Structural engineering is generally found as a specialty within civil engineering programs, which are available through a limited number of online programs. They can be completed in about six years of part-time study (or sooner if a student has already earned an associate's degree) and often have some on-campus requirements. These hybrid programs may require students to complete tests and lab work on campus. Those wishing to become licensed civil or structural engineers may want to look for online programs that are accredited by ABET. Completion of an ABET-accredited program is often one of the requirements for licensure in this field.
A solid background in high school math, science and computer studies is recommended. Students will need to have access to a variety of software such as Real Video Player and Apple QuickTime.
Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering
Online degree programs typically cover the discipline of structural engineering. Students enrolled in a program of this type learn about structural mechanics concepts such as trusses, matrix methods, shear and bending, steel design, deflection and torsion.
Prior to enrolling, students are advised to have a solid background in high school math, science and computer studies. Upon graduating from the program, students will be able to analyze and offer solutions to structural engineering design flaws, to conduct research and experiments, and to perform civil engineering and surveying procedures.
Program Information and Requirements
Online undergraduate programs in civil engineering are likely to be hybrid programs, combining online coursework with on-campus instruction. Some hybrid programs require campus visits for labs or testing purposes. Students participate in online classes through audio or video lectures, webinars and archived resources. Distance-learning classes are often concurrent with their on-campus counterparts.
Prior to beginning an online structural engineering course, students must have an e-mail account, high-speed Internet access, the ability to navigate the Internet and the ability to send and receive e-mail attachments. Some free software downloads, such as Real Video Player or Apple QuickTime, may be required for some courses.
Online civil engineering bachelor's degree programs combine engineering basics with a more specific knowledge of building materials and structures. If not already taken in a previous undergraduate program, general education courses must also be completed prior to finishing the program.
List of Common Structural Engineering Courses
Students enrolled in this course become skilled in understanding construction materials and their properties. Topics covered include combined stress, torsion, joints and columns.
Highway and Transportation Engineering
This online course examines highway structures, road characteristics and traffic engineering. Students learn to consider factors like drainage, road maintenance and pavement type when designing highway systems.
A distance-learning course on the analysis of structures emphasizes flexibility, stresses, resistance and loads. For indeterminate structures, the course also covers the assessment of deflection and stiffness.
Distance learning courses in hydraulic structures focus on the design of bridges, docks, drainage systems and harbor structures. Students discuss topics such as fluid dynamics, power conversion and hydraulic engineering modeling.
Structural engineers are responsible for designing buildings, bridges, tunnels, playground equipment and other structures. They ensure their designs meet government regulations and safety standards. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nation's population growth will fuel the need for structural engineers in the future and provide favorable employment conditions (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported an annual median wage for civil engineers - including structural engineers - of $82,220 in May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
There are some online master's degree programs in structural engineering available to students who want to further their education. Additional training is also available through the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The ASCE (www.asce.org) provides professional certifications to civil engineers, coastal, ocean, port and navigation engineers, geo-engineers and water resources engineers.
Students interested in obtaining a bachelor's degree online will need to have a strong background in math, science and computers. Structural engineering programs are usually found within the civil engineering program and can take up to six years to complete with some programs being a hybrid, requiring tests and lab work on campus.