Have you ever wondered how The Shard stands up despite the enormous wind stress from vortex shedding? The answer is simple — structural engineers.
Structural engineers decide what type of system is used in load bearing walls and frames, the placement of vertical bracings or shear walls, floor-to-floor heights, roof and floor penetration, exterior cladding, and more.
The job needs physics & mathematics, designs and drawings, load calculations and structural analysis. It’s a challenging role, but a rewarding one.
If you want to become a structural engineer, you are in the right place. In this article, we’re going to answer all the questions you might have about becoming a structural engineer.
So, how do you become a structural engineer?
- Via a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering, civil engineering, or architectural engineering
- By getting a Level 5 Higher National Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment (Civil Engineering at college)
- Or a Civil engineer degree apprenticeship
- Or by working in the construction field and gradually rising in rank, while gathering qualifications
Is structural engineering a rewarding field in the United Kingdom? Can you earn a living from it? What’s the career path and progression? Can you expect to move to a senior managerial position in a couple of years in the field?
Can you become a structural engineer without a degree? And what are the best structural engineering courses in the UK?
This article explores everything you need to know about becoming a structural engineer in the UK and much more.
Let’s get started.
Structural Engineer Career Paths
Major construction projects initiated in 2022, like the Toblerone Mixed-Use Towers and Maidenhead Mixed-Use Community, have sky-rocked the demand for structural engineers. With buildings becoming increasingly complex, it is the job of structural engineers to design and construct physical structures that can withstand external pressures.
Structural engineers can choose from a wide range of career paths. For example, they can become a design engineer, industry engineer/product engineer, consulting engineer, field engineer/inspector, construction manager or project manager. If they don’t want to directly use their degree in the construction industry, they can even become a maths teacher.
These job titles come with somewhat different job descriptions, but they all need the skills and knowledge that structural engineers have. For example, a structural design engineer focuses on finding safe and economical specifications for a structure, while a field structural engineer reviews drawings and construction plans to find flaws.
Here are some other career paths you can pursue:
- Civil Structural Engineer
- BIM/Revit Engineer
- Stress Analyst
- Structural Analysis Engineer
- Stress Engineer
- Specialty Structural Engineer
- Forensic Engineering
- Bridge Engineering
- A/E Firm
- Private/Freelance Consulting
- Structural Steel Engineer
- Forensic Structural Engineer
- Material Review Board (MRB) engineer
- Nautical structural engineer
- Aeronautical Structural Engineer
- Oil & Gas Structural Engineer
You need at least a bachelor’s degree to get a job in any of these subdisciplines of structural engineering.
It is possible to pursue structural engineering with an undergraduate degree in a related field (i.e., mechanical engineering). However, you then need to complete a postgraduate degree in structural engineering and gain relevant work experience. You must be well versed in courses like hydraulics, mechanics of materials, structural steel design, loads and design safety and system design concepts to secure a job as a structural engineer.
More than just the basic roles
Structural engineering specialisations include:
- Building structures
- Earthquake engineering
- Facade engineering
- Fire engineering
- Roof engineering
- Tower engineering
- Wind engineering
- Aerospace structures
- Civil engineering structures
- Nanoscale structures
- Mechanical structures
- Structural engineering for medical science
- Earthquake engineering structures
- Sustainable building materials or forensics
- Conservation projects
- Military engineering
Let’s talk about the pay scale of structural engineers in the UK:
|Entry Level Structural Engineer||£23K/year|
|Graduate Structural Engineer||£25K/year|
|Chartered Structural Engineer||£58K/year|
|Project Manager Structural Engineer||£50,748/year|
|Senior Structural Engineer||£72K/year|
The average salary of a structural engineer comes to be around £45,000/year.
Structural Engineer Career Progression
After your undergraduate degree, you must register with the Institution of Structural Engineers. Now you can get a job as a graduate structural engineer and work under the direct supervision of an experienced senior engineer.
To move to a senior management position, you must obtain a Chartered Engineer (CE) license in the UK or a Professional Engineer (PE) license in the US. You can now approve design plans, sign off on projects, oversee a team of civil/structural engineers, and much more.
A typical structural engineering career progression looks like this:
- Years 0-4 — Undergraduate degree study
- Years 4 – 6 — Apprenticeship/ Engineer in Training/Entry-level Structural Engineer
- Year 6 onwards — Senior Structural Engineer positions
- Chartered Structural Engineer
- Project Manager Structural Engineer
The precise job titles will depend on the company you work for and any specialisation that you choose.
Qualifications Needed To Be A Structural Engineer
|Route||Course(s)||Entry requirements||Where to find|
Civil and Structural Engineering
|2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including maths and a science subject for an undergraduate degree
A degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
|College||Level 5 Higher National Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment (Civil Engineering) at college||1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a higher national certificate or higher national diploma|
|Apprenticeship||Civil engineer degree apprenticeship||4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship|
|Work||Start as a civil or construction engineering technician and study for a degree qualification while you’re working.||–||
Source: National Careers Service
How To Become A Structural Engineer Without A Degree?
You can learn the basics of structural engineering like structural analysis methods, drafting, etc., without a university degree. However, you won’t be able to work as a licensed structural engineer.
The reason is that this field is all about designing structures (buildings, roads, bridges, etc.), and even the slightest mistake in a load calculation can cause casualties. You can be good at load calculations and structural designs, but licensed engineers will always have the final say.
Here are a few platforms that can help you with learning the basic concepts of structural engineering:
Note: All these courses are not professional qualifications in any way and will not allow you to work professionally.
After some self-study, you might be able to score an internship or apprenticeship under a Chartered Structural Engineer. This will allow you to get hands-on experience on different public works projects. Despite all the experience, you still need a bachelor’s degree to be called a structural engineer.
The Best Structural Engineering Courses In The UK
|Civil and Structural Engineering||University of Manchester||Master of Engineering (with Honours) – MEng (Hon)||4 years||Masters|
|Civil and Structural Engineering||University of Bradford||Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) – BEng (Hon)||3 years||Undergraduate|
|Civil and Structural Engineering — full-time with a year in industry||University of Leeds||Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) – BEng (Hon)||4 years||Undergraduate|
|Structural Engineering||Heriot-Watt University||Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) – BEng (Hon)||BEng: 4 years/BEng: 5 years||Undergraduate/Masters|
|Civil and Structural Engineering||University of Aberdeen||Master of Engineering (with Honours) – MEng (Hon)||5 years||Masters|
|Structural and Architectural Engineering||University of Bath||Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) – BEng (Hon)||4 years||Undergraduate|
|Structural Engineering with Architecture||The University of Edinburgh||Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) – BEng (Hon)||4 years||Undergraduate|
|Civil and Structural Engineering||The University of Sheffield||BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering
MEng Architectural Engineering
MEng Architectural Engineering Design
MEng Civil Engineering
MEng Civil and Structural Engineering
MEng Structural Engineering and Architecture
|–||BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering
MEng Civil and Structural EngineeringMEng Structural Engineering and Architecture
|Advanced Diploma in Structural Engineering||College of Contract Management||Advanced Diploma in Structural Engineering||–||Diploma|
You can also find more structural engineering courses by searching via UCAS.
Structural engineering continues to revolutionise the appearance and durability of the structures around us. It is the backbone of all structures, small or large. Every building, be it a huge skyscraper or a detached home in the suburbs, needs a well-laid-out structural design to withstand the forces of nature.
Structural engineers need reports, designs and drawings to perform proper load calculations and structural analysis. Managing all these documents has been made easier thanks to PlanRadar.
PlanRadar is construction management software that helps structural engineers keep track of all design documents, plans, guides, manuals, warranties and more in one place – across project planning, construction and operation.
Furthermore, you can track project progress, collaborate with your team and solve problems for a seamless build.
Try PlanRadar free for 30 days, or get in touch with us to book a consultation with one of our expert consultants.