As the field of engineering becomes more and more complex and detailed, structural engineers face bigger challenges than ever before. Where once a bridge could be built with what seems now to be an almost primitive plan, today many things have to be considered. The amount of traffic using the bridge on a daily basis, the stability of the ground it will be anchored to, the overall longevity of the finished structure, the cost of the entire project from plans to building materials, and the environmental impact of the structure all must be taken into consideration. Bridge-building is just an example. It illustrates well, however, just how much engineering has changed over the years.
An excellent background for all engineering jobs is math. If you’re still in high school, be sure to take all the math courses available. Consider taking some college-level courses as well, to ensure that you have as strong a background in math as possible. Certain areas of science are also vital, and should be worked into your curriculum as much as possible.
You should also consider looking into summer engineering jobs or internships that would further your knowledge. Everything from construction work to an entry-level job at a factory should be considered, based upon which field of structural engineering you hope to work in. Once you reach the college level, you’ll require, at the very least, a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The courses required for this major will usually include science and math, structural dynamics, structural design, material design and structural analysis, among others.
Depending on your school, you may have the opportunity to major in structural engineering courses. Although a basic engineering degree is all that’s required to start out, if you can attend a school that offers a structural engineering major, it’s in your best interest to do so. The more specialization you can attain, the better, provided that you know exactly which field you want to work in.
In most areas, a structural engineer must obtain state or municipality licensure before they are legally allowed to work. There are generally four steps to this process, though they may vary by region. The first step is simply getting your degree. Make absolutely certain that your school is accredited. Two exams, the Principles and Practice of Engineering and the Fundamentals of Engineering, must be passed. Finally, you’ll need four years of work in the field before you can become licensed. Four years sounds like a long time, but rest assured that the experience and knowledge you’ll gain at other engineering jobs will help you immensely once you become licensed and begin working as a structural engineer.
Who calculates the maximum safe weight of a bridge? Who estimates the wind force a warehouse can withstand in a storm? Who evaluates the endurance of a building in case of an earthquake. The answer to each one of these questions is a structural engineer. From the magnitude of tremors to gale force winds, it is engineering that ensures the durability and complete safety of all structures.
Beyond functional security, civil engineering also defines the efficient usage of all building resources. It is an engineer who calculates the optimal grade of a material that is functional, safe and not economically prohibitive. They perform this task while working in collaborating with architects to ensure the aesthetics of the project are met.