What Does a Steel Engineer Do?

Steel engineers build lasting bridges, keep planes in the air, and make skylines more interesting for everyone. Find out more about what a steel engineer does and get details on career outlook and salary for these professionals below. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Steel is in everything from our cars to our cutlery. Many people don't know, however, that steel is also incredibly complex. If you don't know the difference between T-1 steel and A36 steel, you're not alone. Knowing that - and using this knowledge to design optimal steel buildings and products - is the responsibility of a steel engineer.

Important Facts About Steel Engineers

On-the-Job Training Work experience and specialized instruction available
Key Skills Analytical ability, solid mathematical foundation, problem solving ability, clear verbal and written communication
Work Environment Aerospace product and parts manufacturing companies, architectural and engineering firms, scientific research companies
Similar Occupations Aerospace engineers, mechanical engineers, physicists, astronomers, electrical and electronics engineers, architectural and engineering managers

Choosing the Right Materials

Basically, steel is a combination of iron and carbon. But then, by this same logic, bread is just a combination of flour and water. In fact, just like in baking, there are many different kinds of steel. The steel's qualities are determined by what materials go into the mix (called an alloy). Steel engineers must be well-versed in the kinds of steel common in structural use. A steel engineer knows that certain steel alloys are more flexible than others; flexible alloys might be useful for making pipes, but not for reinforcing bridges. The steel engineer's job is to know what ingredients the steel should have for the specific purpose the engineer has in mind.

Putting Steel to Use

Once you've chosen your steel, what do you do with it? Steel engineers are also designers. They're responsible for creating structures that make the best possible use of the steel they've selected. For instance, they can plan where lighter steel is useful to save weight. They'll use heavier and more durable steel to make a structure strong, and they'll place girders and struts to make the construct as durable and safe as possible.

Work Environment

Steel engineers are generally civil engineers, or structural engineers with a focus in metallurgy. Some steel engineers work in shipbuilding, aerospace, and automobile factories. Most, however, are employed to work with architects in designing and constructing bridges, buildings, towers and oil rigs.

Education Info

Steel engineers are recommended to hold a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or structural engineering. A focus on metallurgy is key for steel engineers, who must be able to choose the best alloy of steel for a particular purpose.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the median annual salary earned by materials engineers, including metallurgical engineers, was $87,690 in May 2014. The employment of such engineers is expected to grow by less than one percent between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

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