Is Civil Engineering Boring?
What sounds mundane at first flowers into a world of fascinating intricate complexities when you look harder.
Ever since writing this article, a surprisingly large number of people are coming to this site searching for the phrase “is civil engineering boring?”. This is a touch ironic, given that I started Being Brunel in a desperate attempt to improve the presence of Civil Engineers online. However, Google isn’t to be denied, and I take heart that the the phrase is at least a question. As I’m guessing a simple no isn’t going to convince anyone, here’s a more honest answer; although, I’d rather you were all getting here though “is civil engineering awesome!”…
It’s massively cliché, but so is an article about whether civil engineering is interesting, however; the Oxford English Dictionary defines boring (and its roots) as:
- boring adjective. Not interesting; tedious.
- bored adjective. Feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.
- bore verb. Cause (someone) to feel weary and uninterested by dull talk or behaviour.
- tedious adjective. Too long, slow, or dull; tiresome or monotonous
I’m not going to lie, Civil Engineering can be boring, I know the feeling of being bored at my desk, I’ve met engineers who are a bit of a bore, and I’ve done work that has been tedious. But if you think that’s any different from any other industry, you’re tragically mistaken: even Park Rangers have to do boring paperwork, get bored wondering the same woods, deal with managers who are bores and find having to answer the same questions from the public tedious [ed. If you did not grow up thinking that being a park ranger would be the most exciting job in the world; substitute accordingly].
So the question is, just because Civil Engineering can be boring, does that mean that it is; are you searchers justified in your assertion? To me, the answer comes from looking at how easy it is to stop your job as a Civil Engineer being boring- as and when you find yourself spending more time looking out the window than looking at your work. So if you do meet a civil engineer who thinks the profession is boring, my view is that it is only because they are content to be bored, and here’s why…
Civil Engineering is not just design for the developed world, it’s bespoke tailoring for infrastructure.
Our OED definition roots boring as something that is uninteresting. Being a Civil Engineer gives you two routes to ensure your are never uninterested. Firstly the discipline is huge, in fact- the enormous scope of work is probably why defining civil engineering is so difficult. From roller-coasters to drains, it’s all civil engineering; which takes us to my second point- being trained as an engineer changes your perspective of the world. This might sound a bit trite, but my experience on the railways means that the view I enjoy from the train window isn’t the scenery, but the hundreds of little engineering titbits that run alongside the track. A bit like Civil Engineering; what sounds mundane at first flowers into a world of fascinating intricate complexities when you look harder.
Now you’ve got yourself interested; a state of boredom can also come from a lack of occupation or things being slow or monotonous. That Civil Engineers are forever overworked means that getting away without being occupied is an achievement in itself, and you’ll find no end of people who will happily give you something (interesting) to do if you are a glutten for punishment enough to ask! Similarly engineering projects come in all sizes, and even the apparently slow, decade-long infrastructure achievements break down into thousands of tasks, all of which are need to be finished yesterday.
Finally, in my experience so far, what I yearn for most is a bit of monotony; a chance to get the hang of something before I’m thrust into a new challenge! Civil Engineering is not just design for the developed world, it’s bespoke tailoring for infrastructure. There’s rarely an repetition; I’ve seen drawings for bridges where every abutment and foundation were different (presumably because the designer hated the contractor). If you think that every road is the same, then you need to talk to a highways engineer (although not for long, as they’re probably too busy; see above).
So no, Civil Engineering isn’t boring; forever telling people it’s not is.
(n.b. the man in the header picture is sleeping, not dead…)