Structural engineers are incredibly innovative and precise. They are experts in building materials and understanding how physical forces, such as weather conditions, gravity, and human use, affect those materials and structures. Like architects and civil engineers, structural engineers have a passion for creating and constructing.
While architects are responsible for the spatial design of a building and civil engineers for the construction, structural engineers go a step further in civil engineering. They have expertise in structural elements such as columns, beams, walls, rafters, trusses and supports, foundations, and the related. Given their civil engineering specialties, structural engineers are essential to ensuring that infrastructure around the world is built safely, strongly, and durably.
In this career, structural engineers apply their technical knowledge and expertise to analyze lateral and vertical forces, make building calculations and specifications, and design structures using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Structural engineers also work closely with civil engineers, other specialists, and building contractors, to guide the building work as specified.
Structural engineers are most often needed in sectors where large-scale building happens, such as in the construction industry. They help build bridges, skyscrapers and other large buildings, tunnels, power plants, dams, and more. Civil structural engineers can also work in the oil and gas industry on offshore oil rigs. Next to creating structures, they are also regularly involved in the safe demolition of structures.
Common structural engineer responsibilities
A structural engineer is responsible for performing a range of important engineering tasks. Responsibilities may include:
- Analyzing structural pressures, forces, and loads;
- Creating detailed specifications and technical drawings to guide team members for building;
- Designing durable structures requiring precise calculations using CAD software;
- Executing a thorough plan with timing and milestones for construction;
- Identifying appropriate materials for building based on specifications;
- Inspecting building foundations and conditions;
- Managing demolition assessment and the demolition of structures;
- Collaborating with customers, engineers, specialists, contractors, and construction workers to construct the desired structures;
- Tracking building progress and delivering results in line with agreed project timelines and budgets;
- Delivering structural engineering outputs in compliance with relevant requirements, codes, and certifications, and in line with customer needs and demands;
- Assuring the safety and security of team members;
- Mentoring civil engineering colleagues who are keen to develop their structural engineering knowledge;
- Traveling to construction sites to guide and observe building.
Qualifications for structural engineers
Structural engineers should have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering or Structural Engineering. A Master’s degree or extensive work experience is an advantage. In some countries, an engineering license may also be required.
Additional supporting skills and experience include:
- 2-5+ years of civil engineering experience;
- Solid understanding of construction methods; materials, forces;
- Excellent applied physics, math, and design skills;
- Proficiency in using diverse computer software, including the latest design, modeling, and calculation software like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Matlab/LabView, or similar;
- Experience in project management;
- Strong verbal and written communication skills to be able to work easily with customers, engineers, technicians, and other team members;
- Some work experience gained through an apprenticeship or in a relevant role is an advantage.