What does a Structural Engineer do?

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Structural Engineers work with Architects to form the skeletal system of houses, buildings, and other structures. They are essential in maintaining the stability and core structure of any construction process. How do you become a Structural Engineer and what are the day to day tasks?

Role of a Structural Engineer

No house or building is complete without a structural engineer. If you want to build a house, you simply cannot do without one. Rightly so. After all, what good is the most beautiful home if it is in danger of collapsing?

Structural Engineer - Role Overview and Job Profile
Structural Engineer – Role Overview and Job Profile

A structural engineer provides valuable services during planning – from basic determination to construction design to execution planning and production monitoring. They are construction experts who deal with important calculations, including, for example, the exact determination of the required amount of reinforcing steel for a concrete slab.

A structural engineer works intensively with architects. Therefore, they are always in the know in regards to what goes on at a construction site. They are crucial in any form of construction and ensure that a property has a “healthy foundation” that will hold for a long time. A structural engineer’s calculations are included in the construction plans of civil engineers and architects. 

Structural engineering is a specialization within the field of civil engineering. Many structural engineers are civil engineers, but these are more aware of the requirements for special buildings, such as skyscrapers (In some states in the US, they require a separate license).

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Structural Engineer’s Tasks and Responsibilities

Structural engineers take on a variety of tasks. They carry out the necessary calculations required for construction and determine the thickness of walls and ceilings as well as the costs of a building. 

In addition, the structural engineer creates the proof of stability required under building law.

They are also responsible for the development of structural solutions via object planning, creating constructive drafts with graphic representation. They help determine load-bearing cross-sections and structural joints.

Structural Engineer - Tasks and Responsibilities
Structural Engineer – Tasks and Responsibilities

Furthermore, structural engineers participate in cost calculation for buildings and associated structural systems. They advise on additional expenditure for special designs or special constructions.

General responsibilities of a Structural Engineer: 

  • Analyse and research structural systems and components
  • Structural planning for the renovation of existing buildings
  • Preparation of reports on the stability of buildings
  • Creation of a design draft with structural calculations
  • Advice to builders, architects and civil engineers on structural engineering
  • Supervision of work on the construction site
  • Advice in consultation with the architect.
  • Examination of the load-bearing structures
  • Recording, documenting and assessing the current state
  • Basic surveys of the properties of the subsoil (contamination, groundwater, characteristic values) by viewing the land register or existing documentation.
  • Participate in preliminary negotiations with authorities and other parties involved in planning about the ability to obtain approval
  • Adaptation of the design draft and compilation of the documents of the structural planning for building authority approval

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What skills do you need to be a structural engineer?

The work of a structural engineer involves working with the latest technology and computer software. A variety of tasks are visually processed and spatially represented. So technical skills in areas of CAD and 3D visualization are important. 

Structural Engineer - Skills Required
Structural Engineer – Skills Required

The core competencies of a structural engineer include building construction, structural analysis, building materials science and building technology. In addition, complex calculations are a major area of daily activity. 

In addition, specialist knowledge in building informatics, business administration, and geology is required. You should also be familiar with building and architectural law.

The soft skills include a high degree of communication skills and the competence to advise customers in detail and to provide expert support.

Skills required: 

  • Strong mathematical and calculation skills
  • Specialist knowledge in building informatics and geology
  • Knowledge of building construction and structural analysis
  • Familiar with building materials science, building technology and design standards
  • Efficient use of MS Office and calculation tools – RSTAB, SAP 2000, etc. 
  • CAD-FEM tools, and structure calculation software – ie. PKPM, Revit. etc.
  • Experience with tendering programs like ORCA AVA 
  • Logical, Independent and creative way of working
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Reliability, loyalty, and discretion

Background and Education

The job of a structural engineer requires a degree in civil engineering or in architecture. And often civil engineers follow their studies with a master’s degree for structural engineers.

On the other hand, there are already universities around the world offering undergraduate degrees specifically for structural engineering. It is also possible to find structural engineers with a mechanical or aerospace engineering background.

Besides education, companies require several years of professional experience in structural design or construction.

What is the average salary for a structural engineer?

Young professionals can expect an annual salary of around $30,000. With two years of professional experience, the average salary for this role is $84,000. At a senior position – for e.g., a department head can receive an average annual salary of $170,000.

Junior$30,000
Average$84,000
Senior$170,000

How much does a freelance structural engineer earn?

On average, freelance structural engineers will charge you around $45/hr. (freelancermap index, June 2020)

Structural Engineer - Average Freelance Rate
Structural Engineer – Average Freelance Rate
Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at www.freelancermap.com

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