Online Structural Engineering Masters Degree Programs

Structural engineering is a suitable career choice for people who have an aptitude for - and an interest in - real-world applications of math and physics. The field is also expected to have favorable growth prospects in the years ahead. A small number of schools offer master's degree programs in structural engineering online.

Essential Information

Many schools offer online master's degree programs in civil engineering with the option to specialize in structural engineering. All courses may be online, or the program may combine online and on-campus studies. Classes may be live or recorded, allowing students to view them as their schedules permit. A computer with a high-speed Internet connection is a must, and there may be some additional software requirements.

A bachelor's degree is needed, preferably in engineering or a related field. In a structural engineering concentration, students look at the properties of building materials and how they are impacted by stress. Core courses cover topics such as engineering mathematics and project management techniques. Most programs call for a capstone project.

All states require that structural engineers be licensed. Requirements usually include completing a bachelor's degree program that is accredited by ABET, the engineering education standards organization, and passing competency exams. Some states require continuing education for license renewal. While a master's degree is not mandatory, it is considered necessary for career advancement.

Overview of an Online Master's Degree in Structural Engineering

Structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering. Schools are therefore more likely to offer an online program in structural engineering as a specialization or concentration to a civil engineering master's degree. Programs in structural engineering study the effect of stress factors - wind, weather, traffic - on built infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, buildings and dams. Students learn the static and dynamic properties of wood, steel, concrete and other building materials. A bachelor's degree, preferably in a related subject such as engineering, physics or mathematics, is required for admission to a master's degree program.

Program Information and Requirements

Students may take classes entirely online or as a mix of online and traditional instruction in an online structural engineering program. Course lectures may be viewed live or via download, and all other course materials are accessible through a school's website. Interaction with faculty and advisors is conducted by phone, discussion boards, e-mail and live chat. A master's degree is typically earned in 2-3 years.

Schools may use a proprietary content management system or a commercial system, such as Blackboard. A relatively new Windows or Mac personal computer, Internet access and a webcam are required for participation in an online program.

List of Common Online Structural Engineering Courses

Master's degree programs in engineering are built around core courses and elective courses. Core courses emphasize fundamental engineering concepts, while elective courses address structural engineering and related topics such as earthquake engineering and solid mechanics.

Element Analysis Course

Students in this course learn the methods of evaluating the properties of different materials. Plane stress, stability, heat transfer, stiffness and dynamics are among the topics considered.

Plastic Structures Course

This course examines the properties of plastic as a building material and of plastic structures. Topics covered include plastic analysis, weight distribution theorems and design requirements.

Structural Dynamics Course

Students examine the stresses that deform and degrade structures. Coursework engages modal analysis, computational techniques, wave propagation, system responses, vibration analysis and random excitation.

Nonlinear Systems Course

Chaos theory and the mathematics of nonlinear dynamic systems - with an emphasis on real-world structural applications - are the focus of this course. Differential equations, local and global analysis, bifurcations, fractals and periodic motion are among the topics covered.

Career Information for Structural Engineering Graduates

Candidates who earn a master's degree in structural engineering may become civil engineers who specialize in structural applications. Established civil engineers who earn the degree are positioned for leadership roles on structural engineering projects, or they may become structural engineering consultants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, employment of civil engineers was expected to increase 24% over the years 2008-2018. Growth is driven by the need to build new bridges, roads and other infrastructure as well as maintain existing infrastructure. The median salary of civil engineers as of May 2009 was $76,590.

Continuing Education Information

Licensing requirements for engineers are on the books in all U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Candidates must complete an accredited engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam (for which structural engineering is an available concentration) and accumulate a specified number of years of work experience. Continuing education requirements for re-licensing are also in place in several states.

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