Structural engineers are creative innovators, they use maths and science to design structures, solve problems, and shape the world around them
Structural engineers design structures to withstand stresses and pressures imposed through environmental conditions and human use. They ensure buildings and other structures do not deflect, rotate, vibrate excessively or collapse and that they remain stable and secure throughout their use. They also examine existing buildings and structures to test if they are structurally sound and still fit for purpose.
Working in close partnership with architects and other professional engineers they help to design most structures, including houses, hospitals, office blocks, bridges, oil rigs, ships and aircraft. It is the structural engineer’s responsibility to choose the appropriate materials, such as concrete, steel, timber and masonry, to meet design specifications and they are often involved in inspecting the work and advising contractors.
As a structural engineer you’ll need to:
Some companies offer additional benefits, such as a company car and private health insurance.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with some occasional evening and weekend work where necessary. Self-employment is possible as the building of a structure involves projects that are put out to tender. Some structural engineers work on a contract basis (and become known as 'contract engineers') and some set up their own consultancies.
Career breaks are possible once you are qualified. Stay up to date with progressions in the industry and get help with finding work again by becoming a member of The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE).
The career of a structural engineer is open to graduates of civil or structural engineering. If you have a degree in another engineering or science discipline, you may also be able to enter the profession, but it could take longer and you may be limited as to how far you can progress.
Graduates of non-civil or structural engineering courses are encouraged to study for an MSc in structural engineering before joining the profession.
Graduate structural engineers work towards the professional qualifications of Associate Member and Chartered Member with IStructE. To become an Associate Member (AMIStructE), you must have a degree that is accredited by the IStructE. A list of accredited courses is available from the Joint Board of Moderators (JBM). Some equivalent qualifications may also be accepted. Contact the IStructE for full details.
To progress on to become a Chartered Member (MIStructE) with the IStructE, you will need to have an accredited Masters qualification or equivalent. A list of relevant courses is available on the JBM website.
Search for postgraduate courses in structural engineering.
Entry without a degree is possible if you hold a national diploma-level qualification in structural/civil engineering or equivalent. However, you will only be able to progress to a Technician Member (TIStructE). You will need further qualifications to progress onto the Associate or Chartered memberships.
You will need to have:
Doing some relevant work experience or a work placement is a great way to develop skills and it will enable you to evidence your competence and commitment in job applications and interviews. Many degree courses offer a year in industry.
These experiences can provide valuable opportunities for building contacts and networking, which may lead to future job opportunities.
Most structural engineers work in engineering consultancies. These range from large international companies, to small firms run by one person. The large companies, often offering a full 'design and build' service, provide a high level of training, a broad range of work and opportunities for international travel. Smaller firms, often contracting engineers for projects, tend to specialise in specific areas of engineering, and the geographical spread of their clients is less extensive
Other employers include:
University departments employ structural engineers as researchers and lecturers. You can make speculative applications using Find an Engineer to search for structural engineering practices.
Look for job vacancies at:
Recruitment agencies specialising in engineering vacancies include:
As a graduate structural engineer you will work towards the professional status of Associate or Chartered Member with the IStructE.
To do this you must meet three requirements:
This whole process can take three to four years. You can opt to take IPD accredited by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and then the final exam of the IStructE, or to follow the direct route of training accredited by IStructE. Many structural engineers qualify with both institutions, as it affords more career flexibility later.
Once you have achieved professional status with the IStructE, you can choose to become registered with the Engineering Council, taking on the designation of either Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng).
Starting as construction designers, structural engineers soon move on to become project managers. They may work alone, liaising closely with all the other construction professionals involved, or as part of a project team. Most large organisations have a formal progression structure, but if you work for a smaller company, you may need to move to another employer to progress.
Career options include, moving from an engineering consultancy to a construction company or vice versa; working as a self-employed contract engineer or setting up your own consultancy; teaching or research work.
There are also many opportunities to move to other parts of the UK and to work on international projects. Gaining chartered status with the IStructE allows for professional recognition in an increasing number of countries around the world.
Chartered Members can go on to become Fellows of the IStructE once they have built up a significant amount of experience and have met an exacting set of standards. This is the most senior grade of membership available and is recognition of excellence in structural engineering.