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Geotechnical engineering employment in Britain





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Introduction — What you need to know and why

Are you a qualified geotechnical expat looking for overseas engineering positions? Have you considered gaining world-class engineering experience?

This page is designed to provide all the information you need to successfully continue your career.

What you need to know:

  • Where you will be able to find work.
  • What sorts of projects you will work on.
  • How much money you can earn.
  • Any technical specifications that you should be aware of.

Where are geotechnical jobs located?

Geotechnical job vacancies were surprisingly numerous prior to the financial crisis. Whilst the demand is not as strong, due to the relatively specialist nature of the industry suitable positions can still found. Generally speaking, Greater London is most likely your best bet having the greatest demand for design engineers.

Jobs may be found in such locations as:

  • Central London
  • Greater London (just outside the M25)
  • Edinburgh
  • Manchester
  • Birmingham
  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton
  • Exeter

Tip: Most agencies have specialists for different locations, however because geotechnical engineering is so specialist the London office may deal with other parts of the country as well.


There are around 7000 geotechnical engineers working in London alone.

There is a surprising range of opportunites for many geotech engineers with experience including embankment stabilisation projects to tunneling. The outlook for qualified and experienced engineers is relatively solid. The majority of heavy civil projects are continuing and longer term this is expected to continue.

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In terms of size and diversity, the scope for projects is surprisingly dynamic. The UK's two-fold need to maintain old and develop new infrastructure and the demands of an expanding population. There are also very large scale new-build projects in the Middle East which many British consultancies win.

Geotechnical engineers are required for a whole range of projects involving underground construction, such as geotechnical tunnel jobs.

Common responsibilites as a geotechnical engineer:

  • Site investigation
  • Site analysis
  • Sampling and testing
  • Geotechnical analysis
  • Report writing
  • Project management
  • Business development
  • Earthwork design
  • Soil mechanics
  • Engineering geology


As your level of experience increases so to will your job prospects. With 2 - 6+ years experience will find a greater range of opportunities available to them in both contract and permanent positions.

Recruitment agencies don't normally represent graduate engineers. Graduates wishing to move to the UK should directly apply for a graduate position with a company based there. (This will be a lot easier if you have a British or EU Passport) 


Recruitment agencies play a critical role in the engineering industry. A recruitment agency's business is built on its ability to provide quality candidates for employers while simultaneously facilitating the candidate's development and career progression.

WORKgateways manages a network of recruitment agencies that are fantastic at helping people coming from overseas.

To find a great job:

  • Register with recruitment agencies up to 2 years before you arrive. In order to find the best job for you, recruitment agencies may wish to contact you for further discussions before submitting your CV to potential employers.
  • Begin applying for jobs about three months before you arrive. If you register with an agency, your recruitment consultant will begin the process of arranging interviews around three months before your arrival.
  • If your arrival date or travel plans or change, make sure you inform your recruitment consultant immediately.
  • Having detailed examples of your experience can be very advantageous during the interview process. Having an example of a written report completed by you in a previous position can be an effective way of highlighting your knowledge, skills and experience.

What types of jobs are available for geotechnical engineers?

Geotechnical engineering jobs generally follow this hierarchy:

  • Graduate 
  • Assistant 
  • Engineer
  • Senior 
  • Principal 

Around 80% of geotechnical engineers will work in the private sector on either a contract or permanent basis.

What are the earnings?

Geotechnical jobs are generally well payed. As always, however, your earnings will correspond to your experience and new arrivals should not expect to earn premium rates immediately. That said, your earnings can relatively quickly increase even with just a few months employment

This engineer salary scale can be used as a general guide:

Grade Experience (yrs) Salary Range £/hr (Contract) Salary range p/a (Permanent*)
Graduate Engineer - NA £20-22K + benefits
Assistant Engineer 1-3 £17-24 £15-25K + benefits
Engineer / Senior Engineer 4-8 £24-28 £25-40K + benefits
Principal Engineer 8+ £26-35 £40K plus + benefits

*Contract positions for geotechnical engineers are often awarded on a fixed-term basis offering pro-rata salaries.

The earnings you receive as a geotechnical engineer may also be affected by a number of work factors, such as:

  • The particular project experience you posses
  • The size and financial strength of the company
  • The level of urgency to complete a project and
  • The location in which you work.

Working as a geotechnical engineer

Standards — the Eurocodes

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) — of which the UK is a member — has been developed a set of Eurocodes, which ensures consistency of design and specifications throughout Europe.

Since 2010, the Eurocodes were introduced throughout the UK. The general rules for Eurocode 7: Geotechnical Design were first published in 2004 and now completely replaced British national standards in 2010. 

The introduction of the Eurocodes represents an exciting opportunity for overseas geotechnical engineers to gain valuable experience in what will fast become one of the most used standards in the world.

That said, many British engineering consultancies are doing work in the middle east and many of these project follow US standards, so you may be exposed to all kinds of standards.

Software and applications

To work as a geotechnical engineer, you will likely have experience in the use of industry-specific software, for example:

  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software
  • Geographic Information System (GIS) software

It is not expected that you should have previous experience with UK-specific applications. Training for new software packages is usually offered for those taking on a new position.

Your qualifications

The Engineering Council currently holds the following agreements with overseas engineering organisations for the mutual recognition of accredited academic engineering programmes:

  • Sydney Accord
  • Washington Accord
  • Dublin Accord

Make sure you remember to bring a copy of your degree certificate with you. Chartership or Holding a Masters of Science may also be advantageous, though this is certainly not required.

Geotechnical engineers are chartered by the Engineering Council. The Council also recognises the chartered status awarded by many other national engineering bodies. The British Geotechnical Association is the main association.

Important information for your CV

Be sure your CV includes a list of the projects you have worked on, including specific details of the scope of the projects and your responsibilities on these projects.

Information such as scope, type of work and a description of the work completed will ensure that the full depth of your experience is communicated to recruitment consultants and future employers.

Be sure to list your experience in reverse-chronological order (i.e. most recent experience first). Use lists and bullet points in order to enable the reader to quickly scan and understand your experience and abilities.


Mar 2006 — Present Company Name, Country
Geotechnical Engineer
  • Management and supervision of geotechnical investigations, including geotechnical soils evaluations, geotechnical design of tunnel linings and geotechnical creek bank stabilization
  • Data interpretation, including geophysics
  • Foundation designs for piled and gravity-based structures
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