What courses? Civil engineering; civil and environmental engineering; architectural engineering; structural engineering.

What do you come out with? A BEng or MEng

Why do it? "If you want to make a difference to the world and to the quality of people's lives, then civil engineering is the degree for you. It will equip you to design buildings, bridges, dams, coastal defences, in fact many of the things taken for granted within our society. You will also develop your technical and managerial skills and this will put you in a unique position of being able to work on projects from concept, through design and construction, into final use. Choose a degree in civil engineering if you want to shape the future and create solutions to the problems of the environment, scarce water resources, transport and sustainable energy." - Adam Crewe, senior lecturer in civil engineering at the University of Bristol

What’s it all about? Learning how to design, build and maintain structures in the ‘built environment’; you’re looking at bridges, roads, canals, dams and buildings. Sitting somewhere between architecture and construction, the core of civil engineering lies in physics and maths, but you’ll also learn how to apply theories to real-life situations, where the financial and ethical also become factors. After a broad grounding that shares many characteristics with other engineering degrees, students are given a flavor of what civil engineering entails specifically, looking at structures, fluids, construction , and hydraulics, before being able to focus specifically on one area in-depth in their final year. Field work is commonplace, as is group work, where students team up to design, and in some cases produce, structures to specific briefs.

Study options: Three years for a BEng or four for an MEng, which you’ll need if you want to become an accredited chartered engineer, and which tends to be the most popular option. In Scotland, both courses take a year longer. Sandwich courses are also quite common, where you’re given the opportunity to apply some of your newly acquired skills in a real workplace environment for a year. Several institutions, including Imperial and Bristol, also offer a year abroad.

What will I need to do it? Maths A-level is pretty essential, and for most unis it’s a compulsory requirement, while most places will also favour physics. Entry grades can be tough - at Imperial, you’ll need A*AA (with the A* in maths and to include physics), at Bristol it’s AAA and at Cardiff it’s AAB.

What are my job prospects? There are three areas that civil engineers classically go into. The first of these is consultancy, in which the engineer produces designs to later be realized by a contractor, the second of these career paths. And finally, there are those how use their expertise and knowledge to maintain and conserve buildings and other structures. Work in these areas can usually be found in big construction companies, for the Government or on a self-employed or freelance basis. Despite the construction industry as a whole being hit quite hard by the recession, graduate employment rates remain quite high, as, according to The Times’ Good University Guide 2012, 57 per cent of leavers walk straight into a graduate-level job, earning an average salary of almost £24,000.

Where’s best to do it? Cambridge came top in the Complete University Guide 2012 - although you’ll have to study their general engineering degree before specializing in the civil side of things – followed by Imperial, Bristol and Bath, where students also said they were most satisfied with their course. Greenwich, Loughborough, Heriot-Watt and Cambridge also came out well for student satisfaction.

Related degrees: Mathematics; physics; engineering; chemical engineering; architecture; building and town planning.