Structural engineering is a branch of engineering that focuses on the design of buildings and non building structures. The field has experienced transformations in recent years and has been shaped by the shifting economy, living standards of the population, and other environmental factors. Structural engineers work towards developing structures and facilities that are fit for its purpose, offer safety and durability, and meet the requirements of the clients.
Is Structural Engineering Right For You?
There are many benefits of studying structural engineering and preparing for a career in this discipline. The field may come with positive employment prospects. But before you go ahead and enroll in a structural engineering program, find out if you have what it takes to succeed in this area. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you enjoy challenges and solving problems?
Do you enjoy studying math and science?
Do you find puzzles and mind-challenging games interesting?
Are you creative?
Do you want to contribute to the society and promote changes?
Are you curious about things and wonder how they work?
If the above questions are answered with a yes, this may be just the field for you. You can choose from a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in structural engineering.
Masters Degree in Structural Engineering
This program is intended to provide students with fundamental knowledge and technical skills necessary for structural engineering careers. The program will cover all aspects of the discipline including physical models of structures, materials, loading, and computer simulations.
Students will learn how to formulate various structure models and test them. The program emphasizes skill development, enabling students to gain hands on experience through lab experimentation and training.
The program’s curriculum will entail basic theoretical courses that help students build a firm basis of knowledge. Some of the courses are described below:
Advanced structural analysis
In this course, students will learn about the methods of structural analysis. Key topics covered include: virtual work principles, direct assembly procedures, practical modeling techniques, nonlinear analysis concepts, and matrix algebra.
Mechanics and finite elements
This course will let students explore concepts related to fluid and solid deformation, balance of mass and momentum, conservation laws, numerical integration, and basic shape functions.
In this course, students will be introduced to the basics of vectors and tensors. The course will highlight important concepts such as balance principles, thermodynamics, variational principles, and aspects of objectivity.
Safety is the most important aspect of structural engineering. Students will learn how to evaluate the safety elements of structural components. The course will cover all methods and systems used to gauge safety and failure modes.
This course is geared towards providing students with knowledge about variable formulations of inelasticity, 1D and 3D material models, macro transitions, and development of efficient algorithms.
The curriculum of Structural engineering graduate programs can vary from college to college. Some colleges may include a research project in the program. Each component of the program must be completed to earn the degree.
How Long Does it Take to Complete Structural Engineering masters programs?
A masters degree typically takes 2 years to complete. However, the duration may vary depending upon the track a student has opted for. For example, part time students may take more than two years to complete the degree whereas an accelerated degree track allows a student to earn the degree in 1-1.5 years.
PhD in Structural Engineering
The post-graduate program is designed to prepare students for advanced professional practice, careers in research, and teaching. The program will help students develop a broad understanding of structural engineering. The coursework will cover advanced areas of study such as earthquake and geotechnical engineering, aerospace engineering, and civil engineering.
In the start of the program, students will be required to cover a series of fundamental courses that will help build a solid foundation of knowledge. Here are some of the courses:
Introduction to research methodology
This is a mandatory course that provides students with practical knowledge of research planning. Students will learn how to conduct research using appropriate methods.
Computer methods in structural analysis
In this course, students will learn how to use computational methods for structural analysis. The course may be covered in computer training labs.
This course will enable students to gain an insight into the effects of earthquakes on structural designs. Students will learn how to develop models that are resistant to earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Introduction to wave physics
Waves are an important concept in physical sciences. Students will learn about the oscillation of physical quantities and how waves travel through matter and space.
Research and Dissertation
A PhD will entail a research project and dissertation. Students will be required to conduct an independent research study on a chosen area of interest. The dissertation must reflect the findings of the research. Both components of the program are completed under the supervision of a faculty member.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a PhD in Structural Engineering?
A PhD in structural engineering can take anywhere from 4-8 years to complete. The exact deadline for completing the program will vary from college to college. A student’s research, thesis development, and pace of study will also affect the time needed to complete the degree.
The exact admission criteria will vary from college to college. Here are some of the general requirements:
Submit an application for admission
Meet a minimum CGPA
Provide official transcripts of a bachelor or masters degree
Letters of recommendation
Students can pursue a structural engineering degree online
. Many colleges are offering short online structural engineering courses
and degrees. The popularity of online learning has grown in recent years mainly due to the benefits that come with this mode of learning. Students enrolled in online structural engineering degree
can schedule their studies around their jobs or other domestic responsibilities.
Structural engineers must hold a professional license if they wish to practice. The field of structural engineering comes with great risks and liabilities. Any minute failure in the design of a building can result in devastation such as a building collapse.
There are licensing authorities in each state that provide certification and specialized licensing to structural engineers. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)
is a leading organization that administers licensing exams and promotes uniformity of the licensure practice throughout the country.
Structural engineers can find employment in both government and private organizations. Structural engineering careers can be challenging and are suitable for individuals who want to combine their creativity with technical skills.
The duties of structural engineers are similar to civil engineers and typically include the following:
Providing technical advice
Planning and designing structures
Managing and coordinating teams
Overseeing operations, materials, budget, and overall project
Civil engineers made a median annual income of $82,050 in 2014 according to O*Net Online. The demand for these professionals is expected to grow by 15%-21% over the next few years (2022) .