What Is Structural Engineering?

If you are interested in structural engineering, it is important to know some basic concepts. Structural engineers are responsible for designing structures and components so that they are strong, safe, stiff, and stable to meet the needs of the client. 

Structural engineering firms often employ structural engineers in addition to other professionals, such as architects, contractors, fabricators, building officials and other engineering specialty workers. 

Principal Features of Structural Engineering

A structural engineer must know how a system or component will behave in operation or service (analysis) and be able to choose and configure systems and components that will work well in the real world (design). 

The engineer must understand the following: 

  • Loads: Applied on an external basis or as part of the structure itself. They may be gravity, snow and thermal effects, or winds, earthquakes or traffic. Loads are probably the most vital aspect of structural design, but they are understood with the least certainty. 
  • Geometry: The location of the material that the structure is made of and the geometry of the place where the structure exists. 
  • Supports: Nature of the interfaces between the components of the structure. This includes the interaction of the structure and its foundation. 
  • Topology: Form and connectedness that defines the system of structure in the product. 
  • Materials: The items that that structure is made of, as well as how it behaves thermally, acoustically, chemically and mechanically. 

Where Structural Engineers Work

Structural engineers usually work in a design office, but there also are chances to work in the field to perform analysis or solve problems. 

Meeting with clients is a major part of the job and this might even include some market and sales; the design bid process usually includes marketing and technical presentations. 

Depending on the company you work for, the work can be mostly local and small scale, or international and larger scale. 

Many structural engineers work on civil structures, which are large in scale and they are designed to last for the long term. There is no prototyping or full-scale testing in this work, so the planning and analysis phases must be flawless. 

Some structural engineering companies are large with more than 100 engineers, but others are small with less than 10. Some engineers even work alone in a company or run their own business. 

If you want to have a career in structural engineering, you will need to start by earning your bachelor’s degree. Good luck with your education!


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