What Is The Difference Between Architecture And Civil Engineering?
"I grew up in Madison, which is a pretty awesome town as far as architecture goes. There are a lot of amazing buildings here, and that’s how I realized I wanted to grow up to build things. I was just going to major in architecture and call it good, but then I heard about civil engineering, and now I’m really curious as to the difference between the two and which one you’d recommend I do. I am interested in building houses and private structures, but the idea of building large public projects like airports really interests me as well. Should I major in civil engineering or architecture, and what’s the difference?"
asked by Joe from Madison, WI
Although architects and civil engineers work to construct the similar structures, their duties, skills, and approaches to any project differ in various ways. It is important for aspiring students to understand these key differences, so they can best match their strengths and interests to a relevant educational program. Architects and engineers must work together to complete a project. This complementary relationship provides the client with a stable, safe, and aesthetically pleasing product. Each personality brings a different perspective to a project and balance is achieved through this interaction. Both act as project managers and liaisons among the various individuals involved. Ultimately, it is their job to create a structure for their clients and provide the plans to a design team for implementation.
Architects typically use a more creative approach to designing buildings and other structures. They are the artist, visionary, and theoretical designer. Their concern is for the aesthetics: form, atmosphere, and character. While they need to adhere to the principles of mathematics and scientific methodologies within their drawings, it is the engineer that translates an architect’s vision into practical application.
- Architectural styles and history
- Building restoration and preservation
- Physics and calculus (along with other science and math courses)
- Design techniques
- Model building
- Blueprint drawing
- Research and writing
- Acquire the relevant certifications in the field of architecture
- Pass the Architectural Registration Examination
Areas of Expertise
- Design and development of both public and private structures: Urban, landscape, graphic, and interior designs
- City planning
- Aesthetic principles of design
Engineers use a more scientific, practical, and systematic approach to structural design. They are mathematic and scientific experts in their respective field. Typically, they use an architect’s blueprints as the basis of their work. Their job is to make the vision happen, using sound scientific and mathematical principles. When an architect is given a job, he or she will work within their budget constraints to develop a design; an engineer considers this budget, but their objective is to create a safe structure—one that will turn the vision into reality.
- Intense scientific and mathematical study (specifically for engineering application)
- Linear algebra
- Fluid mechanics and hydraulics
- Electricity, magnetism, and fluids
- Waves, optics, and thermodynamics
- Engineering courses
- Water resource
- Structural design and ethics
- Business policies and government standards
- Acquire the relevant certifications in the field of civil engineering (i.e. Professional Engineer’s License)
Areas of Expertise
- Design and development of both public or private structures, with a focus on public structures: hydroelectric dams, canals, roadways, or other structures with useful functions in society
Both professions offer invaluable services to society. Without the visions and creative abilities of the architect, individuals would not have a way to formulate various types of structures. Without the practical expertise of the engineer, an architect’s designs would be nothing but drawings on paper. It is the architect who plans and creates, and it is the engineer who turns those plans and creations into safe realties.
While both use mathematics, science, and the principles of design in their work, they each provide a unique skill-set to the consumer. It is essential that students interested in structural design understand the fundamental differences between the two, so they can acquire the appropriate educational credentials.
Coursework is only similar in field, as the two occupations vary widely in perspective, inherent talents, and responsibilities. The two occupations need each other to complete a project, and it would be difficult to implement such plans without one or the other.
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