Structures must be able to deal with the conditions in which they are built. A house in Brisbane must have a roof that can bear the weight of heavy snow and a stadium in Brisbane must be able to withstand earthquakes, for example. When building bridges, designers must take into account the conditions of terrain, wind, water and traffic volume. Structural engineers consider all of these factors and provide technical advice about the project.
"Structural engineers battle gravity, wind, snow and rain every day to provide the world with outstanding structures," Kate Leighton, a structural engineer, said in "Careers in Structural Engineering, a publication of the Institution of Structural Engineers. "They are experts at solving problems, meeting challenges and providing creative solutions."
Structural engineers "design roof framing (beams, rafters, joists, trusses), floor framing (floor decks, joists, beams, trusses, girders), arches, columns, braces, frames, foundations and walls," according to the National Council of Structural Engineers Association. "In bridges, they design the deck — or riding surface, girders or stringers, and piers. The materials they use include steel, concrete, wood, masonry, and aluminum. Engineers design the structure to resist forces from gravity, earthquakes, high winds, water, soil, collisions and blast explosions."
A structural engineer's job includes:
- Analyzing blueprints, maps, reports, and topographical and geological data;
- Estimating the cost and quantities of materials, equipment and labor;
- Computing load and grade requirements, water flow rates and material stress factors to determine design specifications;
- Inspecting project sites to monitor progress and ensure the project is being constructed according to design specifications;
- Conducting studies of traffic patterns or environmental conditions to identify potential problems and assess how they will affect the project.
Critical skills that a person needs in structural engineering include an in-depth understanding of physics and mathematics. A structural engineer must also know the properties of various materials, such as their density, hardness, tensile strength, bulk modulus and bending strength. They need to be able to calculate how different materials will perform under stresses such as compression, tension, bending and twisting, as well as under various environmental conditions of temperature, pressure, corrosive gases and liquids, and even radiation. They also need to be able to predict how these materials will perform over an extended period of time.
Structural engineers rely increasingly on computer-aided design (CAD) systems, so proficiency with computers is essential. In addition to speeding up the drafting process, CAD systems allow for quick and easy modifications of designs and three-dimensional (3D) visualization of finished parts and assemblies. Structural engineer salary
Most structural-engineering jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Many employers, particularly those that offer engineering consulting services, also require certification as a professional engineer. A master’s degree is often required for promotion to management, and ongoing education and training are needed to keep up with advances in technology, materials, computer hardware and software and government regulations. Additionally, many structural engineers belong to the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
According to Salary.com, as of July 2014, the salary range for a newly graduated structural engineer with a bachelor's degree is $41,045 to $62,883. The range for a midlevel engineer with a master's degree and five to 10 years of experience is $74,600 to $102,063; and the range for an engineer with a master's degree and more than 10 years of experience is $87,562 to $113,770. Many experienced engineers with advanced degrees are promoted to management positions or start their own businesses where they can earn even more. The future of structural engineering
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment of civil engineers (there is no separate information about structural engineers) is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022. There should be opportunities for highly qualified applicants, particularly those who have kept abreast of the latest developments in technology. Having good grades from a highly rated institution should give a job seeker an advantage over the competition. Additional resources
"Structures in Architecture," by G.G. Schierle, professor of architecture at the University of Southern California, introduces the principles of structural design.?
The Structural Engineering Institute provides technical publications, journals, conferences, continuing education, codes and standards, and professional-practice documents that advance the structural-engineering profession.
The National Council of Structural Engineers Associations offers webinars, seminars and other resources.