How to Train to Be a Structural Engineer

Posted on: 31 August 2016

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Structural engineers are the people who make sure that the structures, systems, and products we use are designed safely so that they will hold up against even the most rigorous use or severe weather. Structural engineers might work on designing a building, a bridge, or even a medical device or system. 

Beginning structural engineers will generally work on a single component of a system or building, like the beams or the flooring, and then move up the career ladder to be the person in charge of the entire system's integrity. Structural engineering, a type of civil engineering, is a time-honored profession, dating back to the days of Galileo and da VInci before him.

Training to be a structural engineer

Securing a position as a structural engineer requires at least a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, usually with a specialty in bridges, roads, waterways and dams, airports, medical systems, or other categories. Most senior positions require earning at least a master's degree in civil engineering. 

What to expect working as a structural engineer

A job as a structural engineer is a full-time position that usually involves working both in a design-studio environment plus at construction sites monitoring the progress of building projects and making sure that the work crew is following the engineering plan.

Classroom work for a civil engineering degree includes a heavy load of mathematics and science courses as well as engineering courses and a smattering of design and communications classes. 

A successful structural engineer needs to be self-motivating and able to communicate well with a broad spectrum of people, from building owners to construction crews.

Working as a structural engineer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average structural engineer in the United States earns an annual salary of $82,220, or around $39.50 per hour. The exact salary will vary somewhat by region of the country, the size of firm one works for, and a person's experience in the engineering field. The BLS also reports that there are around 280,000 civil engineers/structural engineers currently working in the United States. That number is expected to increase by around eight percent in the next ten years, as the existing infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, in the United States ages and needs to be replaced.

A career as a structural engineer is a good choice for someone who excels at math and science, who enjoys a challenge, and who thrives in an atmosphere where every project is different from the last.