Coastal Engineer


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Coastal engineers research and develop technologies and techniques for coastal, estuary and river systems. They will need to evaluate the environmental impacts of the project and work with other experts to complete the project. They will need to write reports about the project and may need to communicate and inform a wide variety of people including the public, managers, government departments and other professionals. Future Growth Strong

Most Australians live close to the coast and our beaches are a significant national asset. Coastal Engineers are key players in the environmental rehabilitation and sustainable management of our coast.

Coastal Engineers investigate what is actually happening in the coastal zone. This involves measurement of waves, winds, sea levels, sand movements and water quality. It also involves developing an understanding of the processes that are causing the coast to behave as it does. Advanced physical and mathematical modelling techniques are used to analyse the data and to test the effects of artificial and natural changes to the coastal environment.

Coastal and Ocean Engineers work at the interface between land and sea and in the open ocean and are skilled in understanding this dynamic natural environment. This provides the specialised knowledge needed to ensure safe and ecologically sustainable development of our nearshore zone, vital ports and harbours and valuable offshore resources.

Coastal and Ocean Engineers work in either the private sector as consulting engineers, project managers, construction contractors, or in specialised government organisations and university teaching and research.


Alternative names: Ocean Engineer

Knowledge, skills and attributes


  • Ability to see engineering plans from beginning stages to completion
  • Adherence to safety standards and procedures while building and installing
  • Effectively use a variety of computer software, tools and equipment to complete work
  • Enjoy fabricating and designing products and services
  • High attention to detail including accuracy and precision of work
  • Highly analytical to diagnose causes and effects of engineering problems and solutions
  • Specialised knowledge of specific engineering field and practices
  • Strong critical thinking skills and innovation, testing hypotheses and developing new products and services
  • Strong problem solving skills to test new products and figure out cause of defects
  • Work in a team with others on projects and service delivery


Old Bar Beach Sand Replenishment
Old Bar Beach Sand Replenishment requirements
(Source: Manning River Times)

Duties and Tasks

  • Administer all projects for all costal restoration and develop plans to protect shoreline and analyze all coastal hazard and prepare flood plan maps.
  • Analyze projects and develop all budgets and schedule for costal projects.
  • Develop all required environmental documents and evaluate and all technical documents and participate in all client meetings.
  • Coordinate with hydrologists and design engineers to manage all coastal resources effectively.
  • Analyze all coastal hazards and model all hydrodynamics for various processes.
  • Monitor all project deliverables and participate in all project plans and facilitate to develop effective project schedule.
  • Monitor all coastal shoreline restoration processes and associate to resolve all mitigation processes.
  • Provide support to all emergency activities in coastal region.


Coastal Engineers design structures on the coast such as breakwaters, harbours, marinas and new beaches. In developing designs which are economical, safe, serviceable and environmentally acceptable the engineer will:

• study the shape of the coast and the historical changes that have occurred;

• determine the winds and waves that can occur at the project location;

• use physical and mathematical modelling techniques to help predict the effects of any changes;

• use appropriate and proven design criteria.

Project Management

During construction and later operation of these structures the Coastal Engineer is responsible for:

• the quality of the construction;

• the management of the contracts;

• maintenance and the long term effects of the construction.


Coastal Engineers are deeply involved in research into the nature of the coastal processes that are occurring. They investigate the long term effects of phenomena such as the Greenhouse Effect and possible sea level rise. They are developing new technologies using measurement techniques such as advanced remote sensing to improve our knowledge of the coastal environment.

Coastal Management Coastal Engineers are responsible for providing the community with the scientific principles that underlie sustainable coastal management. They are technical leaders in the management of the coastal zone.

Working conditions

A coastal engineer would usually work a normal work week. Some of this time would be spent in an office and some would be outside in various weather conditions. Occasionally they may be required to work irregular hours because of the project they are working on.

Most coastal engineers would work for government departments, for example local councils. Some coastal engineers become consultants after gaining work experience.

A wide range of coastal engineering activity is carried out by government departments and agencies at federal, state, regional and local levels, by engineering consulting firms, universities, manufacturers, shipping companies, the tourist industry and the recreational boating industry. In addition, there is an ongoing demand for coastal engineers to work on development projects overseas.

Tools and technologies

Coastal engineers may need to be proficient with a wide range of engineering design and construction equipment depending on the area they are working in. They may need to be able to drive a boat and will need some basic computer skills.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a coastal engineer you usually need to complete a degree in engineering with a major in ocean engineering, environmental engineering, or civil engineering. After completing a Bachelor of Engineering degree you may need to complete further postgraduate studies to specialise in coastal engineering.

Most Coastal Engineers become specialists in the field after graduating from universities with a degree in civil or environmental engineering. This is a 4 year full time course offered by most major universities in Australia. To qualify as a specialist in coastal engineering requires further post graduate study. This normally takes the form of formal course work programs that require 1 year of full time study or 2 to 3 years of part time study. A second option is to undertake a full time post graduate research degree, normally requiring between 2 and 3 years to complete. Often the post graduate training is done after working for some time with experienced engineers.

Therefore school leavers need to qualify for entrance to civil or environmental engineering degree courses and should select, and do well in, mathematics and physics at year 12 level.


Did You Know?

What is a Groyne?
(pronounced Groin)

Groynes in Sitges, Catalonia, Spain

A groyne is a rigid hydraulic structure built from an ocean shore (in coastal engineering) or from a bank (in rivers) that interrupts water flow and limits the movement of sediment. It is usually made out of wood, concrete or stone.

In the ocean, groynes create beaches or prevent them being washed away by longshore drift. In a river, groynes slow down the process of erosion and prevent ice-jamming, which in turn aids navigation. Ocean groynes run generally perpendicular to the shore, extending from the upper foreshore or beach into the water. All of a groyne may be under water, in which case it is a submerged groyne. The areas between groups of groynes are groyne fields. Groynes are generally placed in groups. They are often used in tandem with seawalls. Groynes, however, may cause a shoreline to be perceived as unnatural.
(Source: Wikipedia)


Groynes are sometimes used as part of an erosion mitigation strategy on sandy beaches. But how do they work… and are they effective?
The natural longshore transport of sand on an eroding shoreline can be impeded by constructing groynes across the active beach. A groyne functions as a physical barrier by intercepting sand moving along the shore. Sand is gradually trapped against the updrift side of the structure, resulting in a wider beach on this “supply-side” of the structure. However the downdrift beach is deprived of the sand trapped by the groyne and therefore it erodes.
This process of updrift entrapment and downdrift erosion continues until such time as sand has accumulated on the updrift side of the groyne to the extent that it starts to feed around its seaward end. Sand supply is then reinstated to the downdrift foreshore; however this then simply maintains the shoreline on its eroded alignment.
(Source: Coastal Engineering Solutions)



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