what does a structural engineer do?

02/01/2019

The work of the structural engineer can be seen in the soaring skyscrapers of the world’s major cities and in the humble terraces of every village in the land. Without them there would be no bridges, sports stadia or hospitals.

The role of the structural engineer.

Structural engineers are integral members of the team of professionals responsible for designing and building just about every man-made structure in the world today. Architects may create incredible designs for buildings and bridges, but it is the structural engineer who turns these concepts into a reality. It is the structural engineer who ensures they are safe for people to use and are capable of withstanding ferocious weather conditions and, sometimes, earthquakes.

Structural engineers carry out surveys on existing structures in order to ensure that they remain fit for purpose. A building constructed 50 or 100 years ago may have complied with all the regulations in place at the time, but that does not mean it remains safe today. In addition, a building may have been damaged in some way, perhaps by fire or explosion, in which case it is the task of the structural engineer to inspect it and decide whether it can be saved or must be demolished.

When employed on a construction site, the day-to-day role of the structural engineer includes taking a lead role in the project, which entails developing a diverse range of managerial skills. He or she is also responsible for ensuring the development complies with legal, environmental, and health and safety regulations, and meets any commercial and budgetary requirements.

Other key aspects of the role include:

  • Preparing tenders.
  • Checking stresses and loads on a structure.
  • Interacting with architects, clients and others as the project progresses.
  • Writing up and submitting regular progress reports to managers, etc.
  • Using CAD software to simulate various design options.

Qualifications.

The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) encourages 14 to 16 year olds who are preparing for their GCSEs, or equivalent, to study maths and sciences along with computing, art, geography or design and technology. 14 to 19 year olds also have the option of taking the 14 to 19 Diploma in Construction or Engineering, which combines classroom and practical experience. A-levels, NVQs and SVQs, and National Certificates and Diplomas can also provide the necessary entry level requirements for a suitable degree course.

To qualify as a chartered structural engineer, it is necessary to obtain a post graduate degree in structural or civil engineering recognised by (IStructE), followed by an Initial Professional Development period. Graduates registering with a recruitment agency will be given specific advice on which companies offer the best on-the-job training courses.

Career development and salaries.

Trainee structural engineers tend to work for private construction companies, local authorities or contractors. As they gain experience, a substantial percentage of them will go on to work on a self-employed basis as consultants.

Salaries for graduate trainees range from £23,000 to £32,000, whilst those with 10 to 15 years’ experience earn between £40,000 and £70,000. Chartered structural engineers tend to command salaries at the top end of the scale.

Finding work.

Registering with a recruitment agency, such as Randstad CPE is the most efficient method of accessing a comprehensive range of structural engineering jobs. The agency’s specialist staff will take the time to match vacancies with candidates who have the relevant experience and qualifications.