If you are interested in an engineering career that gives you the responsibility of ensuring the strength and integrity of bridges, dams, roads and other structures then you can consider a career as a structural engineer. This engineering profession, which is categorized by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as a specialization of civil engineering, enables you to design projects that comply with plans, codes and laws and regulations.
You will also be visiting sites and assessing projects to see if they are following sound engineering principles and practices and government standards. You will test the soil and in some projects, the materials, to ensure that these are strong and can hold up the building. You will also be using design software to do your work. In the event that a project does not comply with the established standards, it is your obligation as the structural engineer to make the necessary recommendations.
As a structural engineer, you need more than just technical engineering knowledge to do your job. Of course, having excellent math skills will make you do your work more efficiently as you will be employing calculus and trigonometry principles and calculations in your day-to-day work. Having good writing skills is also a must as you will be making reports and even collaborating with non-engineering professionals in various projects.
In addition to these, you will need to possess sharp decision-making skills. This is because your job will naturally involve deciding on matters with different objectives that often clash with each other—e.g. financial costs versus the kind of materials used or profits of a company versus environmental concerns. You will also need to have a knack for problem solving as projects could run into difficulties which you will be called upon to solve. When you hold a senior position, you also need to have leadership and organizational skills to so that work proceeds smoothly.
Why Become A Structural Engineer
The growing concern for safer infrastructure makes the duty of a structural engineer very important. The fact that he is integral in ensuring that public infrastructure poses no danger to the residents of a jurisdiction is one reason why those who are inclined towards engineering study to become one. There is a sense of satisfaction that can be felt in knowing that the roads and buildings that your loved ones travel and stay in every day will not collapse at the slightest tremor.
On the more practical side, one reason to become a structural engineer is the lucrative pay it offers and the chance to attain leadership positions as one gains more experience on the job. It is also a fast-growing career that promises more employment opportunities in the years ahead.
Structural Engineer Work Environment
Data gathered by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that half of civil engineers—structural engineers included—were employed by companies operating in the architectural, engineering and related services industries. The others worked in state governments, local governments and the nonresidential building construction industry. Only 4 percent worked for the federal government but as the next section will show, they are the highest paid.
Structural engineers usually work fulltime. They divide their time between the office and the field when they do site inspections. Overtime work may be required at certain times to see to it deadlines are met.
Structural Engineer Salary
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has classified structural engineers as a specialization under civil engineers. The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the agency revealed that the mean annual wage of civil engineers is $85,640. This is slightly lower than the $95,380 received by electrical and electronics engineers and the $89,930 paid to materials engineers.
Mechanical engineers received about the same mean annual wage at $85,930. In May 2012, the agency reported that civil engineers who were employed by the federal government got the highest pay at $89,440. This was followed by those working in local government who were paid $83,670 and then by those employed by architectural, engineering and related services industries who received $79,470 each year.
Structural Engineer Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that there will be good job prospects for civil engineers in the coming years. From 2012 to 2022, the employment rate of civil engineers is set to grow 20 percent in that time period, a rate that is faster than the average for all job types. The demand will stem from the need to repair aging infrastructure.
The continuing population growth will also require the building of new water systems and maintaining existing ones—a job that civil engineers will be a part of. Structural engineers will be needed because growing importance is placed on the safety, environmental impact and integrity of buildings and other public structures.
Structural Engineer Degree
To become a structural engineer, one will first need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or if the school offers it as a separate course, a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering. It’s important to get the degree from a program accredited by ABET because it will be required in order for one to get a license.
These programs will teach students statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, math, fluid dynamics and related courses both in the classroom and in a hands-on field environment. Obtaining a master’s degree in structural engineering is important for one to advance on the job so getting further education is highly recommended.
All states and the District of Columbia require all civil engineers need to obtain a license if they want to work in the public sector. After obtaining their degree, they must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam and meet other state requirements in order to become a Civil Engineering Intern or Engineer-in-Training. They will then need to obtain the necessary work experience and pass additional exams and requirements in order to become a CE Professional.
After getting this Professional Engineering license, obtaining certification as a structural engineer will be the next step. With this certification, you can handle jobs that require the specific expertise and skills of structural engineers. This certification will also help you advance in your career.