Structural Engineering: What Is It and What Do Structural Engineers Do?

What Is Civil Engineering – Demystifying This Old Profession
August 23, 2014

Structural engineering is the branch of engineering that addresses the design, construction and maintenance of public works. A structural engineer pays the most attention to infrastructure, such as bridges, tunnels, transportation routes, water treatment facilities and government buildings. In the United States, structural engineers are also involved in military engineering. Basically, it is the structural engineer’s job to manifest the construction ideas of chief executives, policy makers and public officials.

Because of the importance of this position, it pays quite well. Additionally, being a structural engineer is a challenging job that requires a great deal of schooling, ongoing training and innate skills and talent.

Job possibilities for a structural engineer are tremendous. There are positions in the public sector, in private firms that provide outsourced services to government entities and in the fields of construction and architecture.

A structural engineer can have an interesting, varied and flexible career thanks to the fact that there are many sub-careers within the job description. This varies from one country to another; however, if you work as a structural engineer in the United Kingdom, you would have the option of being a chartered engineer, an incorporated engineer or and engineering technician. You can focus your schooling and ongoing training to allow you to specialise in the areas that most interest you. Your schooling must include post-secondary structural engineering courses.

In the course of a day, a structural engineer might perform a number of design reviews and construction site visits. One responsibility of structural engineers is to design and/or evaluate any load carrying structure. These may be non-building structures, or they may be buildings. When a structural engineer designs or evaluates a building, he or she will be working with the schematics to ensure that they are up to code. The structural engineer is responsible for determining whether or not the building is safe for its intended purpose and capable of resisting environmental challenges.

When a structural engineer visits a construction site or the site of a building or structure to be evaluated, he or she looks at a number of specific elements of construction. These include the building envelope, the insulation, the curtain wall, the infrastructure and the foundation. The engineer will inspect the premises carefully and compare the actual structure with the building plans. If there are discrepancies, they will be pointed out and remedied. A structural engineer may inspect a site at various stages of construction. Approval of each stage may be needed in order for the project to move forward.

Structural engineers also take part in the design review process. In this process, the engineer reviews building plans and makes note of any deficiencies or issues. It is then the responsibility of the builder or the designer to rectify any problems. After the problems have been addressed, they must be reviewed once more. Once the plans are approved, they become the basis for construction and for site inspections. Clearly this aspect of a structural engineer’s duties is very important.