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Engineers need stamina, skill with numbers
Published on Thursday, 03 Nov 2011
Illustration: Bay Leung

The road to becoming a civil engineer might be long, yet many remain willing to join the industry. 

"After graduating from university with a civil engineering degree, fresh graduates join consultant firms or contractors as graduate engineers. This marks the beginning of their four-year quest to be a chartered civil engineer," says Michelle Tang, senior engineer for water and urban development at AECOM. 

After four years of work experience, local engineers can choose to register with the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers or the British-based Institution of Civil Engineering. 

Graduates usually spend the first two years in the design office, working on designs and calculations. "Engineers need to make sure the infrastructure is strong enough. There is a lot of work with numbers. They also need to instruct the draftsman to draw up designs," says Tang. 

There are several branches in civil engineering, including tunnel and bridge building, slope maintenance, and managing drainage and sewage systems. In the third year, engineers are stationed at construction sites as assistant resident engineers, to help monitor projects. In the fourth year, they either return to the office or remain on the construction site.

"The pay for engineers on construction sites is better. Graduate engineers in a design office make around HK$11,000, but the pay for assistant resident engineers is more than HK$15,000," says Tang. 

Throughout the four years, the engineers must submit a monthly report to the institutions and then, at the end of the four years, a final report of all the things they have done during their tenure.

The engineers must also attend at least seven-and-a-half hours of training a month to fulfil the continuous professional development requirement of the institutes. "There will be a Q&A session and a written exam," says Tang. 

Owing to the difficulty of the exam, the pass rate on a first attempt is just about 40 per cent, leading the engineers to typically sign up to both institutes' examinations to hedge their bets. A chartered engineer earns a monthly salary of more than HK$20,000 a month.