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What Is a Structural Engineer and How to Become One

What Do Structural Engineers Do?

Structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering that involves the design, construction, and repair of many different types of structures. The job of a structural engineer is to act as a consultant to architects and contractors throughout the construction project, offering expert advice on technical problems. Structural engineers are typically contracted on projects involving sports arenas, bridges, large buildings, or any other weight-bearing structure. On a day-to-day basis, a structural engineer may assist the head architect with initial layout and design of a structure, including plans for maintenance or overall remodels. They calculate loads, such as wind, snow, and earthquake forces, to determine which structural system is safest. Some structural engineers specialize in demolition and are responsible for ensuring projects are carried out safely and without damage to surrounding structures. Others specialize in oil drilling machinery, aircraft and shipbuilding vehicle design, or temporary structure builds.

How Do I Become a Structural Engineer?

To become a structural engineer, earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering, mathematics, or a related field. Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and complete a four-year progressive internship or apprenticeship program under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer (PE). Once you have completed your training, obtain your license by passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

What Skills Are Required to Be a Structural Engineer?

A structural engineer must have an analytical and mathematical mind, as well as expert problem-solving skills. Experience in leadership, management, and strong interpersonal communication are also essential. Many projects require a strong grasp of physics and three-dimensional conceptual skills. Structural engineers must be able to solve challenging technical problems through creative solutions, and should be prepared to work with many different kinds of structural materials and systems, including concrete, steel, wood, and masonry, depending on the project at hand.

Structural Engineer Job Description Sample

With this Structural Engineer job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a Structural Engineer role.

Job Summary

Our civil engineering firm is looking for a Structural Engineer to assist in the design of our projects and ensure building integrity. Applicants must have a bachelor's or master's degree in civil or structural engineering as well as several years of design experience. To fulfill the responsibilities of this role, you must also have experience using computer-aided design software and BIM (building information modeling) software. This is a collaborative position that requires advanced technical and analytical skills. Applicants with a Professional Engineering (PE) license are strongly preferred.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Assist in structural design and construction
  • Ensure building integrity in various weather conditions
  • Design test plans and analyze results
  • Perform reviews of technical drawings and project specifications to ensure structural integrity in adverse air, water, thermal, seismic, and acoustic conditions
  • Ensure projects are up to code and on schedule

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Bachelor's degree in civil engineering, mathematics, or a closely related field
  • Master's degree (preferred)
  • Structural design experience
  • Professional Engineering (PE) license strongly preferred (EIT required for entry-level roles)
  • Experience with AutoCAD, or similar computer-aided design software
  • Experience with BIM (building information modeling) software, such as Revit