November 13, 2019

What is a Structural Engineer?

Today, structural engineers are highly trained and skilled individuals who are a vital part of the building process. 

Structural engineer points at a building

A structural engineer is a vital part of the building process and often works alongside others to complete building projects. Despite many advancements in construction and life in general, structural engineers have remained a vital component in the design process for buildings. Even though it was a primitive concept and not a profession at the time, without this form of engineering, the world wouldn't have the Pyramids or any other well-known, man-made structures. 

What is Structural Engineering? 

Structural engineering is a division of civil engineering. This specialty centers on the framework of buildings. A structural engineer has the responsibility of designing buildings that can endure environmental stress. An individual in this field must ensure that a structure will remain stable and secure while it's standing. 

Depending on a structural engineer's place of employment or specialty, he or she may assist with the designing of bridges. In addition to the building process of buildings and bridges, structural engineers are also necessary for the creation process for dams, towers, and airports. They're also needed when it comes to repairing or upgrading structures as well. 

Often, this individual works alongside civil engineers and architects. The architect plays a vital role in creating the idea for a structure. Primarily, an architect focuses on the aesthetic appeal of the inside and outside of a structure. A structural engineer, on the other hand, is involved in creating the skeleton of the building. One of the main concerns of this person is the stability of the building. 

A structural engineer may focus on the building's ability to withstand seismic forces. This individual concentrates on how well the building will be able to hold up to a storm. Part of the scope of practice of this professional is also making sure a building is strong enough to withstand the amount of weight it has to hold up on a daily basis, including the top of its structure, the people inside of it, and any other objects inside of it. A structural engineer makes sure the structure of a building is safe for the general public.  

The duties that someone in structural engineering has may start with the initial design process. During this process, the engineer may have to calculate loads vs. stresses. Evaluating the strength of the soil is also the responsibility of the engineer. Additionally, structural engineering professionals may design the pillars and other supports and determine the appropriate materials to use. In many cases, the engineer is necessary on the building's job site. This individual may oversee the construction process. Even factoring the budget and taking into account government regulations falls in the realm of a structural engineer's scope of practice. 

Becoming a Structural Engineer

Those who want a career in structural engineering must complete a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or civil engineering technology. Generally, this takes four years to complete. The person may want to either focus on structural engineering at this point or continue on to earn a master's degree in structural engineering. Either path can adequately prepare someone for your career in this field. Some states require an engineer to get certified. 

During a civil engineering program, students take math and statistics courses. They learn about mechanics and systems. Sometimes, fluid dynamics is part of their education as well as other elements that can affect the integrity of a structure. The exact components of a program depend on the specialty and the program itself since it does vary from school to school. 

What Do Structural Engineers Do?

Structural engineers have to have precision and pay attention to detail when they design or inspect. They must understand the basic building principles and know the factors that affect a structure. Their problem-solving skills must be strong. 

It's also important for a structural engineer to have effective communication skills and be able to express ideas to other members throughout the construction process. It's also necessary for an individual to have the skills to collaborate and work as a team since the construction process takes multiple people to complete. 

A structural engineer, however, has to possess leaderships skill as well. Since a structural engineer must sometimes make spur-of-the-moment decisions, it's important that a structural engineer has decision-making skills. 

Initially, there wasn't an individual who oversaw the strength of a building. In the ancient and medieval times, artisans held the responsibility of creating strong buildings. It wasn't until the 1800s that engineering degrees arose.

Today, structural engineers are highly trained and skilled individuals who are a vital part of the building process. 

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