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Do you have to be good at hand-drawing for civil engineering?

  1. May 12, 2018 #1
    I am in high school and am really bad at drawing and want to know if you have to be good at hand drawing and designing at civil engineering?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2018 #2


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    Welcome to the PF, John. :smile:

    At university, you will have classes that teach you good techniques to improve your drawing and sketching skills. Have you considered taking any introductory art or drawing classes at your high school? With some practice and learning some tricks, you can improve your sketching and drawing skills a lot. One of my first classes at university was an Intro to Engineering class where they covered all of the different types of Engineering at a superficial level, and taught things like how to do better mechanical drawings, etc.

    Plus, as a working Engineer, you do most of your drawings (mechanical, electrical, civil, etc.) with a CAD system anyway.
  4. May 13, 2018 #3


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    Sketching is a skill worth developing, even if sufficient to create one on the "back of an envelope". I find it very useful for jotting my thoughts down and for communicating ideas and concepts to others quickly and simply.
  5. May 14, 2018 #4
    Hand drawing these days is mostly just a support skill: teaches meticulous mindset, develops your 3D/2D perception and helps you understand drawings of others.
    While it is important, it is not the main point. In real life there is a good chance that (apart from some lazy sketches) you won't ever draw by hand.
  6. May 14, 2018 #5


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    Yes,be sure to take a CAD course in your first year. AutoCad seems to be the common one in these parts for Civils, although any sort of CAD program will suffice. You may not be skilled in manual drafting, but be sure to understand the basic plan, side, elevation, isometric, and Section views. Best wishes in your studies.
  7. May 14, 2018 #6


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    There is a difference between being able to make and understand engineering drawings/sketches and being able to make the sort of sketches you might do in an art lesson. I think I'm pretty good at the former but hopeless at the latter.
  8. May 15, 2018 #7
    That depends on the area of Civil you will practice in and there are many. If you get into analysis, design, plans and specs yes to knowing how to sketch well. There are some 20 and 21st century areas of Civil that to sketch is generally not needed but not the case for traditional Civil Engineering.

    In my career I practiced Civil Eng. in Fla in from 1970 to 2009 as: Surveyor, Research Engineer, Design Engineer, Proj Manager, Dept Head and private consultant. Worked on many projects in areas of: hydraulics, fluid mechanics, water resources, watershed analysis, land development, pump stations, piping systems, major large diameter high pressure pipelines, structural design, groundwater flow, environmental, economic analysis, etc. I was lucky to appreciate, learn and progress from: slide rule, IBM main frame computers with Fortran IV programing, hand calculators, desk top computers with Basic programing, advanced Microsoft desktops and programing, spreadsheets, hand drafting and CAD, etc

    Regardless of the years and even in the CAD era hand sketching was a major benefit. To me sketching well is the hand speaking language that complements the spoken word of a Civil Eng. It is needed to describe an idea, a plan layout and details, etc. because CAD operators I was in charge of in the office were Jr engineers (not necessarily Civils) that follow instructions on plans and details from a project engineer that needs to instruct them. IMO as I did you will do well to learn the skill to sketch well just like a mathematician needs to know the abstract language of math on paper or the blackboard. So take some courses in freehand drawing and basic hand drafting so you can sketch 2 and 3D ideas etc. and also learn to print legibly a word processor and electric will not always be available ;-)

    Civil Engineering is the oldest of the engineering professions dating from about 4000 BC and can be very rewarding but you must love it or forget it as with any profession that will last decades. So pick the area of Civil that interests you the most and go for it.

    Good Luck to you
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
  9. May 15, 2018 #8
    I was never good at drawing until after I took drafting in school. I took engineering in college and took classes in, electronic drafting, mechanical drafting, Architecture rafting, Descriptive Geometry, mechanical drawing, now I am good at that type drafting. When it comes to art type drawing I can draw stick people that looks like a first grader drew them I never had classes in that type drawing. Take the classes it is easy. Anything that you do not know how to do seems hard until after you learn how then you wonder why I ever thought was hard.
  10. Jul 31, 2018 #9
    Don't worry John, most engineering drawing are now done on computers. I have been a Civil Engineer for 3 years now working at a company with 40 other civil engineers. Other than rough sketches to quickly convey an idea to someone else, no one hand draws plans. It is unlikely that you will be required to draw any plans by hand since plans of that type are not accepted my any permitting agency that I have ever worked with.
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