Structural Engineer Job Description

Structural engineers design and create infrastructure projects such as pipelines, bridges, and other mechanical structures. People in this position supervise other engineers and construction crews on a regular basis. Structural engineers are supervised by the chief civil structural engineer assigned to a project, and usually find work with chemical plants, refineries, and utility plants. People in this field are highly organized and detail-oriented; they work partially in office environments and partially at building sites.


Structural Engineer Duties and Responsibilities

Structural engineers work on a variety of infrastructure projects and may be hired by many different industries, but the key duties are the same for everyone in this field. The main tasks associated with being a structural engineer are:

Analyze Maps, Blueprints, and Charts

Structural engineers look at detailed charts and schematics on a regular basis to determine the best way to build new projects and repair existing infrastructure systems.

Design Project Plans

Structural engineers create new design plans for brand-new infrastructure systems, as well as creating plans to repair existing buildings, bridges, and other structures.

Write Reports and Estimates

Structural engineers write detailed project reports and cost estimates for proposed building and repair projects that show detailed timetable, material, and construction data.

Oversee Construction Sites

The structural engineer is responsible for hiring and managing construction staff, which requires frequent check-ins at building project sites.

Hire Engineering Staff

Structural engineers may need to hire other engineering professionals for large-scale building and repair projects, which requires acting as a supervisor to keep projects moving ahead on schedule.


Structural Engineer Skills and Qualifications

In addition to engineering degrees and certifications, structural engineers need to hone several skills in order to succeed in this field. Employers will seek out candidates who display the following abilities and experience:

  • Detail-oriented – being a structural engineer means juggling several tasks at once, including managing staff
  • Experience with structural materials – structural engineers must have a strong grasp of the abilities of structural steel and concrete, and be familiar with working with these foundational materials and the mathematical formulas used to calculate how much of these materials are needed
  • Seismic design knowledge – building a strong, safe structure requires a good knowledge of seismic design to create infrastructure that can withstand the test of nature.
  • Communication -structural engineers supervise others and relay complex information
  • Physical strength – certain physical capabilities are required of structural engineers because of the environments where they work; people in this profession must be able to lift at least 50 pounds of weight without strain
  • Fearlessness – structural engineers have to squeeze into tight places, climb underground, and go on top of tall structures on a regular basis, so people who have a fear of heights and/or of being in confined spaces aren’t ideally suited to this career


Structural Engineer Tools of the Trade

Structural engineers work routinely with the following:

  • Engineering software (STAAD, InRoads, MicroStation, etc.)
  • Microsoft Office (Excel, Word)
  • Structural design software (LEAP, BEAMD, MasterSeries, etc.)


Structural Engineer Education and Training

Structural engineers must have a four-year civil engineering degree in order to pursue this career, though many companies seek out candidates who have advanced master’s degrees or a PhD over those with only a bachelor’s.

In addition to the degree, companies require structural engineers to have a PE license or SE registration. A professional engineer’s license can only be obtained after working for four years under a licensed professional engineer and passing two separate tests given by the state licensing board. The SE, Structural Engineering certification, is obtained through passing the state SE exam. This is a 16-hour exam that tests building and design capabilities.


Structural Engineer Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the 2016 median pay for civil engineers at $83,540 annually. Structural engineers earn an average wage of $50,881 to $93,043 per year, approximately $40 per hour. There were 303,500 civil engineering jobs available in 2016, and job growth is projected to rise by 11 percent through 2026, which is faster than the national job growth average.

Structural engineers receive a full complement of benefits in addition to their regular salary. Life insurance, health insurance, paid vacation leave, and retirement plans are frequently offered with structural engineering jobs.


Structural Engineer Helpful Resources

Stay up-to-date on structural engineering news and developments, and continue honing the skills it takes to succeed on this career path with these resources:

National Council of Structural Engineers Associations – Use this resource to find information about important structural engineering publications, associations, and training programs.

Structural Engineering Formulas (2nd Edition) – This book is full of the formulas that structural engineers need to know, including data about structural steel, concrete, and other building materials.

American Society of Civil Engineers – This website contains trade journals, news, and information about structural engineering conferences and events.

Structural Engineering Reference Manual (8th Edition) – This book contains everything structural engineers need to know for the 16-hour structural engineering exam; it offers over 200 example problems for engineers to work through to test and sharpen their skills.

The International Information Center for Structural Engineers – Discover various engineering organizations and associations across the country using this website, which also provides news and job information for structural engineers.


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