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What is Civil Engineering and Is It Different From Land Surveying?

What is Civil Engineering and Is It Different From Land Surveying?

Land surveying and civil engineering always seem to come up in the same conversation, but to most people, this raises more questions than answers. What is land surveying? What is civil engineering? How do they work together and what separates them? Read on to find out these things and more.

What is Civil Engineering?

This is one of those subjects that is so vast that it is difficult for people to define in a single sentence, but we’re going to give it a go:

Civil engineering is a field of engineering that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical, tangible environment.

How’s that? Still pretty vague, right? That’s because civil engineering is much more of a field rather than a single, easily defined job. A lot of different jobs and disciplines fall under the umbrella of civil engineering, and those jobs are probably responsible for most of what you see around you on a day-to-day basis. That’s because civil engineering is at the heart of just about every major project that visibly changes the world.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, civil engineers create, design, construct, oversee, operate, and maintain:

  • Roads
  • Buildings
  • Airports
  • Tunnels
  • Dams
  • Bridges
  • Water Supply Systems
  • Sewage Systems

In essence: civil engineers do it all. Those that work in the field are responsible for every aspect of everything that is important in making our towns, cities, transportation, and virtually every other infrastructure run smoothly and efficiently. They keep society going and they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon: jobs in civil engineering are expected to grow by 8% from 2020 – 2030. For a median salary of almost $90,000 a year, you could certainly do worse than becoming a civil engineer. 

But if this profession is so important and so respected, just where did it come from in the first place?

The Many Faces of Civil Engineering

Over time, several distinctions have been made to help compartmentalize the enormous range of civil engineering. Even the reasoning for the term “civil” comes from the need to distinguish societal-engineering needs from military engineering needs, as the processes used to be considered under the same jurisdiction.

Civil engineering has been classified even further, and these days, you’ll find many sub-disciplines of engineering, including (but not limited to):

  • Environmental
  • Geotechnical
  • Structural
  • Transportation
  • Municipal and Urban
  • Water Resources
  • Materials 
  • Coastal 
  • Surveying
  • Construction

And as we’ve previously mentioned, a ton of jobs fall within this field. Here are just 10 of them, provided graciously by

  • Environmental engineer
  • Construction manager
  • Field service engineer
  • Transport planner
  • Fire engineer
  • Urban planner
  • Water hygiene engineer
  • Building engineer
  • CAD technician

And of course:

  • Surveyor

So it’s been established: civil engineers are everywhere and they’re essentially running all of the incredibly important aspects of society and infrastructure that most people never even think about at all. 

But how does land surveying play into all of this?

The Importance of Land Surveying in Civil Engineering

This is a massive oversimplification, but land surveying is (in essence) a scientific and artistic process wherein surveyors gather all sorts of data about a property. They then typically create well-defined, legally binding documents and visuals that say exactly where that property begins and ends as well as explain many other relevant details. 

As you might imagine, this process is insanely valuable to a civil engineer, but that’s where it gets confusing… “Isn’t land surveying technically civil engineering? Then why the distinction?” 

The answer, of course, is yes. Land surveying is most certainly a facet of civil engineering, but to call them the same thing is like calling a little league coach a teacher. Is it true? Yes,  absolutely. 

Does it make sense to put a little league coach in the same category as a college professor? Not exactly. 

Therein lies the importance of making the distinction: the implications of the two titles are drastically different.

Land surveying is a skill that one must be specifically trained in. Someone who is, let’s say, a construction manager – is in a fairly high position in civil engineering, but they will also need a land surveyor, a fellow civil engineer, to get the job done right. 

The role that land surveyors play in civil engineering is incredibly important. This is for a few different reasons:

1. They Are Data Gatherers

Conducting a civil engineering project without clearly defined boundaries and accurate data is impossible. Someone needs to get out there in the field and gather all of that information, and that’s where land surveyors come in.The data surveyors gather is particularly important in the proposal process, as engineers will need to be able to prove their knowledge of every nook and cranny of the infrastructure in order to receive the funding and sign-offs that they need.

2. They Take the Necessary Risks

Not all projects are particularly safe or easy to do. When a project is being planned in a high-risk area, it is the surveyors job to be the boots on the ground, to figure out exactly what the room for error is, and to make sure that whichever engineers are running the project are fully aware of what it is that they’re dealing with.

3. They Handle The Law

Paperwork has long been the major nuisance of, well, essentially anyone that wants to do anything substantial. Civil engineering is no different, and it is up to land surveyors to bring back certified, accurate data that the engineers can use to move their project forward.

In Conclusion

You can slap the title of civil engineer on your website, but it’s not necessarily going to explain what you do: you have to define what your specialities and services are. That’s precisely what we do here at Joseph M. Petito Civil Land Surveying and Civil Engineering. 

Our team of experienced specialists can handle a wide variety of jobs here in Locust Valley, NY and surrounding areas. Those jobs include:

  • Title Surveys
  • Building Department Surveys
  • Mapping Services
  • Engineering Consultations
  • A Variety of Engineering Services
  • Construction Services
  • New York Housing Recovery Services

If you’re in need of assistance, take a deeper look at what we offer here

After all, assistance is what we do best.

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