What is a Structural Engineer?

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A structural engineer is a creative innovator who applies his skills and knowledge of mathematics and science to design structures, detect problems, offer solutions and shape the world around him. There are over 300,000 structural engineers in the US, with each individual working hard to shape the future of this country. Learn what structural engineers do, their income, career outlook and academic requirements in this post.

Key Roles of Structural Engineers

Here is a list of the specific roles of structural engineers.

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of the specific configurations of a building or structure.
  • Calculate the specific stresses, strains and pressures that each component of a structure is subjected to due to human use and dead weight.
  • Analyze the strength of building materials such as concrete, timber, steel and bricks to see whether their inclusion will contribute to the structural safety of the building being constructed.
  • Work with other professionals, including architects and landscapers, to brainstorm on safe designs and aesthetic aspects of the structure.
  • Examine structures that are on the brink of collapse to recommend corrective measures to the problematic areas.
  • Prepare drawings, computer models and specifications of structures for contractors.
  • Use computer-aided design (CAD) for simulations.

How to Become a Structural Engineer

The first thing you need to do before you even consider becoming a structural engineer is to determine if the career is perfect for you. If you enjoy mathematics, science, design, art and computing, then you might find it easy to work in this profession. Structural engineers typically major in civil engineering or structural engineering during their undergraduate studies. These programs will expose you to areas such as statics and dynamics, materials engineering, engineering graphics, conceptual structural design and many others. You can also pursue a master's and doctorate degree in a field related to civil and structural engineering to increase your chances of qualifying for better job positions.


Engineering is a generally lucrative field with salaries as high as $200,000 per annum. According to PayScale, the median income for structural engineers is currently at $65,625 per year. Those who are fresh from college earn $51,001, which is lucrative for a starting position.

Work Environment

Structural engineers work in offices most of the time. They occasionally visit construction sites to see whether everything is being done according to their drawings and specifications. Working hours usually begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday. However, they may extend up to late hours depending on the size of the project and any other unforeseen demands that might come up.

Essential Skills

Structural engineering is a challenging field. In order to survive, you need to acquire some skills in addition to your educational qualifications. You need to possess good analytical and problem-solving skills and be good at mathematics, physics and computing. You must also be able to communicate well and work effectively in a team.

Career Outlook

The US economy is growing every day. In order to accommodate the growing demands of the economy, the country will have to put in place additional infrastructure such as roads, dams, railways, airports and building complexes. This is very promising for people who want to major in structural engineering or any other career related to civil engineering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for structural engineers and other civil engineering professionals will increase by 8 percent in the next one decade. This is quite impressive.

Related Resource: 30 Best Master's in Engineering Online from Private Colleges

Working as a structural engineer is personally and professionally rewarding. Apart from the huge job prospects, you get to earn a good salary and enjoy a great work environment. The items discussed above will help you know more about a structural engineer, including what you need to do to build a career in this profession.