What Does a Structural Engineer Do?

Structural engineers work to effectively design, construct, and maintain bridges, buildings, sporting arenas, and other types of buildings. Keep reading to learn about the job description and duties for this career. Also, find out salary and career outlook for structural engineers. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Description

Structural engineers are civil engineers who are focused on the constructional and architectural integrity of various types of public works. As a structural engineer, your main goal will be to ensure that your project is able to withstand all types of stress. You'll play a vital role in the safety and efficiency of many different types of urban environments. Your attention will be divided among issues including initial design, finance, and construction.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Required Education A bachelor's degree is required for all civil engineering specialties, including structural engineering.
Licensure Every state requires Professional Engineer (PE) licensing, which involves several steps. In many states, a bachelor's degree satisfies the academic requirement. After graduation, PE candidates take an engineering fundamentals exam. That leads to either internship in civil engineer or as engineer-in-training. Additional requirements for a CE professional license vary by state, but are likely to involve more exams and experience.
Key Skills A structural engineer must have the problem-solving and decision-making skills needed through every stage of a complex project. Their math skills are likely to be called on when calculus and trigonometry are involved in a design. Writing skills are no less important, as a structural engineer must prepare reports and work with architects, urban planners and other professionals at remote locations.
Work Environment As structural engineer, you may work comfortably in an office one day and outdoors at a construction site on the next.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Design Phase Duties

When you are a structural engineer, you play an active role in the design phase of a construction project by determining its structural integrity. You will use both theoretical concepts and practical knowledge to assess how external forces, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and snowstorms could compromise the architecture of a building or a piece of infrastructure.

Cost Estimate Duties

Once the design phase is complete, you may be asked to estimate the cost of a project. You will need to understand budget constraints, as well as the cost of materials and the labor needed to complete your project. Many structural engineering academic programs will include courses that may prepare you for this part of the job.

Duties During Construction

As the construction of a structure progresses, structural engineers serve as site inspectors and help supervise the execution of blueprints and the implementation of their designs. As an engineer, you'll be expected to communicate technical data to construction engineers and managers who supervise builders and other laborers. If you are interested in this type of specialty, you can find schools that offer structural engineering degrees with a concentration in construction engineering technology.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary earned by civil engineers, including structural engineers, was $87,050 in May 2014. The employment of such engineers is expected to grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook.

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