Structural engineers are the kind of civil engineers that specialize in working with builders to make sure that the materials used in construction meet design specifications. Civil engineers find jobs across a broad spectrum of sectors, including government entities, engineering and design firms, and energy and utility companies. They can also find gainful employment as consultants and educators.
It is estimated that half of all civil engineers work for either local, state, or federal government agencies, including public utilities and transportation authorities. The other half of structural engineering jobs are found in telecommunications, energy, engineering, manufacturing, and consulting. Whatever the sector that structural engineers work in, they must ensure that building materials meet the requirements to ensure the safe construction of a structure.
Specific structural engineering positions include designing bridges, flood defenses, and other infrastructure components. Such engineers can work as supplier quality engineers, in which they ensure that the structural components provided by suppliers meet project specifications. Another type of position involves structural analysis, in which engineers use computer models, simulations, and data analysis to monitor the integrity of a structure throughout its lifetime.
Structural engineers may focus on compliance and regulations. In the public setting, structural engineers perform inspections of private projects making sure that local, state, and federal laws are followed. At private and corporate design firms, on the other hand, engineers can work as compliance officers ensuring that standards and regulations are met for each construction project so that these inspections go well. These types of structural engineering jobs may involve mock inspections to prepare construction sites for the upcoming real ones.
Another type of structural engineering job is management. Structural engineers can become construction and project managers. Not only do they need their engineering skills, they also must manage and lead the rest of the construction team of engineers, architects, builders, and laborers. They help to ensure that projects stay on schedule and comply with regulations.
Generally speaking, structural engineers in the public sector make less money than those in the private sector. On the other hand, public structural engineering jobs generally have better benefits packages, more job stability, and require less travel.
No matter the employer, structural engineer jobs typically require that the engineer have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering. Advanced degrees, such as a master's or a Ph.D., generally qualify engineers for better paying positions with more responsibility. This is because advanced degrees indicate that an engineer has more specialized knowledge in his particular field, such as structural engineering.