what is a structural engineer?

A structural engineer is responsible for building and infrastructure projects in the public and private sectors. However, unlike civil engineers, you focus on the construction design to ensure it can withstand all loads and forces. You work with architects to create the skeletal system of buildings and other structures. The aim is to maintain the stability and core integrity of the construction project.

As a structural engineer, you are involved in the construction process from the planning stages to completion. During planning, you evaluate the construction design and calculate the weight and loads the structure can withstand. Your calculations are usually included in construction plans since they assist construction managers in improving the stability of buildings.

what does a structural engineer do?

Structural engineers carry out various tasks, from performing calculations to improve the stability of a building to estimating the cost of materials. Before construction, you survey the property and analyse the subsoil to determine groundwater effects and characteristic values. You assist the construction crew in determining the thickness of walls and ceilings required to support the structure. You also prepare reports on the stability of buildings and create construction drafts.

structural engineer jobs

average structural engineer salary

The average remuneration package of a structural engineer is $84,000 per year. When you are new to the role, your earnings are lower due to your minimal experience and skills. Entry-level structural engineers take home $60,000 per year. The remuneration package usually increases gradually. After working in the field for a few years, you are likely to earn over $110,000 annually.

how to increase the salary of a structural engineer

As a structural engineer, your salary depends on your employer and qualifications. If you work for government agencies, you are likely to earn less than structural engineers in the private sector. The size of the organisation also determines the remuneration package. New start-up construction companies pay less due to the limited resources. Small companies are likely to handle smaller projects, which limits their remuneration packages. Working for large companies improves your salary prospects due to their less limited resources. Large organisations often manage complex projects with huge budgets.

Your qualifications influence your remuneration package. For instance, having a postgraduate degree means earning more due to your expertise. Your work experience and skills also affect  your earnings since they determine your seniority level in an organisation.


types of structural engineers

Structural engineers work in various  exciting disciplines, depending on their specialism. A structural engineer can specialise in any of the following aspects of the role:

  • buildings: you assist in designing stable and durable structures . Structural engineers deal with various building types, from commercial to residential houses. Your job is to analyse the thickness of the walls and design the skeletal systems that hold the structure together.
  • aeronautical: you design and develop aircraft, satellites and space vessels. Your job is to ensure the structure of the ships  is durable and can withstand harsh environmental conditions. When designing the system , you improve the comfort and safety of the aircraft or space vessels.
  • oil, gas and mining: a career in energy or minerals mining sees a structural engineer work on various projects, from designing rigs, mineshafts and pipelines to working in underground mining shafts for oil, gas and minerals. Aside from designing, you also inspect the existing systems to ensure structural soundness.
  • nautical: in the maritime field, you develop and maintain passenger vessels, boats and cargo ships. You also work on wind turbines, drilling platforms and other non-moving structures.
Male smiling, standing outside on a balcony talking to a person
Male smiling, standing outside on a balcony talking to a person

working as a structural engineer

Working as a structural engineer allows you to design essential  structures that help society. For instance, you ensure bridges and skyscrapers are safe. Here are some of the duties and work schedules of structural engineers:


education and skills

Some of the educational qualifications needed to become a structural engineer include:

  • bachelor's degree: you should complete a four-year course in engineering like a bachelor of engineering (majoring in civil engineering). Since structural engineering is a specialised field, you need additional training like a postgraduate degree in structural engineering. 
  • work experience: it is essential to have work experience to excel in the role. You can gain experience through entry-level structural engineering or construction jobs and internships.

structural engineer skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of a structural engineer include:

  • maths skills: structural engineers use complex mathematical calculations to design structurally sound structures. Having maths skills helps you understand and calculate various measurements.
  • attention to detail: you should be attentive to details to ensure the designs and materials you choose are suitable for the structure. Being detail-oriented minimises mistakes that affect the structural integrity of a building.
  • good communication: communication skills help you make presentations to clients and write reports. It is also crucial to communicate clearly to the construction teams.
  • organisation skills: as a structural engineer, organisational skills are important in delivering building projects. When you are organised, you can complete your designs on time and schedule your teams for timely project completion.

FAQs about working as a structural engineer

Here are the most asked questions about working as a structural engineer:

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