What Does A Structural Engineer Do?

A futuristic cityscape with skyscrapers, bridges, and a bustling atmosphere captured in crystal-clear detail.

Are you intrigued by towering skyscrapers, expansive bridges, or just curious about how buildings withstand natural disasters? Meet the unsung heroes behind these marvels – structural engineers! They play a crucial role in planning and designing durable structures that ensure our safety.

This article serves as your guide to understanding what these experts do each day – strategizing blueprints for structurally sound designs, testing their stability under various conditions, all while adhering to ever-changing regulations.

Structural engineers specialize in the framework and design of structures, such as commercial and residential buildings, bridges, and even offshore rigs. They are responsible for planning, designing, analyzing, and reviewing physical structures to ensure their strength, stability, and safety.

Ready for an exciting journey into the world of structural engineering? Let’s dig in!

Key Takeaways

  • Structural engineers play a vital role in designing and analyzing buildings, bridges, and other structures to ensure their safety, durability, and structural integrity.
  • They work closely with architects and other professionals to create structurally sound designs that can withstand various forces like gravity loads, earthquakes, and storms.
  • Their duties include conducting inspections and writing reports on building conditions, addressing construction defects and storm damage, assisting with real estate transactions by assessing structural integrity, participating in bridge construction projects and city infrastructure development, analyzing the impact of new structures on communities, and utilizing specialized techniques like Diamond Pier Footings and Helical Piers for stability.

What is Structural Engineering?

The image subject is an architectural blueprint surrounded by models and a construction site, with no humans present.

Structural engineering involves analyzing and designing buildings, bridges, and other structures to ensure their durability, safety, and structural integrity.


Structural engineering is a type of job. People who do this job make sure buildings and bridges are safe. They plan how these things should be built. They check that the plans meet all rules and laws.

Structural engineers use special computer software for their work.

Examples of structural engineering projects

Structural engineers work on many types of projects. Here are some examples.

  1. Designing tall buildings: They ensure these big structures stand up well. They must handle lots of weight and strong winds.
  2. Bridge design: Engineers think about how trucks, cars, and people will use the bridge. The bridge must be strong but also look good.
  3. Tunnel creation: These projects dig deep under ground or water. Safety is very important here.
  4. Home building: Engineers need to make sure homes are safe and strong.
  5. Stadium and concert hall design: These big spaces need to be safe for many people at once. Sound is also a concern in these spots.
  6. Offshore rig creation: Engineers design these platforms to pull oil or gas from under the sea.
  7. Space structures: Even things that go into outer space need structural engineers!
  8. Museums and healthcare facilities: These places serve many people and hold important items.

Comparison with architecture

While both structural engineers and architects play vital roles in the building design and construction process, their responsibilities and focus areas significantly differ. Here’s a comparison of the two:

Structural EngineerArchitect
Focuses on the physical integrity and design of the structure.Concentrates on the functional and aesthetic aspects of the building’s design.
Ensures that the structure can withstand various forces and stresses, including gravity loads, earthquakes, and storms.Focuses on spatial functionality, safety, and the physical appearance of the structure.
Works with mathematical and scientific principles to design structures that will safely bear various loads.Utilizes art and design principles to create visually appealing and functional spaces.
Education focuses heavily on construction design, and all forces and loads are accounted for in the construction plans.Education emphasizes aesthetic design, planning, and the use of space.
Uses advanced computer software to simulate and analyze the behavior of structures under different conditions.Uses software to create design plans, 3D models, and other visual representations of the planned structure.
Works closely with architects and other professionals to ensure that the building’s design meets all necessary requirements.Collaborates with structural engineers and other professionals to ensure the functional and aesthetic aspects of the design are achievable.

While both professions are integral to the successful completion of a building project, their tasks and skills often complement rather than overlap.

Duties of a Structural Engineer

A stunning photograph of a modern skyscraper surrounded by a vibrant cityscape.

Structural engineers analyze and design buildings, conduct inspections and reports, address construction defects and storm damage, and assist with real estate transactions. They are also involved in bridge construction, city infrastructure projects, and perform community development impact analysis using specialized techniques like Diamond Pier Footings and Helical Piers.

Analyzing and designing buildings and structures

Structural engineers are responsible for analyzing and designing buildings and structures. They use their expertise to ensure that these structures are strong, stable, and safe. Here are some key tasks they perform:

  • Evaluate proposed construction plans to determine if they meet safety regulations and structural integrity requirements.
  • Create detailed drawings and specifications for construction projects.
  • Calculate the pressures and forces that will act on the structure, such as gravity and lateral forces.
  • Select appropriate construction materials and techniques to achieve the desired structural integrity.
  • Conduct load analysis to ensure that the structure can withstand various loads, including those from earthquakes or storms.

Conducting inspections and reports

Structural engineers also conduct inspections and prepare reports. They examine structures to ensure their safety, durability, and compliance with building codes. During inspections, they assess the condition of buildings and identify any structural issues or potential hazards. After the inspection, they write detailed reports highlighting their findings and recommendations for repairs or improvements. These reports are essential for property owners, construction companies, and government agencies to make informed decisions about the maintenance and renovation of structures.

Assisting with real estate transactions

Structural engineers also play a crucial role in real estate transactions. When someone is buying or selling a property, they often need to assess the structural integrity of the building.

This is where structural engineers come in. They can conduct inspections and provide reports on the condition of the structure, highlighting any defects or damages that may affect its value or safety.

Their expertise helps potential buyers and sellers make informed decisions about their real estate investments. By ensuring that buildings meet safety regulations and have sound structural integrity, structural engineers contribute to smooth and secure real estate transactions.

Addressing construction defects and storm damage

Structural engineers play a crucial role in addressing construction defects and storm damage. They are responsible for inspecting structures to identify any issues, such as cracks, leaks, or structural weaknesses.

They analyze the extent of the damage and develop strategies for repairs or modifications. By ensuring that the structure is sound and durable, they help maintain safety standards and prevent further damage.

Structural engineers also work with contractors to implement necessary repairs and oversee the construction process to ensure proper execution. Their expertise helps mitigate risks associated with construction defects and storm damage, ensuring that buildings remain safe and structurally stable over time.

Involvement in bridge construction and city infrastructure

Structural engineers play a vital role in bridge construction and city infrastructure. They work closely with architects, contractors, and government agencies to ensure that bridges are designed and built safely and efficiently.

They analyze the structural integrity of bridges, conduct load calculations, and determine the best construction techniques and materials to use. Additionally, they collaborate on projects like tunnels and other civil engineering structures that contribute to the development and safety of cities.

By applying their expertise in structural analysis and design, structural engineers help create durable, safe, and reliable infrastructure for communities to thrive.

Community development impact analysis

Structural engineers also play a crucial role in analyzing the impact of construction projects on communities. They assess how new buildings and structures will affect the surrounding environment, infrastructure, and people.

This analysis helps ensure that any development enhances the community’s overall well-being and meets safety regulations. Structural engineers consider factors like traffic flow, noise levels, environmental sustainability, and accessibility when evaluating community impact.

Their expertise ensures that new structures not only provide strength and safety but also contribute positively to the neighborhoods they are built in.

Use of specialized techniques such as Diamond Pier Footings and Helical Piers

Structural engineers often employ specialized techniques like Diamond Pier Footings and Helical Piers to ensure the stability and strength of structures. Diamond Pier Footings are unique foundation systems that provide durable support for buildings.

They consist of precast concrete heads and steel pins that are driven into the ground, creating a secure base for the structure above.

On the other hand, Helical Piers are used when soil conditions are challenging or unstable. These screw-like devices are installed deep into the ground to anchor and stabilize structures.

By using helical piers, structural engineers can mitigate issues caused by weak soil or potential movement in the earth.

These specialized techniques play a crucial role in ensuring that buildings and infrastructure projects have strong foundations and can withstand various forces, including gravity loads, environmental factors, and natural disasters like earthquakes or storms.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a structural engineer, you will need to earn a degree in engineering and complete additional training and certifications.

Degree in engineering

To become a structural engineer, you will need to earn a degree in engineering. Specifically, you should pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil or structural engineering. Through this program, you will learn all the necessary knowledge and skills needed for this career path.

You will study subjects like construction design, load analysis, building materials, and structural analysis. This education will equip you with the expertise to ensure that structures are safe and strong.

After completing your degree, it may be necessary to obtain licensure and continue your professional development through certifications and additional training.

Additional training and certifications

To become a successful structural engineer, you may need to pursue additional training and certifications. Here are some options for furthering your knowledge and skills in this field:

  1. Master’s Degree: Consider getting a master’s degree in structural engineering or a related field. This advanced degree can provide you with specialized knowledge and make you more competitive in the job market.
  2. Professional Certifications: Obtain professional certifications that demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the field. Some popular certifications for structural engineers include the Structural Engineering Certification Board (SECB) certification and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
  3. Continuing Education: Stay updated with the latest advancements in structural engineering by attending seminars, workshops, and conferences. These events offer opportunities to learn from experts in the industry and gain valuable insights into emerging trends and technologies.
  4. Software Training: Familiarize yourself with computer software commonly used in the field of structural engineering, such as Autodesk Revit, SAP2000, or ETABS. Proficiency in these tools will enable you to effectively analyze structures and produce accurate designs.
  5. Code Knowledge: Keep up-to-date with building codes and regulations relevant to your area of practice. This knowledge is crucial for ensuring compliance with safety standards and legal requirements.

Skills Required for Structural Engineering

Structural engineering requires strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, effective communication, and extensive knowledge of building codes and regulations.


Structural engineers are problem-solvers. When working on construction projects, they encounter various challenges that require creative solutions. They use their knowledge and expertise to analyze complex problems and come up with innovative designs that ensure the durability and safety of structures.

Additionally, they consider factors such as gravity forces, lateral forces, and load analysis to determine the best materials and techniques for construction. Structural engineers work closely with architects and contractors to overcome any obstacles that may arise during the design and construction process.

Their problem-solving skills play a crucial role in ensuring the structural integrity of buildings, bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure projects.

Attention to detail

Structural engineers need to have excellent attention to detail. They must carefully analyze and review physical structures, ensuring that every small aspect is accounted for. This includes checking calculations, reviewing drawings and specifications, and considering different pressure and force factors that could impact the structure’s stability.

The tiniest error or oversight could lead to serious consequences in terms of safety and structural integrity. That’s why attention to detail is crucial for a structural engineer to ensure the durability and safety of construction projects.


Structural engineers also need strong communication skills to excel in their career. They must effectively communicate with architects, contractors, and other professionals involved in a project.

This is important because they need to understand the design requirements and specifications from architects and convey any structural concerns or limitations. They also work closely with contractors during construction to address any issues that arise and ensure that the design is executed correctly.

Good communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and can collaborate effectively to achieve a successful outcome. Furthermore, structural engineers may be responsible for communicating complex technical information to clients or regulatory authorities, so clear and concise communication is vital to explain their findings or recommendations accurately.

Knowledge of building codes and regulations

Structural engineers must have a deep understanding of building codes and regulations. These codes are rules that ensure buildings are constructed safely and meet certain standards.

By being knowledgeable about these codes, structural engineers can design structures that adhere to the necessary safety requirements. They stay updated on any changes or updates to the codes to ensure their designs comply with the most current regulations.

This knowledge is crucial in ensuring the durability, safety, and structural integrity of buildings and other structures.

Salary and Job Outlook for Structural Engineers

As a student interested in structural engineering, it’s important for you to know the salary range and job outlook for the profession.

Job TitleMedian SalaryJob Outlook
Structural Engineer$66,000 – $100,000Projected growth of 6% from 2018-2028
Senior Structural Engineer$80,000 – $120,000Projected growth of 6% from 2018-2028
Structural Engineering Manager$90,000 – $140,000Projected growth of 6% from 2018-2028

The median annual wages of structural engineers vary based on their experience and level of responsibility. Entry-level structural engineers typically have salaries ranging between $66,000 and $100,000. As you gain more experience and take on higher levels of responsibility, the salary increases. For instance, a senior structural engineer’s salary ranges from $80,000 to $120,000. A structural engineering manager can expect a salary between $90,000 and $140,000.

The job outlook for structural engineers is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% growth in employment for civil engineers, including structural engineers, from 2018 to 2028. This growth rate is slightly above the average for all occupations. The need for structural engineers is driven by the demand for improving and maintaining existing infrastructures and planning, designing, and overseeing the construction of new ones.

Keep in mind that these figures are averages, and actual salaries and job prospects can vary greatly depending on the location, the size of the company, and the specific industry you’re in.

Career Progression Opportunities

Structural engineers have various career progression opportunities, including obtaining additional certifications and licenses, taking on leadership roles, and specializing in specific industries or types of projects.

Additional certifications and licenses

To enhance your career as a structural engineer, you can pursue additional certifications and licenses. These credentials demonstrate your expertise in specific areas and can open up more opportunities for advancement. Here are some certifications and licenses that you can consider:

  1. Professional Engineer (PE) License: This license is required to practice engineering independently and offer services to the public. To obtain a PE license, you need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
  2. Structural Engineering Certification: Some organizations offer specialized certification programs in structural engineering. These certifications validate your knowledge and skills in designing, analyzing, and assessing structures.
  3. Leadership Certifications: Building leadership skills can help you take on more responsibilities and advance in your career. Consider pursuing certifications in project management or leadership to enhance your management abilities.
  4. Specialized Industry Certifications: Depending on your field of interest or the type of projects you work on, there may be industry-specific certifications available. For example, if you specialize in bridge engineering, you can pursue certifications offered by professional associations focused on bridge design and construction.

Leadership roles

Structural engineers have the opportunity to take on leadership roles in their careers. As they gain experience and expertise, they can become project managers or team leaders, overseeing and guiding other engineers in various construction projects.

They may also be involved in strategic planning, budgeting, and decision-making processes. Leadership roles allow structural engineers to contribute their knowledge and skills to a broader scope of projects and make a significant impact on the development of structures that promote durability, safety, and structural integrity.

Specialization in specific industries or types of projects

Structural engineers have the opportunity to specialize in specific industries or types of projects. This allows them to develop expertise and knowledge that is tailored to a particular area of interest.

For example, some structural engineers focus on designing bridges, while others may specialize in constructing buildings for healthcare facilities or museums. By specializing, they can become experts in the specific requirements and regulations associated with these industries or project types.

This specialization not only enhances their skills but also opens up more career opportunities in their preferred field.

Insights from a Structural Engineer

Personal experience and reasons for choosing this career, necessary qualifications and training, job opportunities and working hours, advice for aspiring structural engineers.

Personal experience and reasons for choosing this career

Becoming a structural engineer is an exciting and fulfilling career choice. As a structural engineer, I get to apply my love for problem-solving and my passion for creating safe and sturdy structures.

I chose this career because I’ve always been fascinated by buildings and how they are designed to withstand various forces like gravity, earthquakes, and storms. Being able to contribute to the construction industry and ensure the safety of people in different spaces gives me a sense of purpose.

The education and training required prepared me well for this field, equipping me with the necessary knowledge of building codes and regulations. It’s also rewarding to collaborate with architects, contractors, and other professionals to bring architectural visions into reality while ensuring that everything is structurally sound.

Necessary qualifications and training

To become a structural engineer, you’ll need to have the right qualifications and training. This typically starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in civil or structural engineering.

During your studies, you’ll learn about construction design and how to ensure structures are strong and safe. After graduating, you may also need to obtain licensure to practice as a professional engineer.

Ongoing professional development is important too, as it helps you stay updated with the latest building codes and industry standards. By continuously learning and improving your skills, you can become a successful structural engineer.

Job opportunities and working hours

Structural engineers have excellent job opportunities in the construction industry. There is a strong demand for their expertise in designing safe and durable structures. They can work for engineering firms, architectural companies, government agencies, or even start their own consulting businesses.

Structural engineers typically work full-time, but overtime may be required during busy project periods or when deadlines need to be met. They may also have to visit construction sites to oversee the implementation of their designs and ensure structural integrity.

Overall, it’s an exciting and rewarding career with good prospects for growth and advancement.

Advice for aspiring structural engineers

If you’re thinking about becoming a structural engineer, here’s some advice for you. First of all, make sure you enjoy problem-solving and have great attention to detail. These skills are essential in this field.

Secondly, communication is key in working with architects and contractors, so work on improving your communication skills. Additionally, stay updated with building codes and regulations to ensure compliance in your work.

Finally, pursue a degree in civil or structural engineering and obtain the necessary licensure for this career path. Good luck on your journey to becoming a structural engineer!


In conclusion, structural engineers play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and durability of buildings and structures. They use their expertise to analyze, design, and review structures, making sure they can withstand various pressures and forces.

With their skills and knowledge, structural engineers contribute to creating strong and stable structures that benefit our communities. So the next time you walk into a building or cross a bridge, remember that a structural engineer was instrumental in ensuring its strength and integrity.


1. What is the role of a structural engineer?

A structural engineer designs and analyzes structures to ensure they can withstand loads and forces, such as those caused by gravity, wind, or earthquakes.

2. What type of education does a structural engineer need?

A structural engineer typically needs at least a bachelor’s degree in civil or structural engineering. Some may also pursue advanced degrees for specialized knowledge.

3. Can a structural engineer work on different types of structures?

Yes, a structural engineer can work on various types of structures including buildings, bridges, dams, tunnels, and even offshore platforms.

4. Why is it important to hire a structural engineer for construction projects?

Hiring a structural engineer ensures that the construction project meets safety regulations and building codes while providing expertise in designing structurally sound and efficient structures.

5. What skills are required to be an effective structural engineer?

An effective structural engineer should have strong analytical abilities, problem-solving skills, attention to detail, good communication skills to collaborate with architects and other professionals in the construction industry.

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