Structural engineers are involved in designing, planning, studying and examining structural systems and components for comfort, safety, environmental and economic concerns, and sometimes even the visual aspects of certain structures. These structures include various types of buildings, bridges, towers, stadiums and even amusement park rides, airplanes, ships and satellites. Structural engineers also inspect structures both during the building phase and after completion, and are involved in making sure that suitable materials are used for construction. They may also be involved in the demolition of buildings or building repair. A structural engineer must be good at mathematics and analytical thinking and must possess strong problem-solving and communication skills.
In the U.S. a structural engineering degree is normally pursued by those who have already completed their bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, but there are also programs of structural engineering that are offered in combination with civil engineering programs. Some feel that the minimum standards of a structural engineer should be a master’s degree. At any rate, those who practice as structural engineers must be licensed in their particular state as a civil engineer and state laws vary in that regard.
Most states require a national exam, a state-specific exam and a minimum time period of work experience in the field. In the states of Illinois, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and a few others, a civil engineering license must be obtained first and a certain amount of time must be spent in practice before a structural engineering license can even be considered. At the minimum a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering is a must.
Finding the Right University
There are many schools which offer structural engineering degrees all over the country and online courses are even available. Bachelor’s degree courses in this field of study usually include Structural Analysis, Foundation and Stability, Concrete Design, Steel Design, Applied Linear Algebra, a choice of electives and many other courses.
Master’s degrees in this field require courses in Geotech Design, Introduction to Finite Element Methods, in addition to advanced studies of Structural design, Reinforced Concrete Structures, and Steel Structures. Getting an advanced degree can greatly enhance, employment opportunities and earning potential.
Career Outlook & Salary
Currently, the outlook for structural engineers is good, as the United States continues to grow in population and the need for both new structures and repair of buildings increases. Since there are so many variations and areas of expertise in this field, the opportunities are many, especially for those who have advanced degrees.
The salary of a structural engineer with a bachelor’s degree, ranges from 48,000 to 68,000, with higher wages for those with a masters or a PhD. For the person who already has a degree in Civil Engineering or is just starting to think about an engineering degree, structural engineering can be the right choice. A willingness to study hard in school and follow up with experience in the field will result in a successful career as a structural engineer.