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Site Engineer

What does a Site Engineer do?

Site engineers perform a technical, organisational and supervisory role on construction projects, setting out and determining the location for above and underground infrastructural installations involved in construction operations. They apply designs and plans to mark out the site and can be involved in projects ranging from small-scale to multimillion rand ventures. This may include civil, road, rail and other infrastructure projects.

A site engineer works as part of the site management team, liaising with and working alongside architects, engineers, construction managers, supervisors, planners, surveyors and subcontractors. They share responsibility for site security, health and safety, and the organisation and supervision of material and human resources.

Other tasks include:

  • acting as day-to-day managers on a construction site
  • technical advice and quality control
  • levelling and surveying a site
  • checking drawings and quantities
  • ordering and negotiating the price of materials
  • regular liaison with the client, its representatives, and consultants
  • planning the work to meet agreed deadlines
  • resolving any technical difficulties and other problems.

What qualifications do I need?

It is possible to start working towards a career as a site engineer straight from school, but most people go to university or technikon first. There are opportunities in site engineering roles for anyone with an engineering degree or diploma, or indeed any technical or numerical-based degree. Subjects like building and construction, civil or structural engineering will be particularly helpful. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite for these courses. Civil engineers study a Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Science (Engineering) degree, followed by 3 years of practical training under a registered professional civil engineer. It is then possible to register as a Professional Engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa. Ongoing education and training is always important for engineers in order to stay in touch with the latest improvements in technology.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Physical Science
• Information Technology
• Engineering and Technology


Where can I study?

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Science (Engineering): Civil Engineering

University of Johannesburg
Building (Civil Engineering)

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Engineering: Civil Engineering

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
National Diploma: Civil Engineering

University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Civil Engineering programme

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma and Bachelor of Technology: Civil Engineering

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma and Bachelor of Technology: Civil Engineering

University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Science (Engineering): Civil Engineering

Bachelor of Civil Engineering

Where can I get more info?

The South African Institution of Civil Engineering – www.saice.org.za
Engineering Council of South Africa – www.ecsa.co.za
South African Academy of Engineering – www.saae.co.za
South African Society of Engineering Education – www.sasee.org.za


Interview with a Site Engineer

Taahier Salie | SITE ENGINEER | Murray & Roberts

Taahier Salie | SITE ENGINEER | Murray & Roberts


Why did you become an engineer?
I’ve always been fascinated by buildings and structures. I was exposed to the building industry at a young age by my father, who’s been in the industry for years.

Where did you train?
After matric I completed an N4 qualification in building at Technikon SA. Thereafter, I completed my bachelor’s degree (cum laude) at Cape Peninsula Technikon.

Outline the traits of a ‘good’ engineer
The building industry differs considerably to working in a corporate office environment. In the construction industry, one needs to be prepared to constantly work in a high-pressure environment. You need good time management skills and to be able to communicate at all levels. You also need to be highly motivated, have a strong sense of leadership and be flexible to cope with the demands of the job.

Is experience as important as training?
Definitely, while formal training equips you with knowledge and understanding, skill is best developed through experience earned by working on various jobs.

Describe a typical day on the job
First thing in the morning I meet with all subcontractors to begin delegation of work for the day. A typical day for an engineer would consist of surveying; ordering of rebar and concrete for the structure you are building; liaising with the consulting engineers and architects with regards to information and queries.

What do you like the most about your work?
I really enjoy the freedom of being on different projects, the challenge of meeting deadlines and the fact that I am constantly being exposed to new opportunities.

What don’t you like?
That would have to be working in extreme weather conditions. Working outside in 37°C heat, or cold or windy weather can be mentally and physically taxing.

What’s been the highlight of your career?
One of the most rewarding experiences for me was being part of Team Green Point, building part of South Africa’s history.

What are your dreams for the future?
I see myself working as a project manager for a reputable company such as Murray & Roberts. Ultimately, my dream is to one day develop my own successful construction company.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in construction?
As with any career path you choose, ensure you have a passion for the industry. You need to be highly motivated, have a strong sense of leadership and be flexible to handle the demands of the job. My advice is to complete a year of in-service training at a reputable company in order to gain exposure to the industry early on.

Describe your job in three words
Challenging • Diverse • Rewarding