Difference Between Architecture and Civil Engineer with INFOGRAPHIC

A few months ago, while on a seminar in Madison, one college student presented us with an interesting question – I’d love to build houses and other big structures like airports but should I major in architecture or civil engineering?

What is the difference?

The difference between architecture and civil engineering is an issue that baffles many and so today, we’re going to share with you the answers we gave the student. We’ll also provide you with more insights into the two careers.

Architecture and Civil Engineer

First Things First…

Even though it appears like civil engineers and architects build the same structures, the truth is, their skills, approaches, and duties in projects are different. If you’re an aspiring student, it’s vital that you know these variations so you can best match your interests and talents to the right program.

Keep in mind that engineers and architects often work together to complete projects; each party brings their own distinct perspective to the project.

Normally, they work as project managers and links between the other parties involved. Ultimately, there’s balance and the client enjoys stability, safety, and beauty in the finished product.

Let’s now look at the two careers based on various factors.


An architect normally uses creative approaches to design structures; they’re the artist, the visionary, and the designer in theory.

On the contrary, civil engineers take a more practical, systematic, and vitally scientific approach in designing structures. As a civil engineer, you will be a mathematical and scientific expert in your field.


The primary concern of the architect is the aesthetics – that means the general appearance of the structure. Although the architect has to adhere to the mathematical principles used in construct, it’s actually the engineer who translates the vision and the design into practical applications.

Normally, civil engineers use the blueprints created by the architects to build structures. It’s their job to make the vision a reality by following sound mathematical and scientific methods. While adhering to the set budget, civil engineers have to ensure the construction of a safe structure. 

Duties and areas of focus

Here are the main areas of focus and duties of architects:

  • Building restoration and preservation
  • Physics and calculus
  • Model building
  • Blueprint drawing
  • Design techniques
  • Research and writing
  • Acquiring the relevant certifications in the field of architecture
  • Passing the Architectural Registration Examination
  • Designing and developing public and private structures including doing the graphic, urban, landscape, and the interior design
  • City planning

The areas of focus and duties of civil engineers:

  • Physics and other sciences including chemistry, fluid mechanics, hydraulics, electricity, optics, thermodynamics, waves, and magnetism
  • Mathematics, including linear algebra and calculus
  • Transportation
  • Water resource
  • Acquiring the relevant certifications like the Professional Engineer’s License
  • Government standards
  • Designing and developing both private and public structures, including roadways, dams, canals, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What advice can you give to civil engineering students/aspiring students?

If you’re a student already, get an internship with a civil engineering company to have a feel of civil engineering jobs.

All in all, you should know that civil engineering is quite demanding both as a course and as a career. However, it’s also very fulfilling, as you’re able to work with other experts, like architects, in creating magnificent pieces of art, like the Burj Khalifa.

2. What is the main duty of architects?

Architects are the brains behind most of the breathtaking structures you see around. They come up with the blueprints/designs of how the completed building project will look like.

3. What is the main duty of engineers?

Civil engineers interpret the designs created by architects and ensure the successful creation of the structure in question based on sound scientific and mathematical principles.

4. Do civil engineers and architects work together?

Yes. They are the two major designers of the structure, and have to work together to ensure there’s success. The architect focuses on the art side of the structure, while the engineer focuses on the scientific side to ensure the structure is usable and safe.

Bottom Line

Realize that both architecture and civil engineering are very valuable to the society. If we didn’t have the creative ability and the visions of architects, then we would hardly see the magnificent structures around. And, without the practical expertise that the engineers bring to the table, the designs of the architects would remain only visions and never realities.

Architects do the planning; engineers do the implementation.

So, as you can see, even though both professionals utilize the principles of mathematics and science to perform their duties, each provides their own unique set of skills to the client.

As an aspiring building expert, it’s crucial that you note the differences, so you can follow the right career path and acquire the proper credentials.

Remember, as an architect, you will be focusing on the aesthetics and the spatial functionality of your development work. Your concern will be the artistry, the look, and functionality of structures.

As a civil engineer, you will be concentrating on the specific structural elements of the designs. In other words, you will put the designs created by the architect into effect in a manner that is not only safe but also reliable.

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