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Structural Engineer Description: Everything You Should Know

Structural engineering is a specialty within the field of civil engineering that focuses on the framework of structures and designing them to withstand the pressures and stresses of their environment and remain stable, secure, and safe throughout their use. This means that structural engineers are civil engineers, but have specialized in designing structures. Structural engineers ensure that buildings do not fall and bridges don’t collapse. Most practicing structural engineers are licensed as civil engineers, but this varies from one state to another since some have a separate license.

Structural engineering is one of the best careers in the market as new hospitals, schools, and skyscrapers need to be built every day. The booming real estate industry means that the demand for structural engineers is surging. The BLS reports that the employment of structural engineers is set to grow. So how do you become a structural engineer? This article highlights all that is needed to build a successful career. It covers the structural engineer job description, education and experience requirements, as well as salary and job outlook.

Structural Engineer Job Description

A structural engineer is primarily responsible for designing any kind of structure, so it fulfills its specific purpose and remains safe and functioning in its intended lifetime. This means they create the “bones and muscles” that generate the shape and form of man-made structures. Structural engineering entails investigating both the immediate loads, demands of the structure, and potential future changes, and ensuring that the structure can withstand those loads.

Apart from designing new buildings, they ensure that older structures remain safe. For the older structures, they design refurbishment schemes to facilitate a long life. They should comprehend and calculate the stability, rigidity, and strength of built structures for buildings and non-building structures.

A structural engineer is primarily responsible for designing any kind of structure, so it fulfills its specific purpose and remains safe and functioning in its intended lifetime.

The structural designs should be integrated in a manner that other designers, such as architects and building services engineers, can integrate them in their designs. They also supervise the construction of projects on site. Besides, they are also involved in designing medical equipment, machinery, and vehicles where structural integrity can affect their safety and functioning.

In most cases, structural engineers work in areas of construction, including building design, repairs, construction, and conversions and extensions. The construction projects could range from simple and single buildings like houses, shops, and schools to major projects such as sports arenas, hospitals, bridges, and offshore rigs. The engineers in most instances work closely with architects and are involved at every stage of projects as they use their creativity and innovation in planning sustainable solutions to some of the greatest challenges we face, for example, climate change.

The career offers you a chance to play a part in shaping the world and offers a variety of opportunities for creativity in building structures. As a profession, it can be rewarding. You can find yourself based with a contractor, local authority, and consultant or opt to go into research and teaching. There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of. You can even work overseas since you will be qualified to work anywhere in the world.

Duties And Responsibilities


structural engineers sitting with a plan spread in the table

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  • Preparing the cost estimates for equipment, materials, or labor to allow the determination of a project’s feasibility regarding economics and use
  • Computing grade and load requirements, material stress, and water flow rates factors for the accurate determination of design specifications
  • Planning and analyzing risk in all the project’s stages
  • Managing the repair, replacement, and maintenance of private and public infrastructure
  • Analyzing, survey reports, long-range plans, maps, and other types of data to aid in the planning and designing of projects
  • Analyzing blueprints, and topographical and geological data
  • Overseeing and analyzing the results of geotechnical testing, for example, soil tests to determine strength and adequacy of foundations
  • Compiling and submitting permit applications to the state, local, and federal agencies
  • Verifying that construction projects comply with the set regulations
  • Analyzing the test results of building materials, for example, wood, concrete, asphalt, or steel, that are used in specific projects
  • Performing or overseeing surveying operations for establishing site layouts, building locations, grades, reference points, and elevations
  • Using design software for planning and designing hydraulic systems, transportation systems, and structures

Work Environment And Schedules


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According to the BLS civil engineers, including structural engineers, held approximately 303,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers were:

  • Engineering services: 48% of the total jobs
  • The state government, excluding education and hospitals: about 12% of the total jobs
  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals: about 10% of the total jobs
  • Non-residential building construction: about 6% of the total jobs
  • The federal government, excluding postal service: about 3% of the total jobs

Pertaining to the work schedules, the engineers mainly work full time, and about 3 out of 10 structural engineers worked over 40 hours weekly in 2016. The engineers are directly involved with construction projects and may need extra hours so they can adequately monitor the progress of the construction projects and ensure the construction process and designs meet all the plans, standards, and regulations, as well as guaranteeing the deadlines are met.

Important Qualities


  • Decision-making skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Communication skills (writing and speaking)
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Math skills
  • Leadership skills

Education And Experience Requirements

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Education


Structural engineers need a bachelor’s degree in structural or civil engineering (structural engineering specialty). Programs include statistics, math, fluid dynamics, and engineering mechanics and systems. The course includes a mix of traditional classroom learning, fieldwork, and wok in laboratories. The programs may include co-ops, in which students gain work experience while pursuing the degree program.

However, the degree should be accredited by ABET, which is required for you to earn the professional engineer license. In many states, a bachelor’s degree needs to meet the academic requirement for obtaining a license. Further education after attaining your degree along with the PE license and experience is helpful for you to advance your career to a managerial role. For career advancement, you will need further education, including earning a master's (MEng) degree in either structural or civil engineering.

Licenses And Certification


While licensure is not required for entry-level positions, you need it for career advancement. A professional engineering (PE) license affords you higher levels of leadership and independence. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). They can oversee work by other engineers, approve design plans, and sign off on construction projects. State licensure requires:

Structural engineers need a bachelor’s degree in structural or civil engineering (structural engineering specialty). Programs include statistics, math, fluid dynamics, and engineering mechanics and systems. The course includes a mix of traditional classroom learning, fieldwork, and wok in laboratories. The programs may include co-ops, in which students gain work experience while pursuing the degree program.

However, the degree should be accredited by ABET, which is required for you to earn the professional engineer license. In many states, a bachelor’s degree needs to meet the academic requirement for obtaining a license. Further education after attaining your degree along with the PE license and experience is helpful for you to advance your career to a managerial role. For career advancement, you will need further education, including earning a master's (MEng) degree in either structural or civil engineering.

Licenses And Certification


While licensure is not required for entry-level positions, you need it for career advancement. A professional engineering (PE) license affords you higher levels of leadership and independence. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). They can oversee work by other engineers, approve design plans, and sign off on construction projects. State licensure requires:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited program
  • Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Work experience of at least four years working under a licensed engineer
  • Pass the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

After passing the FE exam, you will earn engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs) recognition. After meeting work experience requirements, you do the PE exam. Each state has its own licenses, and you will need continuing education to keep the license. The American Society of Civil Engineers offers the certifications.

Salary And Job Outlook

Salary


According to the BLS, the median annual salary for structural among other civil engineers was $$ in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned less than $ while the highest 10% earned over $$$.

The median annual wages in the various industries were:

  • The federal government, excluding postal service: approximately $$$
  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals: approximately $$$
  • Engineering services: approximately $$
  • The state government, excluding education and hospitals: approximately $$
  • Non-residential building construction: approximately $

J​ob Outlook


According to the BLS, employment for structural engineers among other civil engineers is anticipated to grow 11% between 2016 and 2016, which is faster than the average for all occupations. As current infrastructures obsolesce, structural engineers will be needed to manage repairs, rebuild, and upgrade roads, bridges, dams, levees, buildings, and airports among other structures.

Even though local and state governments continue to face financial challenges, some delayed projects will have to be completed to maintain critical infrastructure and protect the public and the environment. The 11% employment growth between 2016 and 2026 means that there will be additional 32,200 jobs in the same period.

Conclusion

bridge structure

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Structural engineers design man-made structures, so they fulfill their specific purpose and remain safe and functioning in their intended lifetime. This means they should understand and calculate the stability, rigidity, and strength of built structures and non-building structures. They mostly work in areas of the construction sector.

Responsibilities include preparing the cost estimates, computing grade, and load requirements, material stress, and water flow rates, managing the repair, replacement, and maintenance of private and public infrastructure, analyzing blueprints, as well as topographical and geological data, and compiling and submitting permit applications to state, local, and federal agencies.

Important qualities include decision making, organizational, communication, problem-solving, and math skills. They need a bachelor’s degree in structural or civil engineering (structural engineering specialty). The pay and job outlook looks great. The BLS reported that the median annual salary was $$ in May 2017.

We hope this article has adequately addressed the structural engineer job description their education and experience requirements, and the salary and job outlook.

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