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Structural Engineer

Plan buildings, focusing on their strength and stability.

What does a Structural Engineer do?

When you hear the term Engineer, you most likely think of someone who designs buildings-that type of Engineer is a Structural Engineer. In addition to designing buildings, Structural Engineers also work to design and test safety limits, weak points, or load capacity of buildings, carts, and anything else that carries weight. When you go shopping for a new jack stand for your car, for example, the box might outline a 3,000 pound weight capacity; a Structural Engineer probably formulated that number.

Your work process begins with a design, either on paper or on a computer-aided design program, of the object you want to build. You might have created the original design or stepped into the process after the product was already produced. Either way, you use the design to create a prototype. In this transformation you’ll need to run a lot of numbers; where are the weight bearing elements, and how many pounds does each hold? Where are the points that will make this withstand 100 mph winds?

You need to understand architecture and physics to complement your engineering skills, and make a prototype that is structurally sound. Once you figure all that out, you create the prototype, and put it through a series of tests to make sure your calculations worked. Each test is carefully recorded, before the data is evaluated, approved, and stamped on the box.

The most fulfilling part of this job is being able to create a design and see it develop into real form. During this process, you focus on the structural needs of the building while planning the layout, height, weight of products, number of people who will work or live in the building, and the area where the project is being built. Once the project breaks ground, you divide your time between the job site and the paperwork at the office.