When you're a civil engineer, you are automatically considered a designer. Technically, all engineers are designers. They have to use their technical knowledge, skills and tools to come up with designs of engineering elements ranging from structures, to machines, to materials. But they can only come up with high-quality designs if they use proper tools. There are numerous engineering design tools available, and each of them has pros and cons. As an engineer, it is up to you to choose the best design tool to achieve your specifications.  

As a civil engineer, you are also required to understand computer aided design tools. It has become much easier to find a computer design tool, but much harder to choose the right one. Sometimes it is not even a matter of choosing the right one, but an issue of singling out something worth using. As a civil engineer, you may need to learn how to use a variety of design tools so you can choose the one that suits you for any given task. But many civil engineers do not know which tools they should learn, and why they should do so.

AutoCAD, Revit, and Staad Pro are three popular choices. This article explains which of these you may need to use, and why you may need to do so.


All civil engineering students are supposed to know how to use AutoCAD. Most universities that offer the civil engineering program have a module which teaches it, but the information is often basic, leaving students with basic AutoCAD skills. Students are left to learn on their own, and apply what they’re given in lectures.

As a civil engineer, you need to know how to use AutoCAD if you are to be successful in the design and detailing of elements. After acquiring a bachelor’s degree, you will have knowledge of multiple disciplines. AutoCAD can be used in almost any civil engineering field for design and detailing, and it is the best for detailing structural drawings. Further, it can be used to design and detail civil works of any kind.

In order to get the best out of AutoCAD, you may also need to use Civil 3D - both are needed for the production of high-quality plans. These tools are both made by the same company, and the latter is mostly needed for 3D projects. If you are a construction engineer, you may not need to learn how to use AutoCAD, or Civil 3D. You may do so only for your own convenience.


Revit can be referred to as an architectural design tool - it is often labeled as Revit architecture and is a tool that has been developed for architects. The software is mainly for design and the documentation of designs. Even though AutoCAD may be used for the same purpose, Revit is faster, and produces more detailed drawings in a shorter period of time.

Other professionals in the industry may also use the software for the design of buildings. For example, building scientists and town planners may find it useful. It comes with special features which are required by professionals in these and other related fields.

Some civil engineers may be tempted to learn Revit, but there are reasons why the tool is mainly for architects and related fields. It is much easier to draw and present floor plans on paper using Revit than any other architectural design tool available today. It is also the best tool for producing pictorial architectural designs.

This is important because it affords architects an opportunity to provide preliminary drawings to their clients for approval. Once the client has approved the pictorial drawing, architects can design the final draft. Civil engineers do not need to produce either floor plans, or pictorial drawings. They can modify in Revit to produce and detail structural drawings.  

Revit is also best when it comes to working drawings. Architects produce these for site engineers, and other professionals whose primary purpose is to implement the details of the plan.

If you wish to discover more on projects that require the use of Revit to produce architectural drawings, you can browse projects on freelancer.

Staad Pro

Staad is a design tool solely meant for structural engineers, focusing on structural analysis and structural design. Civil engineers do not necessarily have to learn how to use Staad Pro, but they can use it if they have prospects of working as junior structural engineers.

Staad Pro supports the design of almost any known structural element. There is barely any structural element the program cannot analyze, rare or common, including beams, slabs, columns, arches, trusses, and cantilevers. The program can also analyze retaining walls, floodgates, and bridges. This is why civil engineers with a keen interest in structural engineering could benefit from learning it.

The program is also used for detailing structural elements for the purposes of producing working drawings. Once the analysis of a specific structural element is complete, you can detail your drawing to make it useful to construction engineers, or site engineers who are overseeing the implementation of an architectural drawing.


AutoCAD, Revit, and Staad Pro are important design tools that professionals in the civil engineering and architectural fields should know how to use. It is clear that AutoCAD is a must for all civil engineers, as it is a basic design tool that is used extensively. Civil engineers should focus on Revit, and structural detailing and design is best done with Staad Pro. This is mostly for structural engineers, or civil engineers who have a keen interest in structural engineering.

Are you an engineer with design tool skills? Which program is your favourite? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Oprettet 23 august, 2017


Software Developer

Lucy is the Development & Programming Correspondent for Freelancer.com. She is currently based in Sydney.

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