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Difference Between Civil Engineering & Architectural Engineering

Civil and architectural engineers sometimes work together, but their jobs are distinct with different responsibilities. Learn about how these engineering careers compare, and find salary, education, and growth information.

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Comparing Civil Engineering to Architectural Engineering

Civil and architectural engineers share some of the same tasks, such as planning, designing, and building structures. Some consider architectural engineering to be a specialized sub-field within civil engineering.

Civil engineers work to design and construct typically large-scale projects, including airports, water supply systems, and public infrastructure. Architectural engineers, on the other hand, specialize in optimizing the structure and systems within a particular building, often working with HVAC, acoustics, and lighting. Take a look at how these two engineering professionals compare.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Civil Engineer Bachelor's Degree $83,540 (2016)* 8%
Architectural Engineer Bachelor's Degree $64,118 (2017)** 8% (all civil engineers, including architectural)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

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  • Architectural Engineering Technology

Responsibilities of Civil Engineers vs Architectural Engineers

Civil engineers work on a variety of different projects, such as roads, buildings, bridges, and water systems, while architectural engineers typically work on the structural foundation and systems of particular buildings or structures. For a given structure, an architectural engineer may plan and execute the physical support system from the ground up and design electrical and HVAC systems. Civil engineers, on the other hand, are more likely to design, manage and supervise large-scale building projects, such as cities and public works projects. Civil engineers and architectural engineers work together on some projects; if a civil engineer designs and manages a project spanning twenty buildings, architectural engineers may help with the structural requirements and systems of certain buildings. Both professionals visit construction sites to ensure work is being completed correctly; they also both estimate costs and create plans based on projected budgets. While civil engineers do a lot of the planning and management of major, multi-structure projects, architectural engineers typically take the lead on how particular structures are built to maximize safety and functionality.

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers have many responsibilities that include planning, designing, building, and supervising multi-structure projects. They must take on a leadership role to effectively direct numerous construction teams, architects, and other engineers, including architectural. A lot of their work is done in an office setting, though they also spend time on construction sites ensuring work is completed according to compliance codes and specifications. They may work as city managers or city engineers, among other options.

Job responsibilities of a civil engineer include:

  • Test building materials
  • Consider government regulations and possible hazards
  • Perform surveying operations
  • Supervise maintenance of roads and structures
  • Design sewage treatment systems
  • Construct dams, tunnels, and bridges
  • Conduct risk analysis

Architectural Engineer

Architectural engineers plan and design the structure and systems of a given building. They use computer programs like Revit and eQuest to help with building design. Beyond the physical structure of a building - including beams, girders, floors and walls - architectural engineers may implement HVAC, wiring and lighting into their plans. Some professionals specialize in a particular area of architectural engineering, such as acoustics or structural. Unlike architects, architectural engineers are technical experts who work on and emphasize the logistics of a building's systems rather than aesthetic appeal.

Job responsibilities of an architectural engineer include:

  • Organize structure specifications
  • Estimate costs
  • Draft drawings and plans
  • Inspect and testing building support systems
  • Design acoustic systems
  • Plan plumbing and electrical systems
  • Consider fire protection requirements

Related Careers

Those interested in a career as a civil engineer may also be interested in working as construction managers. Construction managers are the hands-on professionals who supervise the day-to-day construction operations of the projects designed and managed by civil engineers. Those interested in becoming an architectural engineer may also find a career as a mechanical engineer interesting. Mechanical engineers design and build machines, tools, and devices rather than buildings.

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