How to build your structural engineering career?

Being a structural engineer is no walk in the park. Concerned with designing and constructing buildings, there’s a lot of responsibilities to take on! Therefore, it’s unsurprising that there are a few skills required of you if you want to build a career in the industry.  Below we outline how to build a career as a structural engineer, including tips on how to get into the industry and the skills you need to succeed in the role.

How to get into the industry 

There are many routes to take to get into the industry. Typically, the easiest way would be through a university degree. Generally speaking, you’ll need a degree or postgraduate qualification in either structural or civil engineering. That said you could start out your career as an engineering technician by taking an HNC (Higher National Certificate) or a foundation degree in an engineering subject. You would then need to complete on the job training to become a fully qualified structural engineer. Attending university isn’t the only option if you want to join the industry. If you’re looking to get a job straight out of school or college, you could search for an apprenticeship or school leaver programme. This will require on the job training and may take a few years to complete. But, it will remove the need to study for a degree beforehand.

What skills do you need? 

Your time at university, or whilst completing your on the job training, will teach you the technical skills that you need to build your career as a structural engineer. But there are also a number of more transferable skills that you need and traits you’ll inevitably have as a result of your passion for the industry. We outline these below – they could be the key to your success as a structural engineer.

1. Maths, IT and Science

There’s a lot of careful calculations and scientific practices behind designing and constructing a building. After all, they need to be safe and durable! As such, the first and some of the most important skills are those involved in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) disciplines. In order to become an engineer, it’s important that you have strong maths, IT and scientific skills. But more than that, an interest in the subjects as a whole.

2. Creativity

Secondly, if you’re going to be designing buildings, you need to be creative. You might not always be designing something on par with The Shard or the Tate Modern, but every building requires unique and careful design. Therefore, creative flair is a key skill for any structural engineer.

3. Project management 

It’s likely you’ll be managing projects from the design process, right down to their completion. This means you need to be organised, work to deadlines, check in with the team and be able to manage your budget. The ability to take leadership and project manage is vital.

4. Teamwork and communication 

Furthermore, you need to be able to work well as part of a team. After all, the construction of a building is rarely a one-man job! But importantly, you also need to be able to communicate well, listening to others’ suggestions and keep everyone up to date on the progress of the project. That includes your team, employer and your client.

5. Attention to detail and problem solving

Again, designing and constructing a building comes with a great deal of responsibility. There are a number of safety checks you’ll have to pass and you may face challenges on the way. Because of this, another important skill is attention to detail. You need to be aware of the finer details and be able to adapt and fix any problems that occur. This is particularly true when you’re working to tight deadlines and want to minimise any delays in the construction stages.

In summary

Building a career in structural engineering requires you to be a driven and skilled individual. There are a number of entry routes into the industry, though a degree could be your quickest option. It’s vital that you are creative, communicative and a problem solver. After all, constructing buildings is no small task!

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