What’s a Structural Engineer and is Their Career Outlook Any Good?


What is structural engineering?

Structural engineering is a specialty within the field of civil engineering. Using a combination of physics and math, engineers design constructions that can withhold large amounts of stress, forces, loads, and weights.

The types of projects structural engineers work on include bridges, skyscrapers, apartment buildings, rollercoasters and much more.

If it’s a structure, you can bet a structural engineer had a hand in designing it.

What is a structural engineer?

A structural engineer is someone who uses physics and math to design constructions that can withstand large amounts of stress, forces, loads, and weights. This is because structures, like bridges and buildings, need to be able to safely handle weather and weight, from vehicles and humans, without collapsing.

Essentially, structural engineers are responsible for ensuring the integrity of structures are safe for the public.

After reviewing several open structural engineering job postings on LinkedIn, here are the common job responsibilities structural engineers perform day-to-day:

  • Create sketches
  • Create drawings in engineering software (e.g., Autodesk Revit)
  • Perform calculations
  • Write reports and evaluations
  • Understand local structural codes
  • Review product design for compliance with engineering principles, company standards, and/or customer contract requirements
  • Observe construction sites periodically
  • Communicates well and works within multidisciplined teams

What software do structural engineers use?

There are countless structural engineering technologies that are used to get the job done. As you might imagine, the type of tool varies depending on the industry or project.

For example, someone designing a commercial building might use AutoCAD, while an engineer designing a steel bridge might use a more specialized tool like RISA.

Here are just a few CAD tools that are widely used by structural engineers:

Because of their popularity, the structural engineering technologies listed above are often taught in structural engineering courses.

WATCH: Explore Thousands of Online Structural Engineering Courses

Is structural engineering a good career?

If you’re considering getting your structural engineering degree, yes, structural engineering is a great career path — objectively!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), civil engineering (the field structural engineering falls under), is expected to grow steadily at 2% through 2029.

“As current U.S. infrastructure experiences growing obsolescence, engineers will be needed to manage projects to rebuild, repair, and upgrade bridges, roads, levees, dams, airports, buildings, and other structures.” – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

BLS expects that structural engineers will be called upon to rebuild our nation’s critical infrastructure as well as help create new, sustainable solutions like wind farms and solar arrays.

In 2019, the BLS reported there were 329,200 civil engineering jobs in the U.S.

What is the structural engineering salary range?

The structural engineering salary range in the United States is between $59,000-$107,000, according to Glassdoor.

The average base pay of a structural engineer in the United States is $79,529. These roles are sometimes referred to as associate structural engineers and require 0-4 years of experience.

Source: Glassdoor

The average base pay of a senior structural engineer in the U.S. is $109,000. If you’re searching for this type of role, you might also see the title listed as a structural engineer II or mid-level engineer. These roles require at least 2-5 years of experience.

The average base pay of a lead structural engineer in the U.S. is $125,416. If you’re searching for these types of roles, you might see the word manager in the title, too. Typically, you’ll need a minimum of 5 years of experience.

However, structural engineering salaries vary depending on several factors including

  • where you live
  • which industry you work in (e.g., aerospace or commercial construction)
  • what company you work for (e.g., Boeing or a small machine shop)
  • and your seniority level

Educating the next generation of structural engineers

SolidProfessor is the leading online learning platform for engineering, architecture, and manufacturing design. We work with individual learners, schools, and businesses to educate beginners and advanced professionals to teach real skills and inspire innovation.

Here are our most popular online structural engineering courses:

Many of the courses above will help structural engineers convey designs. However, the courses that teach engineers how to use SOLIDWORKS Simulation Standard and SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional also go a step further and go be used for structural analysis. This will allow users to model their structures and then test them in a simulated real-world scenario.

Madie Norris Forcier
About the Author

SolidProfessor content writer and self-appointed World’s Greatest Dog Mom