Structural Engineer Career Overview
Structural engineers have the important job of making sure that the main structure of new building projects is mathematically sound and safe within certain tolerances and for upper-level estimations of expected loads and wear. Structural engineers are civil engineers with further specialization, who typically work on larger construction projects, such as highway overpasses, large buildings, pipelines, and large public structures. Structural engineers can also need to be aware of local planning regulations, safety metrics, codes, and checklists while working on projects. Since licensure is often required, preparing for this career entirely online is not without some challenges.
|Required Skills||Math, spatial awareness, decision-making|
|Job Growth||6% for 2018-2028 (for all civil engineers)*|
|Median Salary (2019)||$67,607**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com
Steps for Becoming a Structural Engineer Online
There are educational requirements that you can complete online as well as ways to help you prepare for licensure through online resources. That said, licensure itself will need to be completed in person; however, all of the following steps can still be completed with the help of online resources.
Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor's Degree
Completing a bachelor's degree can be seen as the minimum requirement for getting started in this career field. Those who wish to become licensed will need to complete a degree program such as civil engineering, civil engineering technology, or structural engineering, that is approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). These programs often can be found online. Traditional bachelor's degree programs take four years to complete, although this depends largely on your status as either a full-time or part-time student, as well as your individual course load. Through one of these ABET-accredited degree programs you can learn not only the basic skills needed to work in this career field, such as math and science, but also how these concepts apply to engineering in a more focused and practical sense.
Step 2: Consider a Master's Degree
While not always required to get started working in the field, since structural engineering is not typically an entry-level position, a master's degree can help you to become a structural engineer without needing as much time gaining on-the-job experience. Online masters degree programs can vary in length, although they typically take around a couple of years to complete. These programs will further instruct and more specifically qualify you in the field of structural engineering.
Step 3: Become Licensed
There are some tools online for licensure preparation; however, the first thing you will want to do to prepare for licensure using online resources is to look up your specific state's requirements. Once you understand the requirements for your state's Professional Engineer (PE) license, you can utilize some online tools to help you study for the PE exams. There are two exams; one deals with more fundamental concepts, and the other tests your proficiency more specifically. Online tools to help with these can include practice tests. Once you understand and have completed the state-specific requirements, which usually include passing an ABET-accredited bachelor's degree program, as well as completing an internship or on-the-job training, you can finally take the tests to become officially licensed. Some states might require, and employers can likewise prefer, you to also take the PE Structural Engineering Exam and become specifically licensed as a structural engineer. Although tests may be computer-based, they are typically completed in assigned testing centers.