Structural engineering is a component of civil engineering which focuses on the design and development of infrastructures such as bridges, skyscrapers, dams, and buildings. For most projects, structural engineers are responsible for securing public safety by ensuring the infrastructure is strong enough to withstand the various stresses they encounter through day-to-day operations. They are typically an essential part of the design and construction team, working with architects to develop and maintain the framework of structures. Structural engineers are also asked to leverage their creativity and critical thinking skills in developing innovative solutions to allow construction in challenging conditions.
There are a number of different roles and positions within the structural engineering industry, but to find the right fit, engineers would benefit from understanding the various responsibilities of structural engineering leaders, the benefits of obtaining a master’s degree in the field, as well as the changing environment within the structural engineering industry.
Diverse Roles of a Structural Engineer
Specific responsibilities for structural engineers depend largely upon the discipline or infrastructures that they choose to work on. The following are some examples of the types of infrastructures, along with their respective responsibilities: • Building structures – engineers may be responsible for ensuring that infrastructures are aesthetically pleasing and/or easily recognizable, especially for commercial buildings. It is the area most related to architecture. • Environmental structures – structural engineers help ensure that infrastructures can withstand environmental conditions. For example, in coastal engineering, engineers must be responsible for understanding and leveraging the components of coastal environments, particularly ensuring that infrastructures can withstand flooding and coastal storms. • Mechanical structures – civil engineers should possess an understanding of how machinery functions, and often manage plumbing, heating and air conditioning and air ducts. • Consulting – experienced engineers may be able to establish a career as a consultant where they offer advice and assistance to other engineers and project managers. Engineers looking to consult would benefit from a master’s degree as it signifies expertise and expands their resume.
One of the major benefits of being a structural engineer is the salary and steady job growth. On average, structural engineers in the United States earn a median salary of $65,175, with the bottom ten percent earning approximately $50,000 and the top ten percent earning $92,000. Job growth within the structural engineering industry is projected to grow 20% by 2025. On top of the salary and job growth, structural engineers may also enjoy a number of benefits, some of which include insurance coverage, profit sharing, and bonuses.
Key Skills of a Structural Engineer
There are a number of key skills that structural engineers must leverage in their day-to-day duties, one of the most important of which is accurately calculating the required stress load of an infrastructure to ensure that they are safe and stable for daily use. Structural engineers must be highly trained professionals with knowledge in areas such as mathematics, science, examination and problem-solving. Additionally, to assist them with project management and interacting with their peers and business managers, structural engineers must also work to develop their business management skills and soft skills, including communication, multi-tasking, creativity, time management and leadership.
For most structural engineering positions, candidates will need to have at minimum a bachelor’s degree in the field of engineering and may also benefit from obtaining a Professional Engineering (PE) license. While job growth within the profession is steady, candidates looking to enhance their qualifications further and move up in the industry may benefit from obtaining a master’s degree where they can focus on honing management and leadership skills. These skills are essential for advancement, as they tend to focus less on the technical/design aspect of a project and more on business and financial management. Other qualifications may be necessary but vary on a state-by-state basis.
Growth of Women in the Structural Engineering Industry
Currently, the structural engineering industry is experiencing a changing environment. In particular, women have begun to play a more prominent role within the structural engineering industry, and now comprise approximately seventeen percent of active structural engineers in the United States. A number of societies and organizations have been founded to promote and encourage women within the structural engineering industry, as well as the engineering industry as a whole. Such organizations include the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Women in Engineering and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
With steady job growth, the structural engineering industry provides a wide array of opportunity for civil engineers equipped with the skills and experience needed to design and manage the development of innovative structures. To take advantage of these opportunities, engineers may find it beneficial to obtain a master’s degree and further develop their leadership skills, especially if they are seeking to advance in the industry.
As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.
Norwich University offers exceptional opportunities to help advance your knowledge, target your skills, and gain greater proficiency as a professional civil engineer. The online Master of Civil Engineering program at Norwich University is designed to enhance your technical knowledge, management skills and engineering competence by delivering a modern, practice-orientated education that fosters creativity and critical thinking for problem-solving and innovation.
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What is a Structural Engineer?, Structural Engineers Association of California
Average Structural Engineer Salary, PayScale
The First Lady of Structural Engineering, Civil + Structural Engineer
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The American Association for Wind Engineering, American Association for Wind Engineering