How to Become a Structural Engineer In the US

Date: 26 Oct 2022

If you’re thinking of entering a new career path, there’s already a shortage of skilled engineers. Not only that, but employment for all civil engineers is expected to grow by 7% by 2031, which is substantially faster than most industries.

Structural engineers have a lot going for them, so how can you start a career in the industry, and is it right for you? Let’s talk about how to become a structural engineer in the United States!

What Do Structural Engineers Do?

Structural engineering is a type of civil engineering involving the design, construction, and repair of various structures. It’s a very broad type of engineering that may work on a number of different projects.

However, the role of the structural engineer is typically as a consultant to a project manager, contractor, or architect throughout a project to ensure its structural integrity. Most often, these projects include large, load-bearing structures such as:

  • Sporting arenas
  • Large office buildings
  • School buildings
  • Bridges
  • Functional structures (wind turbine towers, etc.)

The list goes on. For example, a woodworking company may hire a structural engineer on a project to rebuild the interior of a large office building. They already have the team to manage the aesthetics, but would need a specialist to ensure the integrity of their project.

On a daily basis, the structural engineer would focus on calculating loads (including weather-based), determining which design or material is safest, and more.

Benefits of Becoming a Structural Engineer

If those responsibilities sound interesting to you, then great! Here are some of the other key benefits of working as a structural engineer.

High Salaries

The average structural engineering salary in the US is over $90,000 a year, which is significantly higher than the national average. However, this is only the US average. In many states and cities, the average is in the 6 figures.

Also, structural engineers also tend to have a lot of autonomy at work, and many work independently and earn even more.

Interesting Work

We could say “dynamic,” “challenging,” or “rewarding.” However, engineering includes all of the above, making for an overall interesting career.

Structural engineers will work on many different projects throughout their careers, and they will always have something to show for it at the end. If you’re intrigued by new opportunities to problem-solve, then this is the career for you!

Secure Position

As we mentioned, engineers are already in high demand and the industry only expects that demand to grow. In the time it would take you to become qualified, that won’t change.

Moreover, we can safely say that there will be a need for structural engineers in some capacity for the rest of your life. It’s an in-demand skill that can’t be automated away very easily. This means that you will likely have a more secure career than most other professions.

Job Satisfaction

High salaries, job security, and interesting work typically add up to higher job satisfaction. If you are going to spend 40 hours a week at something for 40 years, you may as well love it. Studies even suggest there is a link between job satisfaction and life expectancy.

How to Become a Structural Engineer

Understanding the basic engineering skills necessary and improving them is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success in the industry. These include mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving skills at the minimum. It’s also helpful to learn time management, leadership/management, and communication skills.

However, you still need to become qualified. Here’s what you’ll need!

Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

You will need a 4-year degree to become a structural engineer in the US, and some states may have different requirements. This will need to be in structural or civil engineering as your major. Otherwise, you will need to pursue a postgraduate certificate or master’s degree.

Pass the FE Exam

After obtaining your degree, you will need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam, as well as any applicable state requirements for licensure. However, your Professional Engineering (PE) license is strongly preferred in most cases, which you can also pursue after obtaining your degree and FE license.

From there, you can start looking for available jobs and internships in the field!

Complete an Internship

After passing the exam, you will need to complete a 4-year progressive internship in the field. This will be paid, so don’t worry! The goal is to provide comprehensive on-the-job training, and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door with an engineering firm.

Also, once your internship is complete, you are free to pursue any options you like within the field, whether that means becoming an independent contractor, starting your own business, or finding work as a structural engineer.

Get Your Master’s Degree

While a 4-year degree is the minimum, many engineers choose to pursue a master’s degree, either while working or before entering the field. This can open plenty of new doors for your career early on and down the line, especially if you want to enter the education or research subfields. Also, engineers with master’s degrees will earn higher salaries on average!

Build Your New Career Today

Now that you know how to become a structural engineer in the US, put these tips to use and “build” a career from the ground up. There will always be a demand for skilled engineers, so set yourself up for a long-term, sustainable career.

Stay up to date with our latest career tips, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions!

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