About Structural Engineering
Structural engineering integrates mathematics, physics and material sciences to make built structures safely stand up under various loads applied to them. Understanding the behavior of structures under applied loads is one of the keys to successful structural engineering. There are a wide variety of structures that require a structural engineer’s experience and expertise, including bridges, buildings, towers, dams, tanks, just to name a few. Structural engineers apply their knowledge and experience to ensure public health, safety and welfare in relation to constructed objects.
The structural engineering profession includes not only the design of structures, but many more functions that are integral to transforming an idea into an object. Structural engineers work with owners and other design professionals to identify problems to solve, develop possible solution options and associated costs, complete final design and drawing preparation of a selected solution, and provide oversight of those construction professionals turning the design into reality.
A structural engineer is just one of the members of the professional design and construction team. Teamwork and coordination are paramount to the success of a project. Whether you are in private practice, government service, or the construction sector, your creativity and attention to detail can generate rewarding experiences while working as part of the project team.
From a private practice business perspective, structural engineering includes many functions shared by other businesses. One must market engineering services to prospective clients, craft proposals for services for specific projects based on the owner’s needs, perform the services in accordance with the owner/client agreement, prepare documents that define the necessary work, assist an owner in securing competent construction professionals to perform the work, and providing construction phase services to ensure that the construction meets the design intent shown on the drawings/documents.
If you are interested in becoming a structural engineer, your high school education should include math and science courses every year. Algebra, geometry, trigonometry and possibly calculus should be part of your math education. Chemistry and physics courses will strengthen your base foundation for college. Once in college, your initial course foundation should include calculus, physics and writing in addition to other required courses. Your junior and senior college years are focused primarily on engineering course work. Typical courses would include materials of construction, analysis of structures, design courses in various specific construction materials, soil mechanics and project management. Most colleges have a general course track laid out for you once you decide your direction. You can find a list of ABET accredited colleges and universities that offer civil engineering degree programs by visiting their website, http://www.abet.org/AccredProgramSearch/AccreditationSearch.aspx. Attending an ABET accredited institution is necessary for future Professional Engineer licensing requirements.
Internships during the course of your college education can broaden your experience from classroom to career, providing valuable experience as well as enhancing your career opportunities. You can research salaries in the structural engineering field by going to http://www.gostructural.com/magazine-article-gostructural_com-june-2010-the_10th_annual_compensation_survey-7922.html. Actual salaries will vary depending upon your highest degree level, experience, area of practice (private, governmental or construction), and the state of the economy.