All Structural Engineering

To paraphrase a bad joke, engineering is the art of making stuff that should move, move; and the stuff that shouldn’t move stay put. Structural engineering concerns itself with the stuff that shouldn’t move.​The exact nature of the structure varies. We could be talking about a building, a mine shaft, a ship, a machine housing, an offshore oil rig, or an airframe. Because of this wide range of applications, structural engineering is generally either presented as a master’s degree or, at the undergraduate level, a specialization within civil engineering.​A structural engineer’s role can include tasks such as simulating the effect of outside stresses on planned structures, conducting safety analyses, and estimating material costs. In addition to the general science and mathematics all engineers are taught, this requires detailed knowledge of vibrations, materials, geology and hydrology, and construction techniques. They are also expected to understand certain non-engineering concepts, including the social and sustainability impact structures have.​When choosing a university at which to study structural engineering, it’s important to choose a school that’s accredited by the U.S. Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Fortunately, this body has mutual recognition agreements with various foreign counterparts. As long as a foreign degree course is “substantially equivalent” to its American equivalent, which tends to be the case in Europe, you should have no problem practicing in the States after graduation.​Since the structural aspect of a project needs to be aligned with other goals (and the total budget), structural engineers generally work closely with other engineering counterparts, architects, transportation planners, and construction contractors. As in most engineering careers, strong communication and critical thinking skills are a must. ​Structural engineers should also be mindful of how their work affects public safety. Guesswork and rules of thumb play a surprisingly large role in most branches of engineering. When it comes to structures, though, it’s better to be sure.