Summary: A structural engineer (SE) is a highly specialized civil engineer. Structural engineers are responsible for the design of the frameworks of infrastructures like buildings, dams, bridges and tunnels. They also design the frameworks of towers, roller coasters, and monuments. Structural engineers work with other engineers, urban planners and architects on various projects. The primary duties of a structural engineer are public safety and adherence to proper standards, codes and regulations while serving the client’s needs.
Duties: Structural engineers design the framework of a structure. They design roof and floor framings, pillars, arches, braces, foundations and walls of edifices as well as the skeletal frame of bridges. Structural engineers factor in forces of nature like earthquakes, gravity, strong winds, humidity, rain, and manmade accidents like fire, explosions and crashes when designing structures. They use computer-aided designs to create, calculate and simulate results. They apply these results on blueprints and drawings, which are then used by contractors to compute for cost. Structural engineers may specialize in different areas. Some may choose working on certain kinds of buildings or bridges while others prefer designing roller coasters and towers. It is thus advisable for SEs to study and familiarize themselves with as many designs and concepts as possible and be versatile at whatever project they tackle.
Education and Training Requirements: Structural engineers hold bachelor’s degree in structural engineering or civil engineering with a minor on structures, or architectural engineering. Many opt for master’s degree and some, a PhD. Many states require two years experience in construction and pass a written test for analytical skills, engineering concepts and building codes. Engineering majors shortly after graduation, take an exam, which, upon passing, confers them the title, engineer-in-training.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements: Communication skills are needed because SEs need to ask questions, and to be able to understand the answers that they get. A detailed mind is needed because structural engineers need every detail and relevant information they can get. Persistence in learning new ideas is also a very important trait for SEs.
Working Conditions: Structural engineers work in offices or in field under different types of weather conditions. Their work entails them to travel to sites or to attend meetings, seminars and conferences and travel may involve overseas trips. Structural engineers usually work regular hours, but overtime work including evening and weekend work.
Salary: A structural engineer makes $66,000 annually on average. Factors like size of company, location, nature of the industry, benefits and experience may cause salaries to vary considerably amongst structural engineers.