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Structural Engineer

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Structural Engineer

The Work

Structural engineers design the framework that holds a building or structure together, to make it strong and flexible enough to withstand the stresses put on it over its lifetime. As well as designing new buildings, they also make sure that old buildings remain safe.

As a structural engineer your work would involve:

  • working closely with clients, architects, contractors and other professionals on construction plans
  • developing design ideas, using computer aided design (CAD)
  • investigating the properties of materials like glass, steel and concrete, and advising on which may be most suitable for the job
  • working out the loads and stresses on different parts of a structure like the foundations, beams, arches and walls
  • using computer simulations to predict how structures will react under different conditions, for example high winds or earth tremors
  • inspecting unsafe buildings and recommending options for repairs or demolition
  • making sure projects meet legal guidelines, environmental directives, and health and safety requirements
  • preparing bids for tenders
  • supervising project teams and giving progress reports to clients and senior managers.

You could work on a variety of projects, such as new offices and apartment blocks, sports arenas, bridges and tunnels. Your designs would have to be cost-efficient and allow the structure to meet its intended purpose, while still being visually appealing.

Hours and Environment

You would normally work between 35 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with a combination of office work and site visits.

Sitework would be in all weather conditions. You may have to travel extensively to meet clients, depending on the contract.

Skills and Interests


  • excellent skills in maths, IT and mechanics
  • problem-solving ability
  • the ability to explain design plans and ideas
  • good project management skills
  • good time management and the ability to meet deadlines
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to manage a budget
  • excellent teamworking and people skills
  • knowledge of construction methods, health and safety, and legal regulations.

Entry

You would need to take a three-year Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degree or four-year Masters (MEng) degree in structural engineering or civil engineering. This is important if you want to gain incorporated or chartered engineer status later in your career (see the training and development section below for more details).

You could study other engineering-related subjects, but it may take you longer to fully qualify.

For a degree course in engineering, you would need at least five GCSEs (grades A-C) and two or three A levels, including maths and a science subject (normally physics), or equivalent qualifications. Colleges or universities may accept a relevant Access to Higher Education award for entry to certain courses. You should check with them for their exact entry requirements.

Alternatively, you could get into this career at technician level after studying for a BTEC HNC/HND or foundation degree in engineering. With further training on the job, you could work your way up to engineer status.

Contact the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) and ConstructionSkills for more details about structural engineering careers and courses. The Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland) also has careers and course information for that area.

Training

If you have a degree or postgraduate qualification in engineering, you may be able to get on to a company's graduate training scheme. These are usually advertised in the local and national press and on company websites.

The Initial Professional Development (IPD) scheme, run by the IStructE, is an important bridge between leaving college and gaining professional qualifications. It lays out the minimum level of skills and knowledge you need to prove your competency as an engineer and, together with your work experience, allows you to work towards incorporated or chartered status. The process normally takes at least three to four years.

You could improve your career prospects by working towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you should register with your professional industry body, such as the IStructE, then apply to the Engineering Council.

As an incorporated engineer, you would specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. At chartered level, you would have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas, and streamlining management methods.

Opportunities

Apart from building construction, you could use your skills to work in construction design, project management, research and lecturing. With experience, you could move into consultancy work, for example providing services to building insurers.

You could also work overseas on construction and engineering projects, for example with disaster relief agencies. See the RedR UK website for more information.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in new window)

Engineering Jobs Network
The Structural Engineer
The Engineer Online
The Career Engineer
Findanengineer.com (list of structural engineering companies)

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income


  • Graduate engineers earn between 18,000 and 23,000 a year.
  • Experienced engineers earn between 24,000 and 40,000.
  • Chartered engineers can earn over 50,000 year.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.
 

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