have a final exam based on lecture content. The final exams are heavily weighted, at around 50%. 

UNSW Civil Engineering also follows the double pass system, which means that you have to pass your final exam and the remaining 50% in order to pass. Even if your aggregate grade is over 50%, you can not pass the subject by failing one of the two halves of the course.

Skills That You Will Refine

UNSW Civil Engineering Skills

The course will teach you both qualitative and quantitative skills for working as an engineer. Firstly, it will teach you report writing, technical writing, and engineering administration – these skills are immediately translatable to working as an engineer.

The course will also teach you to problem solve, work in a team and communicate effectively. These skills are also extremely important to being an effective engineer, considering the industry’s focus on collaborative projects. 

Being able to realise a project, using the quantitative skills learned at university is important, but it’s almost meaningless if you’re unable to communicate those ideas and work effectively with others. This is why UNSW Civil Engineering is designed to develop well-rounded engineers in every respect.

What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

UNSW Civil Engineering has an amazing culture because UNSW is big on engineering. Civil Engineering is also one of the traditional areas of engineering meaning that it has a massive student body. 

Students in engineering are really approachable and the course’s focus on group projects means that they’re also quite social. People can be a little quiet at first, but don’t worry they won’t bite – expect to be added into big group chats the moment you start a new course.

On top of boasting an amazing cohort, the faculty is not only one of the best in Australia but the world too, hosting some of the lightest and brightest PhD candidates.

What about the Societies and Programs?

The Civil Engineering Society (CEVSOC) offers a two-day first year camp, which is a great way for first years to meet new people. The camp is designed to boost your social and academic experience at UNSW Civil Engineering, where you’ll be exposed to heaps of fun activities to get to know each other but also study tips and career advice sessions. 

CEVSOC also offers a third year camp. The third year camp is more focused on helping students secure an internship and they also go over ways to effectively market yourself on LinkedIn.

On a day-to-day basis, CEVSOC is a great support network for students. It’s designed to blend professional and social development by holding social events, development programs, cruises, a final year ball and loads of parties.

Interested in the pros and cons of Civil Engineering at UNSW? Read our article here!

Cody Williams is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education. While Cody studied a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and French Studies at UNSW, he quickly realised that his dream job would have him sit happily behind a keyboard. Cody’s digital writing career started with an internship at Bauer Media where he was writing for ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR’s online publications. Once he had a taste for writing he never looked back, moving to Brisbane soon later to work as a Producer for Channel Nine Queensland. After a year in television media, he dusted off his online writing shoes so he could put them to good use, stamping out some scorching-hot career and educational resources at AOS.


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