How to become a structural engineer
Structural engineers are engineering professionals responsible for the analysis, design, and construction of physical structures that support or resist loads. They ensure the integrity of structural elements, such as columns, beams, floors, and foundations.
From the construction of roads to bridges to tunnels to sky scrappers, structural engineers play important roles in a wide variety of construction projects that advance the course of human civilization.
Little wonder structural engineering is an exciting profession. Working as a structural engineer is also fulfilling and financially rewarding. But what exactly does it take to become a successful structural engineer? This article uncovers the steps you can take to become a successful structural engineer.
Know your strengths
Before you decide to opt for a career in structural engineering, it’s important to know your strengths. To succeed in this field, you need to be pretty darn good in math and physics. Structural engineers use math and physics to perform sophisticated calculations to determine stresses and pressures.
Earn the minimum education requirement
If you’d like to become a structural engineer, then you’ll need a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in structural engineering or civil engineering.
Like several other engineering disciplines, pursuing a civil engineering degree isn’t going to be easy. But if you’re willing to put in the work, you’d do great.
Some of the core subjects you will study include engineering mathematics, structural analysis, fluid mechanics, the strength of materials, earthquake engineering, surveying, concrete technology, design of reinforced concrete structures, and more.
Get your Fundamental Engineering (FE) Certification
To become a structural engineer, you need to go through the Engineer in Training (EIT) program. But to qualify for the EIT program, you need to get the FE certification.
The exam for FE certification is usually taken upon completion of the third year of your degree program. The goal of this six-hour long exam is to test your understanding of basic engineering concepts. This is the first of several steps towards becoming a licensed engineer.
Start the EIT program.
The Engineer in Training program provides a means for aspiring structural engineers to gain hands-on experience in the field. It is essentially the start of your career as a structural engineer.
During the EIT program, you get to learn how to approach structural analysis in the real world. You also get to master several Engineering Software like Autocad, Revit, ETABS, SAFE, and SAP2000, among many others.
Note that EIT can only be undertaken with an accredited employer, and it lasts for about four to five years.
Complete your licensure
After working for four years as an EIT, you are now eligible to take the certification exam for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) license. The certification is given through the National Council of Structural Engineers Association to only professionals that pass the exam.
The PE license signifies that you’ve mastered the principles of structural engineering and you are now qualified to render services to the public.
But that’s not all. You also need to get your Structural Engineering (SE) license. This licence was introduced to increase the standards for structural engineers to ensure the improved safety of structures. This license is awarded through the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Get engaged in professional structural engineering organizations
No one builds a successful structural engineering career in isolation. That’s why it’s important to network with other professionals in your field. Expanding your network exposes you to more opportunities, and you get access to a robust support system.
Examples of professional bodies to consider include the Institute of Structural Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the National Council of Structural Engineers Association.
Apply for your dream structural engineering positions
After you’ve gained your education, certifications, and licenses, it’s time to practice as a full-fledged professional. But you need to go through the job hunting phase.
For starters, you need to prepare a solid resume. Make sure that your resume highlights your education, skills, training, and certifications. Place special emphasis on the experience you gained during your EIT program and more importantly, what value you can add to prospective employers.
You can easily find out about structural engineering openings through your network or online job postings. When applying, make sure that you read the job description properly to see if you’re a good fit. Make sure that your application – your resume in particular – is tailored to each job role so you can position yourself as a strong candidate.
Pursue post-graduate studies
To give your career as a structural engineer an extra boost, it’s a good idea to pursue a master’s or doctorate. Having this extra qualification in your profile opens you up to more opportunities.
Note that you can also choose to pursue post-graduate studies immediately after you complete your Bachelor’s degree.
Becoming a successful structural engineer requires hard work, patience and consistency. However, the fulfilment and financial gain that comes with it makes the journey worth it.
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