Structural engineers integrate environmental forces with intuition and physics to create a safe built environment. For this reason, structural engineers are well-rounded individuals with many talents and interests. Though every structural engineer boasts a unique portfolio of qualities, these three stand out.
First and foremost, structural engineers are creative. Like all engineers, they create and design the world we live in, the objects and systems that improve the quality of life. Specifically, structural engineers, in conjunction with architects and other designers, create the spaces in which we live and work. Structural engineers use creativity to ensure our living spaces are safe, functional, beautiful, and cost-effective.
Structural Engineers want to make a contribution. They want to use their talents and creativity to produce items that are useful to society at large. The efforts of structural engineers permit people to travel across great canyons or rivers, make good use of crowded urban land while enjoying beautiful views from tall buildings, and remain safe in blizzards and earthquakes.
Structural Engineers have a love of learning. Life has so much information to offer, and a career in structural engineering is an opportunity to continually broaden one's knowledge in a variety of fields. Structural engineers integrate into their designs research in materials science, developing technologies that reduce vibrations or absorb impact from earthquakes and blasts, and aesthetic theories from architecture, just to name a few.
With these qualities as a springboard, structural engineers develop their own interests and talents through the course of their careers. All structural engineers have a common educational background, which includes the following minimum requirements:
- A high-school degree
- A four-year degree in civil or architectural engineering from an accredited college or university, with coursework that emphasizes structural engineering
- Two to five years of experience (depending on which state you live in) working under the supervision of a registered professional engineer with a specialty in structural engineering
- No record of felonies
- Completion and passing of the Professional Engineer's exam, which permits registration with the State Board of Engineering
Many structural engineers also obtain the following additional qualifications, which are optional:
- Construction experience
- Drafting or Computer-Aided Design (CAD) training or experience
- A post-graduate degree (Master's, Ph.D.) specializing in structural engineering
- Research related to structural engineering, computer technology, or material science
- Business education (such as an MBA degree)
Common trades for people who are earning money to go to engineering school include construction experience, such as welding, ironworking, concrete work, or carpentry, and drafting or other computer-aided design.