Structural Engineering Technology

If you're proficient in math and science, and you enjoy building things, then a career in structural engineering technology might be a good fit for you. Read on to learn more about educational requirements, employment and potential salaries for professionals who specialize in structural engineering.

Is Structural Engineering Technology Right for Me?

Career Overview

Everyday, people around the world enjoy the work of structural engineers and engineering technicians. The homes we live in, the transportation systems we use and even our entertainment venues are the result of structural engineering technology. In this position, you'll study how manmade structures, such as stadiums, bridges and roller coasters, or automobiles and aircraft, can better resist the environment and safely support their respective loads. You'll also use your understanding of aesthetics, building materials, energy and weather to design, develop and manage the construction of safe structures, taking into consideration their cost effectiveness and potential lifespan.

As a structural engineer, you might specialize in conservation or seismic engineering or environmental sustainability. Additional areas of specialization include humanitarian or restorative engineering.

Career Options

If you're an engineering major, you may pursue a traditional position as a civil engineer or mechanical engineer. Depending on your education and experience, you might also be employed as an aerospace and astronautical or environmental engineer. Earning an associate's degree in civil engineering technology or a related field can lead to work as a civil engineering technician. Potential employers include the government, nuclear power plants and private companies.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, the median annual salary for a civil engineer was $80,770, while mechanical engineers earned $82,100. As reported by the BLS, employment of civil engineers was expected to increase by 20% nationwide, or faster than average, between 2012 and 2022; a 5%, or slower-than-average, growth in employment was projected for mechanical engineers in the same period ( The number of employed civil engineering technicians was expected to increase little, if at all, from 2012-2022. Civil engineering technicians earned a median salary of $47,780 as of May 2013.

How Can I Work in Structural Engineering Technology?

Associate's Programs

Engineering technician positions require a minimum of an associate's degree. Many civil engineering technicians hold an associate's degree in civil engineering technology; these programs are primarily available through community colleges and technical schools.

Bachelor's Programs

A bachelor's degree in an engineering-related discipline is the minimum educational requirement for obtaining an entry-level position as an engineer. For example, a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering or a major in mechanical engineering might qualify you for a position in aerospace engineering. University research work may require a graduate degree.

Undergraduate and Graduate Curriculum

Undergraduate programs in civil and structural engineering typically include courses in chemistry, physics and math; you'll also study construction materials, hydraulics and engineering systems. Graduate programs are available in these disciplines as well, and they may allow for specializations in environmental or sustainable design, design and construction integration or geomechanics. Some programs offer a thesis or non-thesis option.

Required Skills

Structural engineers must be able to work independently or as a member of a team. They should also have the ability to solve problems and communicate effectively with others. Proficiency in the use of computer technology is key, especially when simulating catastrophic environmental or manmade events, such as tornadoes or explosions, and evaluating structural integrity. An understanding of spatial relationships can be helpful when creating and analyzing a design; knowledge of current technology and its use in design or forensic engineering can also be important.

Certification and Licensing

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require engineers who work on public projects to be licensed. To earn your designation as a professional engineer (PE), you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree program in engineering that has been accredited by ABET, and acquire four years of relevant work experience. Voluntary certifications are available from the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. These include credentials for engineers who work in geotechnical areas, transportation, underground utilities or water control.

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