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Civil Engineer Vs. Structural Engineer

Civil engineers and structural engineers both plan and manage the construction of various infrastructure projects. Though their work may overlap, there are also some differences in their tasks. Learn more about these below.

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Comparing Civil Engineers to Structural Engineers

Civil engineers are the designers and project managers of infrastructures such as roads and dams. Structural engineers are a specific type of civil engineer who ensures the strength of these constructions. Other more specific similarities and differences are discussed below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Civil Engineer Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering $84,770 (2017)* 11%
Structural Engineer Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering $66,371 (2018)** 11% (for all civil engineers)

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

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Responsibilities of Civil Engineers vs. Structural Engineers

As structural engineers are a type of civil engineer, the daily responsibilities of these careers are quite similar. Both design, inspect, and manage the construction of infrastructure projects. Both must be knowledgeable regarding construction plans, must be able to teach those less experienced, and oversee their teams in the office and out in the field. The primary difference is that civil engineers may potentially work on any project that involves the overall infrastructure, while structural engineers are focused on designing and ensuring that each structure being constructed is safe and durable.

Civil Engineer

The primary responsibility of a civil engineer is to design and manage infrastructure construction projects. This includes the construction of roads, bridges, dams, tunnels, airports, and other buildings. Civil engineers may specialize in a particular industry, such as transportation or structures. These engineers study and develop blueprints, survey reports, maps, and various types of plans while keeping in mind the cost, regulations, and environmental risks. Civil engineers must be familiar with CAD software and be able to communicate knowledgeably with architects and construction managers. A secondary degree in civil engineering, along with a professional engineer license, are generally required.

Job responsibilities of a civil engineer include:

  • Produce bids and reports for clients and agencies
  • Mentor less experienced engineers
  • Manage the testing and cost of building materials and equipment
  • Ensure that projects meet safety and legal guidelines

Structural Engineer

A structural engineer is a civil engineer that specializes in designing industrial construction projects, such as buildings, bridges, and pipelines. This work may be done for various contractors, including government agencies or utility companies. In addition to managing these projects, structural engineers may be asked to inspect existing structures and give advice regarding safety, design, and the amount of weight that a structure can handle. These engineers are required to have a degree in civil or structural engineering, and usually have at least a couple years of engineering work experience.

Job responsibilities of a structural engineer include:

  • Create construction specifications and designs
  • Review blueprints, maps, and other design documents
  • Lead teams at construction sites
  • Ensure that budget, time, and safety goals are met during construction

Related Careers

If you are interested in these engineering positions you may want to learn about other available options as well such as becoming transportation engineers since both are involved in planning and construction. You can also consider becoming a mechanical engineer because designing and performing analyses are also frequently conducted by these professionals.

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