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  • Tunnel Engineers help to plan, design and manage tunnel building projects

  • Tunnel Engineer

Tunnel Engineer


Tunnels are playing a bigger and bigger role in modern engineering projects. As a Tunnel Engineer you will be responsible for planning, designing and managing tunnel building projects.

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Work Activities

As a Tunnel Engineer you will be responsible for planning, designing and managing tunnel building projects. These projects could include:

  • rail
  • roads/motorways
  • urban and underground railways
  • underground water tunnels
  • sewers

You will be involved in overseeing the whole tunnelling process, from the initial planning stage, to the final completion and the day the first train or car passes through.

You will need to carefully plan the work that needs to be done, working closely with the Project Manager, and then you will have to keep on top of how it is progressing. You may need to employ many different contractors and it is up to you to make sure they are performing their side of the project according plan and within budget.

You might also be responsible for the development of more Junior Engineers. You will help them with their training, passing on your expertise, so that they, one day, can lead tunnelling projects like you.

As a Tunnel Engineer you'll work in an office and on-site. Office duties include:

  • producing designs for tunnel projects
  • making detailed drawings for use on-site
  • calculating and checking specifications for projects
  • planning work
  • keeping records of progress, plant stock and finance

Other work away from the construction site includes attending regular meetings to let interested parties know how the project is progressing - these people include clients, asset owners and stakeholders.

Many safety regulations apply to the construction industry. For example, a hard hat must be worn on construction sites.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Tunnel Engineer, you'll need:

  • to be able to analyse and solve problems
  • the confidence to supervise others
  • to be a good teamworker
  • strong organisational skills to cope with the many different stages of a construction project
  • an interest in buildings and how they are built
  • maths skills
  • good written and verbal skills
  • an interest in physics
  • good IT skills and some experience of using CAD software

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £31,000 - £34,000
  • With experience: £37,000 - £45,000
  • Senior Tunnel Engineers earn £48,500 - £53,000

Hours of work

Most Tunnel Engineers work around 35-40 hours, Monday to Friday. However, you may have early starts and late finishes, and you may need to work some weekends, especially as deadlines approach.

Where could I work?

Tunnel Engineers are employed on major construction projects where tunnels need to be used. These projects could include:

  • rail
  • road/smotorways
  • urban and underground railways
  • underground water tunnels
  • sewers

This career could involve working for an agency.


Opportunities occur for Tunnel Engineers to work independently, as consultants.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Find a Job, and at Jobcentre Plus.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

In order to become a Tunnel Engineer you will first need to train as a Civil Engineer and then specialise in tunnel construction.

You need an accredited Master of Engineering (MEng) degree or Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) honours degree in civil engineering, or a related subject, to become a Chartered Engineer. These can be studied as sandwich courses, which include work experience.

You can do a foundation degree, HNC or HND in civil engineering before moving on to a full degree course. The qualifications above may allow you entry to this career, but you will need to take further approved training to become fully qualified.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) can provide lists of accredited courses.

A Higher, Advanced Level or Degree Apprenticeship is also a great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.


After getting a degree, you must have a period of approved training and experience with an employer and pass a professional review to become fully qualified.


Experienced Tunnel Engineers can progress to Chief Engineer positions.

Work Experience

Previous experience gained in the construction industry or as an Engineering Technician would be really useful for this career.


To get onto an Advanced or Higher Level Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least five GCSEs at A*-C or 9-4, including English and maths, and possibly two A Levels.

To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.

To enter a degree course in civil engineering, you will usually need:

  • 2/3 A levels, including maths and/or physics
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in your A level subjects
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English, maths and a science subject

Other qualifications are often acceptable as alternatives to A levels, for example:

  • BTEC level 3 qualifications
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma

Some universities offer foundation courses for applicants without the appropriate maths and science qualifications.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


People without relevant qualifications or skills gained in the construction industry or as an engineering technician, will find it difficult to gain employment.

Applicants at engineering technician level have a good chance of advancement.


If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

People without the usual academic qualifications can achieve membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) via the Technical Report Route (TRR). See the ICE website for guidance on entry requirements.

Numerous institutions offer relevant postgraduate courses via distance learning.


ICE Quest Scholarships are available to candidates with a conditional offer for an ICE accredited course in civil engineering.

Sponsorship for study at higher education level is available through the larger building/construction companies.

Further Information

Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

The ICE is the main professional institution for people working in civil engineering careers.


Skills for the construction industry

Address: Bircham Newton, Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH



Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Nutts Corner Training Centre, 17 Dundrod Road, Crumlin, County Antrim BT29 4SR

Tel: 028 9082 5466



Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)

Address: Bircham Newton, Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH

Tel: 0844 5768777


Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)

Address: Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP

Tel: 01923 260000



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


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