Someone who wants to become a structural engineer should plan on spending significant time at school and under the supervision of experienced structural engineers. After high school graduation, it can take as much as 10 years to become a structural engineer. Once fully qualified, a number of job opportunities are open to people in this field and compensation can be quite high thanks to the special skills that structural engineers bring to their work.
A person who is interested in a structural engineering career should consider a specific area of focus. Structural engineers are responsible for designing structural components of everything from bridges to spacecraft. This requires specific training and qualifications in addition to general structural engineering training. People interested in government work and contracts with companies that develop innovative technology will also need to pass background checks, so it is important to maintain a clean criminal record while preparing to become a structural engineer.
People in high school can get a head start by taking math and science electives. If a local college allows high school students to take classes, it may be advisable to consider this option to take care of some prerequisites before attending college. Once in college, a person who plans to become a structural engineer will need to take classes in the engineering department. In addition to general engineering classes, students should take classes in areas of special interest like aviation engineering, civil engineering, or mechanical engineering to prepare for a specific career.
Engineering students in college may want to consider jobs or internships working under an experienced engineer. This gives would-be engineers an opportunity to get valuable work experience while still in school. Other work experience that can be helpful is manufacturing or construction that will provide people with experience on the job so that they understand how engineering theory can be applied to actual situations.
College graduates with engineering degrees have two options. Some choose to go to graduate school to become a structural engineer. This is recommended for people who want to work on ambitious and large scale projects. Other people go to work for engineering firms to get work experience that will eventually qualify them for structural engineering careers. In either case, it will be possible to take a certification exam to become a structural engineer with enough training. The exam tests competency in math, science, and the fundamentals of engineering. People who pass will be licensed to practice and can work as structural engineers.