Structural engineers work in collaboration with civil engineers, architects, and construction managers to plan, design, and ensure the structural integrity of large-scale construction projects, including bridges, dams, buildings, stadiums, oil rigs, and roads. Structural engineers also plan and design airplanes, ships, and satellites. Generally considered to be a specialty within the field of civil engineering, structural engineering factors in the safety and comfort of a structure’s users or occupants, economic, technical, and environmental considerations, including the impact of weather and earthquakes on a structure, as well as visual aesthetics.
Civil engineers must hold a bachelor’s degree. Structural engineers typically major in civil, mechanical, or aerospace engineering with an emphasis in structural engineering or complete a separate structural engineering degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one out of every five civil engineers has a master’s degree, and some in this field have proposed that a master’s become the requirement for licensure as a civil engineer. For structural engineers, a master’s may lead to employment in a managerial position or other opportunities for career advancement.
Civil engineers must be state-licensed. Licensing requirements include a degree from a program accredited by the non-profit, non-governmental organization ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), work experience, and successful completion of the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination, as well as any additionally required state-specific exams.