Structural Engineer Salary, Career Forecast, Trends, and Training

If you like numbers, structure, building things, and are analytical and curious about how things are done, you may find structural engineering, which falls under civil engineering, is a particularly fascinating area.

Job Duties and Skills for Structural Engineers

Structural engineers must be able to understand complex concepts, have extremely well-developed analytical thinking skills, excel at math, communicate well with customers and colleagues, and find creative solutions to engineering problems. Most engineers work in comfortable office environments, but are also expected to do on-site work and supervision at project sites. Travel might be required as needed by the employer. A 40-hour work week is standard, but evening and weekend work might be necessary to meet deadlines.

Salary Information for Structural Engineers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median structural engineer salary in 2009 was $76,590, and the highest-paid structural engineers earn more than $118,320. However, according to Salary.com, the median base structural engineer salary for entry-level positions is $52,911, suggesting that earnings vary by employer, place of residence, and experience.

The states of Alaska, Washington, and Colorado have the highest concentration of structural engineers. In 2009, salaries were the highest in Washington D.C. ($93,790), California ($67,960), and Texas ($87,950).

The following metropolitan areas offer the highest salaries for structural engineers:

  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA in California ($104,110)
  • Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown in Texas ($102,990)
  • Midland in Texas ($99,810).

The top-paying employers of structural engineers are architectural and engineering firms and state and local governments. In 2008, governments at the local, state and federal level employed roughly 12 percent of engineers in all specialty areas, including structural engineering.

How to Become a Structural Engineer

A bachelor's degree in engineering from a four-year institution is required to enter the field. During the course of their careers, many structural engineers obtain master's degrees in order to move into senior, executive, or supervisory positions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a license is required to work as an engineer in any field or specialization in the U.S. The requirements to begin the licensing process to become a Professional Engineer (PE) include a bachelor's degree from an accredited engineering program and four years of work experience in the engineering field. Recent college graduates can start the process towards certification while they gain work experience. To become licensed as a PE, applicants must also pass a written exam.

The BLS predicts employment for structural engineers to grow 24 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This is largely related to the country's need for continued building of public buildings and infrastructure.

Structural engineering seems to be a promising and secure career path with excellent growth potential and a very attractive salary.