How to Become a Structural Engineer
Making a career decision requires research. If you’re interested in becoming a Structural Engineer, you’ve found the right place. Learn everything you need to know about Structural Engineers, including how to become one.
What Does a Structural Engineer Do?
A Structural Engineer does many of the tasks that a civil engineer does, such as designing different structures, which include bridges, tunnels and buildings. However, a majority of Structural Engineers work as consultants for contractors or architects. Once the architect presents the Structural Engineer with a building layout, the Structural Engineer will calculate the loads that the structure may have to take on from snow, wind and natural disasters, such as earthquakes, and choose the structural systems that best fit the project. Structural Engineers are also sometimes involved in the demolition of structures.
Some common Structural Engineer duties and responsibilities include:
- Test building materials for use in certain projects, such as concrete or steel
- Manage repair, replacement or maintenance of public or private infrastructure
- Provide estimated costs for a project to determine economic feasibility
- Complete and submit permit applications to various agencies as needed
- Perform or supervise soil testing for foundation strength
Structural Engineer Skills
Structural Engineers must have excellent knowledge of the types of construction materials and how they are best used. In addition, creativity, commercial awareness and team working are all important skills that a Structural Engineer must possess. IT skills and analytical skills are also necessary to the success of people in this profession. The ability to manage material resources appropriately, manage time wisely and coordinate activities according to other people’s schedules is also critical due to the nature of this career.
Other key Structural Engineer skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Complex problem solving
- Active listening
- Operations analysis
How Do You Become a Structural Engineer?
Education and Training
According to our analysis of online job postings, employers are looking for Structural Engineer candidates who have at least a bachelor’s degree. A graduate degree is often needed for promotion to senior-level positions. Admission to a four-year college requires that the candidate possesses a high school diploma or the equivalent, a minimum GPA and possibly the completion of one of more college-entrance exams. The length of Structural Engineering programs can last approximately four years with the completion of a full course load each semester. Structural engineering education programs offer courses in higher math such as geometry, trigonometry and calculus. In addition, students will take courses in physics, statics and dynamics, engineering graphics, computer-aided design, structural analysis and general engineering classes.
Finding a job
Demand for Structural Engineers is developing at an average rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts an 8 percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 23,600 job openings for Structural Engineers during that period. The projected job openings will be due to the fact that infrastructures inevitably age and Structural Engineers will be needed to maintain, repair and replace them. Increased growth in urban areas will require new water systems and waste treatment plants. In addition, renewable-energy projects will continue to surface. Structural Engineers will take part in securing permits and overseeing construction of wind farms or other energy-saving structures.
Every well-planned Structural Engineer’s job search starts with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For help creating a resume, take a look at our library of Structural Engineer resume samples.
Once your resume is ready, search online for Structural Engineer job opportunities. As you search for openings, be sure to leverage your professional network, including people you worked with in the engineering or construction fields.
When applying for Structural Engineering positions, create a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you can bring to the role. Need some inspiration for your cover letter? Check out our collection of cover letter samples.
Insights from a Structural Engineer
In order to get an inside look at how to become a Structural Engineer, we talked to Beth Griffiths, who works with Allcott Associates, a chartered surveyor and Structural Engineers team that has expert knowledge on becoming a Structural Engineer.
What is the common career path for a Structural Engineer?
To become a Structural Engineer, you first need bachelor’s degree in civil or Structural Engineering, before sitting for a Viva-style assessment in front of a panel of peers to become chartered.
What should someone consider before becoming a Structural Engineer?
Before becoming a Structural Engineer, someone should ensure that they are able to handle demanding requirements and pressures that the career can present on a daily basis.
What type of person excels in this job?
Those who become Structural Engineers typically enjoy school subjects such as mathematics, science, computing, and design. They also tend to have an interest in buildings and structures.
What are some of the most important skills for a Structural Engineer to have?
Have a keen interest in unique structures, including buildings or bridges. Be able to apply the principals of mathematics for analysis and design. Perform calculations with accuracy. Be able to write reports in a clear and concise manner.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Structural Engineer?
Being able to stand back from a finished project knowing that without my expertise, the project may not have been possible.
How Much Do Structural Engineers Get Paid?
Structural Engineers earn a median hourly wage in the United States of about $40. The lowest-paid Structural Engineers make around $25 hourly, while the highest-paid can earn around $62 per hour.
Top 10 States for Structural Engineer’s Salary
Structural Engineers in the following states make the highest mean hourly wage in the U.S.:
- Alaska: $52.91
- District Of Columbia: $49.53
- California: $48.55
- Texas: $47.07
- New Jersey: $45.75
- New York: $43.80
- Washington: $42.19
- Colorado: $42.07
- Florida: $41.00
- Pennsylvania: $40.62
Structural Engineer Resources
Need more information? We put together this list of extra resources to assist you as you continue exploring a career as a Structural Engineer.
On the Web
American Society of Civil Engineers Library – Links to various journals related to all aspects of civil engineering, including Structural Engineering
Structural Engineer Information – International information source for Structural Engineers
SEAOC –Structural Engineer’s Association of California is a world leader in the practice of Structural Engineering, particularly that relating to earthquakes
ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers is the largest civil engineering network worldwide
Fundamentals of Structural Analysis – Fourth-edition text includes basic techniques for analyzing the most common structural technology
Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down – an easy-to-read book describing what makes structures stay erect