Architect vs Civil Engineer

Apr 23 '14 20 Last Comment
Apr 23, 14 1:03 am

I've already known the difference between them from their definitions. What I want to know is that, according to your experiences, what are differences between these two in REAL world ! In a REAL WORKING PLACE!


Apr 23, 14 1:34 am

Engineers make more $$$

Apr 23, 14 7:32 am

You know exactly what your tasks are.. Go in, do your work, get it done quick and go home, unlike the maybe's, what ifs, not this or thats, and a dozen or so changes to try and satisfy your client you have to deal with as an architect. xD

Apr 23, 14 9:53 am

having practiced both:  civils usually work with more underground concerns and deal with traffic/water; architects more with spatial concerns and materials.  The work environment is more dry in civil, as the work has to do with making something work, rather than finding creative solutions.  The salaries are marginally better in civil, but the liabilities can be much greater (as you will find yourself in more life or death scenarios, hence the conservative attitudes in their offices).  Civils are usually 40hr work weeks, architects often much longer.

Apr 23, 14 10:11 am

I worked for a civil engineer, we did farm and industrial buildings like grain processing facilities as well as structural and design consulting and forensics on things like buildings, bridges, bike paths, soggy lawns and retaining walls. It is pretty straightforward in engineering, whereas in architecture the work can be very emotional, which is what makes it both fun (being creative and personal) and tiring (erasing more than drawing). Civil engineering is a big field, it encompass anything that is built by humans. For instance, my cousin is a civil engineer who works for a particle accelerator project. Sounds like a sweet gig to me. 

Apr 23, 14 10:50 am

Thanks for sharing.

David DeissDavid Deiss
Apr 23, 14 10:50 am

Engineers don't from with some stupid theories and have more courage to get things done.

that's what Corbu said back then...

Apr 23, 14 11:23 am

civil engineering deals with curb and gutter, streets, drainage, grading, and general site concerns.  

There is some confusion for newbies because structural engineering also falls under the term "civil engineering".  A PE can be a curb and gutter guy or a structural engineer, depending on where a majority of their experience lies, there is some overlap, but most firms tend to specialize.  Site civil firms don't get involved in building structures and building structural engineers don't slum it at the site design level.  They are different disciplines.  

I am assuming the OPs was referring to civil engineering in the structural sense, in which case, building structural engineers, design a building within the constraints (schematic design) provided by an architect, they make sure the structure is code compliant and won't collapse and kill people.  

Architects design buildings.

The difference in working between the two fields is huge, architects become the project lead for many consultants, the owner, and the contractor, and the engineer is just one of the project consultants.  Engineers spend a lot of time crunching numbers, and provide some fairly schematic drawings.  Where as, architects coordinate in all of the details from all trades into their drawings and make sure the whole building is assembled properly.  

That is a super general description, I think the only way to understand the work of either field is to work both.  It is not a bad idea for architects to work in CE or structural for a while to see what they are all about.  

Roarkā€™s Revenge
Apr 24, 14 4:12 pm


Apr 23, 14 7:32 am

You know exactly what your tasks are.. Go in, do your work, get it done quick and go home, unlike the maybe's, what ifs, not this or thats, and a dozen or so changes to try and satisfy your client you have to deal with as an architect. xD



Astute observation. Too many variables in Architecture. Even when given free reign to design theres a never-ending internal battle “if i just did this or tweaked that, then this would be better...oh wait now ive gotta change this this and this because of that....."

Apr 24, 14 5:06 pm

Architects spend their days making calls to vendors, drafting details for construction and planning, and occasionally making presentations for clients.  I'd say only 1 in 10 gets to make design decisions, so the work environments (of architects and engineers) are probably much closer than the schoolwork implies.  The main difference is: architects collect all the information from the engineers and compose the documents together (although engineers compose documents too).  They also detail roof systems, wall systems, and everything else to codes, such as the RBC, IBC, and ADA.  Engineers details structures to structural codes (so it wont break), architects detail other things to other codes that are less life threatening, but could cause lawsuits.

Apr 24, 14 6:01 pm

Basically, anything that is very complicated (such as HVAC systems, Geotechnical magic, and structural systems) require an engineers seal and license to be constructed, generally, and architects hand the complex system over to engineers when it gets beyond them.

Apr 24, 14 6:33 pm

Thank you! you guys are helpful!

Apr 24, 14 8:02 pm

Can I say that civil engineers focus on more scientific aspect while architects, artistic and communicative?

Token AE
Apr 24, 14 8:21 pm

Not always. It depends on where you work.

In addition to what chigurh said, I would suggest researching the differences between:

  • Design Architect
  • Architect of Record (AoR)

I work as a technical consultant to both of the above. Design architects handle the aesthetics and hand the rest to us. Architects of Record can hire a design architect as a consultant, or offer those services in-house.

You  need a license to be an Architect of Record. You do not necessarily need a license, let alone an architectural design background, to design the form and aesthetics of a building. In the latter case, you will eventually need an Architect of Record to stamp it for approval.

Apr 24, 14 8:35 pm

Think of it as the difference between a psychiatrist and a surgeon. 

Apr 24, 14 9:21 pm

I'm struggling between these two professions. I really like architecture and drawing, and I like science classes, too. The issue is that I'm a Chinese, which means communication is not my advantage. Plus my college has one of the best civil engineering programs(university of illinois, is it?) Comparing with engineering, I feel the curriculum in architecture program focuses too much on artistic aspect. I feel I can not gain that much knowledge from it (sorry to say that no offend) My dad is an engineer and I like engineering, too. Can someone help me? Thank you very much. I'm just a freshman now.

Apr 24, 14 10:10 pm

If you are not into the "artistic aspect" of design, engineering will suit you just fine.

Architecture is about being creative and thinking out of the box, if your dad is an engineer, you don't want to focus on artistic practice, and you are chinese, chances are the creative side of you would be a real struggle to tap into which would make architecture school torture and the profession not much better.  Not to say it isn't possible, you would have to get some really good weed or shrooms and re-think your entire world view.  

Some people are more suited to crunching numbers for 8 hours a day with a 30 minute lunch in a cubicle in Irvine, California.  

Apr 25, 14 12:25 pm

And some engineers travel the world building bridges, roads, dams, ski lifts, tunnels. Anyone who has ever set eyes on the Golden Gate bridge realizes that engineering at it's best is an art no less than architecture - maybe more so. At least more so than 99 percent of the architectural dreck being designed today.

Apr 26, 14 1:03 pm

Thank you...

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Apr 26, 14 1:21 pm

Civil engineers have fewer idiots for clients.


Apr 26, 14 2:57 pm

@Miles they may help you to improve English speaking skills. LOL

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