Online degree programs in structural engineering are available at the master's level, sometimes as hybrid programs that allow some coursework to be completed online and also have on-campus requirements. Structural engineering may be taught as part of a civil engineering degree program. Some colleges and universities offer fully online master's degree programs in civil engineering as well.
Civil engineers, including structural engineers, typically need a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions and a graduate degree for management positions. Some civil engineers are required to be licensed, and licensing often requires having graduated from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
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Master's Degree in Structural Engineering
A few schools offer their master's degree programs in structural engineering online, sometimes as a specialty within a civil engineering program. Structural engineering programs emphasize analysis of the behavior of buildings, roads, bridges and dams under load. Students learn to calculate the response characteristics of buildings and their constituent materials and adjust designs accordingly. Applicants need to have earned a bachelor's degree, preferably in engineering or physics and maintained a 3.0 or better grade point average for admission.
Program Information and Requirements
Courses in an online master's degree program in structural engineering are generally offered in a hybrid format that mixes online learning with traditional instruction. Students access all course materials - readings, lectures and presentations - via the school's website and submit completed assignments via the website or e-mail. Courses are accessible at any time of day. Some programs may require exams to be completed on-campus. A master's degree is typically earned in 2-3 years.
The minimum technical requirements for participation include a personal computer or laptop with word processing software and Internet access. Schools may use an educational content management system, for example Blackboard, to deliver content.
List of Common Structural Engineering Courses
Master's degree programs in structural engineering generally consist of a core set of engineering fundamental courses and electives or seminars specific to the subject. Programs may also offer thesis and non-thesis options.
Structural Engineering Introductory
This course reviews basic concepts that underlie structural engineering, providing background for more specialized courses. Coursework explores materials, design principles, types of structures and safety issues.
Analysis of Structures
Students in this course learn classical, static and dynamic methods of analyzing the strength and flexibility of built structures. Course content examines the interaction of design codes and building codes with analysis methods.
Steel and Timber Structures
Design issues arising from the use of steel and timber as structural support members are the focus of this course. Topics considered include 2D and 3D framing, wind and seismic stress, load-bearing characteristics and serviceability.
This course explores design concepts and the benefits and drawbacks of building with reinforced concrete. Students perform loss calculations and learn to design and analyze pre-stressed members.
Career Information for Structural Engineering Graduates
Graduates of an online master's degree program in structural engineering are qualified to work as civil engineers, either as new entrants to the field or as established professionals extending their careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts that the need for new infrastructure and maintenance of existing infrastructure will generate strong future demand for the services of civil engineers. Employment is projected to increase 8%, faster than average for all occupations, from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, the median salary of civil engineers was $82,220.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
All states require engineers to be licensed if they offer services to the public directly. Licensure entails graduating from an accredited engineering program, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, accumulating several years of work experience and passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Several states also require completion of continuing education credits for re-licensure.
A doctoral degree is the next step for structural engineers who want to teach postsecondary students or conduct academic research. Ph.D. degree programs are generally available only on a traditional campus or extremely rarely online.
Students wanting to study structural engineering can normally find master's degree programs in a hybrid format, though some schools offer a civil engineering degree fully online. Some topics these programs provide include analysis of structures, steel and timber structures, and concrete structures.