Engineering geology has a long and rich heritage and the UK has been in the vanguard of the development of the subject as a distinct discipline, with the first book on the subject being published in London in 1880. Since then, engineering geology has been applied to projects around the world and engineering geologists have become core members of planning, investigation, design and construction teams in the civil engineering and mining industries. However, in the past few decades we have seen numerical analyses increasingly being accepted as the answer to all geotechnical design questions, although as engineering geologists we are used to dealing with natural materials and processes and recognize that their inherent variability cannot always be reduced to a simple numerical value. Consequently, how do we ensure that any proposed construction works in civil engineering or mining take full account of this variability and the uncertainties that result? To enable engineering geologists to understand and describe these uncertainties are there fundamental skills that define an engineering geologist and, if so, how can these skills be taught or acquired? Also, in a world dominated by readily accessible data that can be downloaded and analysed for so many planned development sites, how important are the field techniques of observation and mapping that an older generation of engineering geologists, including the author, considered their defining skill? Concentrating on the role of engineering geology in relation to civil engineering, these are amongst the questions explored in this paper, leading to observations as to how the profession might develop in the future in order to meet the needs of society.