Structural Engineering is the practice of analyzing and designing buildings, bridges and other structures to resist forces induced by gravity, wind, and earthquakes and to safely transfer these forces to the ground. The primary goal of a Structural Engineer is to develop a support system that will allow a structure to provide a level of life safety to all those that occupy and use it. Structural Engineers design columns, beams, foundations, walls, braces, and other structural components capable of withstanding calculated forces and then prepare drawings and specifications from which the structure can be built.
In their designs, Structural Engineers have to be intimately familiar with the structural characteristics of the building materials they are designing. Primary building materials used by Structural Engineers include wood, steel, concrete, masonry, and aluminum. Material specific codes provide Structural Engineers with standard properties and specifications that are consistent throughout the industry. The International Building Code, state transportation codes, and other nationally adopted codes provide the standard on which Structural Engineers base their analysis and design.
Most Structural Engineers have a four year undergraduate degree and many have obtained a Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering with some advancing through the doctorate level. In the United States, the most common first step to becoming a licensed engineer is passing a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam that covers a broad range of mathematics and engineering principles. Most states require a minimum number of years of practical experience in the field before granting eligibility for licensure. All qualified applicants are tested using exams specific to Structural Engineering competency that are developed by the national governing entity for engineering certification, the National Council of Examiners in Engineering and Surveying. Most states have continuing education requirements for licensed engineers to help maintain competency in the profession and keep Structural Engineers abreast of advances in this ever changing and dynamic field.