Engineering is a difficult career to get into. You may think you’re ready to start working as a structural engineer once you’ve completed college, but you’ll quickly encounter a lot of obstacles without further education. This is why the National Society of Professional Engineers — among other institutions — recommend more than four years of college education for professional engineers.

What does a structural engineer do? - Daily Routine and Essential Skills

The daily priorities for structural engineers involve skills that are only briefly covered in school and will require you to learn programs you’ve never used before. That’s why it’s important that you have a good understanding of the work you’re getting into ahead of time.

Hivyo what does a structural engineer do? Keep reading to find out!

Career Overview

Put simply, structural engineering is a more specialized branch of civil engineering.

As a structural engineer, your job will be to ensure that certain architectural components are structurally sound: beams, columns, foundations, trusses, and more. Matokeo yake, your work will involve a wide range of structures and require an intricate level of knowledge into their design and application.

Almost everything you do as a structural engineer is focused on public health and safety concerns. Hata hivyo, you also need to keep cost efficiency and general aesthetics in mind when you design structures.

You’ll most likely find work in the construction sector working on infrastructure such as bridges, buildings, or mechanical structures. Currently, there are many opportunities to find work as a private contractor or with government agencies. Obviously, those aren’t your only options, but those areas have some of the highest demand for structural engineers.

Almost everything you do as a structural engineer is focused on public health and safety concerns. Hata hivyo, you also need to keep cost efficiency and general aesthetics in mind when you design structures.

Essential Structural Engineer Skills

According to Payscale, construction companies commonly look for 5 key career skills among structural engineers: engineering design, finite element analysis, and proficiency in Autodesk AutoCAD, Microsoft Excel, and Autodesk Revit Structure.

What does a structural engineer do? - Autodesk, AutoCAD, Excel, Revit and More

If you have a strong knowledge base in any of these, you may be able to increase your starting salary. Plus, it will make you more attractive to an employer since you won’t need to go through as much on-the-job training.

Other than these core skills, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a list of additional important qualities for any civil or structural engineer. They are:

  • Decision Making: As a structural engineer, you’ll need to balance multiple objectives at the same time. Equally important factors like cost, safety concerns, and plan feasibility will often contradict each other. At that point, you need to be able to make an informed and effective decision about how to proceed with the project.
  • Leadership: Other team members look to structural engineers like you for leadership on construction sites. Each project you work on is ultimately your responsibility— so you need to be able to lead effectively and take responsibility for your decisions.
  • Math Skills: You need a strong understanding of advanced mathematics such as calculus and trigonometry when designing and analyzing structures.
  • Organizational Skills: This is closely related to leadership. Baada ya yote, you’re the one who designed the structure— so you need to ensure that all work follows your designs and meets all relevant building codes. And since structural engineers frequently work on multiple projects at the same time, you need the ability to effectively manage your time and attention between them all.
  • Problem Solving: kimsingi, your entire job focuses on problem solving. You need to be able to design solutions to complex structural problems, such as issues with weight affecting gravity loads. And when any issues inevitably arise, you need to exercise your informed judgement to resolve them as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Communication: Structural engineers need to present their completed designs clearly and concisely. You need to convey what you’ve done to ensure safety, keep costs down, and solve problems. Doing so requires them to break down complicated concepts into something anyone can understand regardless of their work background. You may be communicating with project managers or an individual homeowner.

If you’re feeling anxious about acquiring all these necessary skills, don’t— you’ll pick up many of them on the job as long as you approach it with a willingness to learn from more experienced structural engineers.

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something and make sure you learn from your mistakes!

If you’re feeling anxious about acquiring all these necessary skills, don’t— you’ll pick up many of them on the job as long as you approach it with a willingness to learn from more experienced structural engineers.

PE vs SE Careers

Now that you understand the necessary job requirements, it might be worth looking into the careers you can get with a Professional Engineer (PE) au Structural Engineer (SE) license.

Kwa kawaida, PE certification is for civil engineers, but you may need it for structural engineering work depending on your location.

Currently, only 23 states offer SE licenses. Despite that, certain states actually require SE licensure to work on certain projects. For instance, California requires an SE for any construction process involving educational buildings and hospitals. Hawaii and Illinois take that even further by requiring you to have an SE license to work any structural engineering job.

Make sure to check out the NCSEA’s page on SE licensure to see if your state allows SE licenses. You’ll also want to check your state’s engineering body to see if you even need an SE to do the work you’re interested in.

Structural Engineer FAQs

Q: What do structural engineers do on a daily basis?

A: Structural engineering is a fairly broad field, but there are a few commonly shared tasks. Typically they’ll be designing and testing structural models. Hata hivyo, they also need to review structural shop drawings and complete risk assessment reports. Plus, they’ll need to make field visits and complete inspections of construction sites.

Q: What services do structural engineers provide?

A: Structural engineers design building support systems and inspect building plans. Their job is to ensure any construction project is safe, feasible, and cost effective. The services they provide construction companies are essential to maintaining the aesthetic and functional aspects of the structures they’ve helped design.

Q: Do I need a structural engineer to remove a wall?

A: This depends on whether or not the wall is load-bearing. You don’t need an engineer if you’re removing a non load-bearing wall— but you will need a structural engineer for any load-bearing wall. They’ll design a new load-bearing beam to ensure that the floors above don’t collapse. The construction of these beams requires very precise measurements, so you really need an expert to make sure everything is done correctly.

Kenneth W. Boyd

Kenneth W. Boyd is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the author of several of the popular "For Dummies" books published by John Wiley & Sons including 'CPA Exam for Dummies' and 'Cost Accounting for Dummies'.

Ken has gained a wealth of business experience through his previous employment as a CPA, Mkaguzi, Kodi preparer na Chuo Profesa. Today, Ken continues to use those finely tuned skills to educate students as a professional writer and teacher.