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Difference Between Structural Engineer & Architect

Structural engineers and architects plan out the design for a building, though they focus on different aspects of the project. Here you can see how these two professions compare and learn more about their salaries and job growth.

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Comparing Structural Engineers to Architects

Structural engineers and architects both design building projects. Structural engineers consider the strength and durability when designing a building, while architects focus more on the appearance of the building. Below you can learn more about each of these occupations and see how they compare.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Structural Engineer Bachelor's Degree $65,548 (2017)** 8% (all civil engineers)
Architect Bachelor's Degree $76,930 (2016)* 7%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of Structural Engineers vs Architects

Structural engineers and architects can be found working together on building projects; however, they complete different tasks. Structural engineers focus on how a building is built and what materials should be used to ensure durability. Although they also consider things like construction materials, architects put more effort into how a building will look and the aesthetics. Both professionals work on a budget and create building plans for a construction team to follow. Structural engineers and architects both work towards the same goal of having a well-structured building.

Structural Engineer

Structural engineers design projects like buildings, dams, and bridges. While some of their designing process is done in an office, they also visit construction sites to ensure construction is being completed correctly. Some projects demand problem-solving skills because there may be complex issues the engineer needs to anticipate. Structural engineers must also stay focused and organized to ensure the projects they are working on are staying on track and being completed within the projected budget. They also need exceptional leadership skills to lead their team of workers in completing the project.

Job responsibilities of a structural engineer include:

  • Following government regulations
  • Submitting permits for building
  • Testing materials to be used for building
  • Ensuring safety of workers

Architect

Architects design indoor and outdoor spaces to meet the visual appearance clients are looking for, as well as ensuring that their designs are compliant with various codes and laws. They work with computer programs to develop the design, though some work may be done by hand. Architects must also develop a vision and use their creativity to complete a project that satisfies the client. They must be organized in order to keep track of various contracts and project details, including budget, costs, timeframe, and progress. Architects normally work with civil engineers on projects, so they must be able to effectively communicate with other workers and construction teams.

Job responsibilities of an architect include:

  • Setting up meetings with clients to discuss projects
  • Preparing estimates of costs
  • Preparing drawings for projects
  • Arranging contracts for construction teams
  • Marketing their work to the public

Related Careers

Those interested in a structural engineering career may also enjoy working as a construction manager. Construction managers focus on actually building the design, rather than developing the design like structural engineers do. Individuals seeking a career as an architect may also like to look into a career in interior design. Interior designers use their vision and creativity to create an aesthetically appealing design for interior spaces, and they need a thorough understanding of building codes like architects do.

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