Here is a video about what a project engineer in construction (construction management) will experience in their career. I work for a general contractor in Hawaii after getting my degree in civil engineering. If you're considering this as your career, here's 10 tips and things you should expect as a project engineer.
1. Every Day Is New
You will never be doing the same thing every day in construction. A lot of jobs you'll do the same thing on Monday as you would on Tuesday, but that's not the case. Things constantly come up and you could be in the field one day solving problems, and in the office the next doing negotiations or running meetings. As a project construction engineer you will need to be able to adapt to the fluidity of the day.
2. You'll Need to Be Outside
The most important part of construction engineering is understanding how to build. Civil engineers coming out of college, unless you were exposed prior, don't have the experience in building and need to take the time to witness the field to become the best project engineers they can be. Without being in the field, you can't get a good grasp on how long things take, how work gets sequenced and scheduled, and how much things will cost. It becomes very obvious as you move up in you career in project management who skipped the steps in learning how to build and will make it harder on yourself in the future.
3. There will be Adversity and Stress
As a project engineer this will come in many forms. From the field, you may need answers immediately and you as the general contractor will need to find the answers from the other engineers, and consultants. You as the project construction engineer become the middle man. Or sometimes the owner or developer will add some level of stress to your life, but you need to understand that these people contracted you to do a job and are likely the holder of future work so there's a balancing aspect to make sure you don't lose the war just to win one battle.
4. Position is Never Permanent
Not saying that you can get fired at any time, but because you are project based to start your career, you'll get fresh starts every time as projects start and end. You'll get a new team, new building and new challenges every few years. This is awesome and specific to construction engineering and construction management and I think it keeps things fresh.
5. Fast Paced
Due to tight budgets and schedules, the industry is relatively fast paced. It is up to you as the project engineer to make sure you keep up with your schedules. Make sure you get your submittals and materials ordered on time. The attitude of "there's always tomorrow" is a bad one to have in construction.
6. You Meet a Lot of People
The construction industry is very inter connected so as a project engineer you have a lot of opportunities to meet people and should be creating relationships throughout your career. You'll have your team, the field workers, your subcontractors, the owners and developers, the consultants, material suppliers and even bankers. Construction is a wide reaching industry and its important that you familiarize yourself with all the players.
7. Teamwork is Key
Teamwork in construction is so important, nothing in life that was worth anything was built by a sole individual. You also need to work as a team with your surrounding community to make sure you are a good neighbor as a general contractor.
8. Long Hours
Due to tight budgets and schedule, you are expected to put in a decent amount of hours to make the project work. I think that's why construction also pays their construction project engineers a little better than civil engineering designers. The expectations and coordination that you need to go through is at a high level and there isn't a lot of room for error. Also since it is an experience based industry, the more time you spend up front the faster you can accelerate your growth.
9. Reading Contracts
Though you are a CONTRACTor, it really didn't hit me how important contracts would be as a project engineer until I experienced litigious issues. It was disheartening to see people go back on their word and really highlighted the importance of knowing the deal and understanding the holes in your contract.
10. Fun and Rewarding Experience of Finishing a Job
The great thing about working in construction is that the end product is very tangible and will outlast you. There is a physical memory of the work that you did on the project, and that's the coolest thing for me.
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2 Out 2023