Civil Vs Structural Engineering 2021

civil vs structural engineering

Civil Vs Structural Engineering 2021

This article is a comparison of civil engineering and structural engineering. These two disciplines are often confused. This is because they really appear similar. However, there are big differences between civil and structural engineering.

Just like a Civil Engineer, a Structural Engineer is in the business of construction. Suffice it to say, Structural Engineering is a branch of Civil Engineering. However, despite the similarities, both professions differ mildly. In this article put together by, we’ll look at the points where Civil Engineering meets Structural Engineering and the points where they differ.

Let’s assume you’re working on a commercial building project or you’re designing a bridge to be built in your city. Do you need a civil engineer or a structural engineer for these projects? Your first notion may be to assume that the commercial building project needs a structural engineer because it is… well, a structure. Likewise, you may assume that the bridge needs a civil engineer, because it’s “relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns” (as goes the definition of ‘civil’). But the answer isn’t that simple!

The difference between civil engineering and structural engineering is very technical if you don’t have an understanding of these two lines of work. To try to put it simply, all structural engineers are civil engineers, but not all civil engineers are structural engineers. Confusing right? I bet you are.

In this article, we will do a comparative analysis of civil vs structural engineering, including their area of expertise, education, the type of work they do, and their respective function.

How To Become A Civil Engineer

Civil engineering is an amazing career on each step of the professional ladder.

Whether holding a bachelor’s degree and starting out with entry-level positions or moving into teaching like a seasoned professional, there are various pathways that can be taken.

The different ways to become a civil engineer include:

#1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering

#2. Complete a civil engineering internship

#3. Choose a specialty/concentration

#4. Successfully pass relevant exams for certification

#5. Land an entry-level job

#1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering

Bachelor’s degrees in Civil Engineering serve as the fundamental level of education. Under such programs, students take courses in mathematics, engineering, statistics, fluid dynamics, and architectural design.

They learn through a variety of mediums, including class lectures, internships or co-ops, and on-site fieldwork.

In a bachelor’s degree, students have the chance to concentrate their knowledge in a distinct area through specialized coursework and a research project.

#2. Complete a civil engineering internship

Almost all programs require at least one semester or summer-long internship to fulfill degree requirements. Students use these experiences to apply theories they’ve learned in the classroom, learn practical skills, and gain insight into a particular area of the field they may be interested in pursuing.

These opportunities also serve students well for future employment, enabling them to network with other professionals, receive a guide from a top Civil Engineer, and perhaps input their expertise into a job after graduation.

The majority of internships end in the junior or senior year of study.

#3. Choose a specialty/concentration

Because the field is vast, most students elect to concentrate in a particular area. Some of the common specialties include construction engineering, structural engineering, land development, and use, transportation engineering, or geotechnical engineering, and a whole lot more.

Undergraduates typically spend 12 to 18 credit hours completing special topics in these areas, and may even complete an internship centered on their chosen specialization.

#4. Successfully pass relevant exams for certification

Civic Engineers who wish to offer their services openly must go through the following steps to be properly licensed. While specific rules are governed by individual states, some of the most common requirements for civil engineering certification include:

  1. Attend an ABET-accredited institution.
  2. Undergo the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination directly after completing a baccalaureate degree.
  3. Become a Civic Engineering (CE) intern, also known as an Engineer-in-Training (EIT).
  4. Complete a minimum number of professional hours, meet benchmarks along the way and complete the Principles and Practices of Engineering (PE) examination to become a CE Professional.
  5. The American Society of Civil Engineers offers assistance to civil engineers in practice with a variety of test preparation aid and information about testing centers. Hence, you have to give the proper amount of time to studying and planning for these examinations.

#5. Land an entry-level job

After taking on a number of internships programs during college and completing the Engineer-in-Training phase, it’s possible that individuals will obtain a good number of contacts within the field through their networking efforts.

In Civil engineering, your networking strength determines a whole lot. That is to say, moving into the first professional role is typically achieved through existing contacts.

Therefore, all students and interns should make sure they are doing their best work, asking questions, learning practical skills, and meeting as many professionals as attainable.

What Does Civil Engineers Do?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), civil engineers “design, construct, supervise, operate and maintain large construction projects and systems, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment,”.

Furthermore, Civil Engineers may also take on-site preparation activities, such as excavation, earthmoving, and grading for large construction projects.

Also, civil engineers may oversee or write the specifications for harmful or nondestructive testing of the performance, reliability, and long-term durability of materials and structures.

Asides the regular office work, Civil Engineers also go to project sites to supervise construction.

Civil Engineers speak about projects to ruling boards and the general public. They also write documents about the project like responses to requests for proposals, status updates, and technical reports.

In addition to a college degree, Civil Engineers who sign off on project plans or supervise other civil engineers must be licensed in line with the rules stipulated by state governments.

Licensing rules include several exams and require years of work experience. In the end, licensed civil engineers earn the appellation of a professional engineer (or PE).

How Much Does A Civil Engineer Earn? | Salary, Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics posits that most states have enforced mandatory continuing education requirements to maintain a license. Credit may be given for attending seminars, participating in workshops, and completing online classes.

According to the BLS, civil engineers can expect an 11% rise in jobs between 2016 and 2026. Furthermore, the median annual salary for civil engineers was $86,640 in May 2018.

What is Structural Engineering?

Structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering that is concerned both with the framework of structures and with the design of these structures to be stable and sustainable.

The structural engineer’s job, therefore, is to plan structures that will withstand the stress and pressure of the environment they are built so as to remain solid.

The structural designs are blended with those of other designers such as architects and building services engineers and often supervise the construction of projects by contractors on site.

They can also be involved in the design of machinery, medical equipment, and vehicles where structural integrity affects functioning and safety.

So, the idea of Structural Engineering theory is the application of physical laws and empirical knowledge of the structural performance of distinct materials and geometrics.

Hence, Structural Engineers will need to fully understand applied mechanics, material science, and mathematics.

A knowledge of these courses helps them understand and predict how structures support and resist self-weight and imposed loads.

What Are The Requirements To Become A Structural Engineer?

To become a structural engineer, you need to satisfy certain educational and licensing requirements. In every country, you must meet the same educational requirement of at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify you for entry-level structural engineering jobs.

That is to say, a bachelor’s degree in Structural Engineering or a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering is a must.

For those who might want to climb higher, a Master of Science degree or even a Master of Business Administration will be ideal. With a master’s degree, you’re fit to hold senior-level managerial positions.

As a Structural Engineer, you need to have a Professional Engineer (PE) licensure. Getting this license involves passing the National Council of Exams for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) conducts.

The first licensing test is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam or the Engineer in Training (EIT) exam. Usually, you’ll take this test before graduation. Once you’ve scaled through, you can get entry-level jobs as a structural engineer.

The next licensure test is the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. This is the one you will take after four years of experience working with a licensed engineer. The experience requirements may vary by state.

In the UK you’ll need to charter to become a successful structural engineer. The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) is the body that awards the title of Chartered Structural Engineer.

To become a chartered Structural Engineer in the UK you have to complete a UK MEng or BEng with an MSc degree.

Afterward, you will go through four years of Initial Professional Development and a professional review interview after the four years.

Once you pass the interview, you will take an eight-hour professional review examination which passing it will earn you a chartered membership (MIStructE).

What Do Structural Engineers Do

Before you understand what structural engineers do, you need to realize that they are responsible for the construction of buildings, bridges, pipelines, industrial, tunnels, vehicles, ships, aircraft, and spacecraft.

This is because ‘structure’ is the hallmark of infrastructures. Thus, according to Wikipedia, Structural Engineers are responsible for engineering design and structural analysis.

So, Structural Engineers examine and design the gravity support and lateral force resistance of buildings, bridges, and other structures.

Here’s an outline of the job description of structural engineers:

#1. Preparing reports, designs, and drawings.

#2. Making calculations about pressures, loads, and stresses.

#3. Considering the strength of construction materials and choosing appropriately.

#4. Providing technical advice on safe designs and construction to clients.

#5. Securing planning and/or building regulations approval from relevant bodies.

#6. Analyzing the configurations of the basic elements of a structure.

#7. Liaising with other professionals on the field such as architects and engineers.

#8. Monitoring and inspecting all the work contractors do to guarantee their structural soundness.

#9. Administering contracts and execute projects.

#10. Inspecting properties to assess the conditions and foundations.

#11. Using computer-aided design.

How Much Does A Structural Engineer Earn? | Salary, Job Outlook

Now the question is, after all the years of educational and initial professional experience, how much will I earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), structural engineers in the UK earn $86,640 annually as salary. In 2018, 326,800 were available for civil engineers and it is estimated to grow by 6% from 2018-2028.

On the other hand, Glassdoor gives the salary of structural engineers in the USA as $71,198 per year. This salary increases by education level and organization. For example, a structural engineer at WAI (Weidlinger Associates) earns an average of $91,351 yearly.

In the UK, however, Glassdoor predicts that a Graduate Structural Engineer will earn £28,652 yearly. On the other hand, Senior Structural Engineer Salaries in London will earn £45,448 yearly.

Civil vs structural engineering: Area of expertise

We can find the difference between civil engineers and structural engineers when we look at their area of expertise. Civil engineers can be involved in different types of projects and aspects of projects than structural engineers.

The area of expertise involved in Civil engineering includes:

#1. Structural

#2. Urban planning

#3. Environmental

#4. Geotechnical

#5. Water Resources

#6. Transportation

#7. Construction

#8. Material

Structural engineers are specifically involved in some of those areas of expertise, as they can help design:

#1. A dam wall

#2. A bridge structure for a road system

#3. Structures for a water treatment plant, etc.

Structural engineers are essentially focused on the materials used for constructing structures and they help select and design the appropriate construction material for a given class or type of structure. Some of the most commonly used structural materials, which will be selected based on the needs of the project, include timber, concrete, steel, and masonry.

Structural engineers ensure that bridges don’t collapse and are structurally sound, while civil engineers ensure that things like annual flooding and potential traffic bottlenecks are taken into consideration during transportation planning.

Read: Civil Engineering Vs Computer Science 2021

Civil vs structural engineering: Education

Civil engineering is a four-year bachelor’s degree program offered by most colleges and universities and covers all or most of the areas of expertise previously mentioned (depending on the college or university). These areas of expertise are typically what an engineer would focus on in their junior and senior year of undergrad and can be furthered in their graduate studies if desired. They can be advanced specializations that are obtained after a student has attained their civil engineering bachelor’s degree and become a civil engineer.

This means that most structural engineers are civil engineers with a structural engineering specialization and most likely have at least 6 years of educational experience in the field.

When it comes to licensing and professional certifications, the United States requires all professional engineers who work for the public to hold a license that certifies they have the knowledge and skills required to design, construct, and maintain infrastructures. There are differences and overlaps between the licenses and certifications needed by civil engineers and structural engineers.

Both civil engineers and structural engineers, under the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying are required to complete a specified number of hours of field experience (with the amount varying by state).

Professional certifications that they can acquire (but aren’t required), respectively, include:

Professional Certification for Civil Engineers

Civil Engineers can receive certifications for 8 or more years of post-licensure experience and a Master’s degree, awarded by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Professional Certification for Structural Engineers

Structural Engineers can receive certifications for additional education, skills, and experience in structural engineering from the Structural Engineering Certification Board and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Civil and structural engineering: Type of work they do

Civil engineers and structural engineers will often be found working together to design and build efficient and safe infrastructures. The civil engineers are often responsible for the overall site design and coordination, while the structural engineers ensure that load-bearing members are appropriately sized and positioned to support the intended loading.

Civil engineers generally work in a variety of locations and conditions. It is common for them to split their time between working in an office and working at construction sites so that they can monitor operations or solve problems onsite. Civil engineers work closely with contractors, clients, and employees to ensure cohesiveness and efficiency. You’ll typically find them working on projects such as:

#1. Roads

#2. Bridges

#3. Buildings

#4. Sewage Systems

#5. Railways

#6. Airports

#7. Dams

#8. Canals and

#9. Pipelines

Structural engineers are typically called on when they are needed to approve materials for a design or need to help solve a structural problem. While many structural engineers would also be considered civil engineers, their education and experience allow them to focus on structural elements of projects, such as:

#1. Beams

#2. Columns

#3. Girders

#4. Shear walls

#5. Rafter

#6. Trusses

#7. Support systems

#8. Foundations

Civil engineer vs structural engineer: Their Functions

As we said before, structural engineers are civil engineers, but not all civil engineers are structural engineers. This means that their functions differ.

The functions performed by Civil engineers primarily include:

  • Site investigations and analysis
  • Technical and feasibility studies
  • Design layout and materials proposals
  • Preparation of construction documents and cost estimates
  • Construction site management
  • Regulatory compliance management
  • Risk management

Structural engineers functions can include all aspects of the civil engineer functions, plus:

  1. Area inspections and site appraisals
  2. Construction materials evaluations
  3. Building code implementation
  4. Building inspections
  5. Demolition management
  6. Damage assessments

Making a Choice Between Civil and structural engineering

So the burning question you probably have is- which do you need for your project? The answer is that you likely need both! Civil engineers and structural engineers work together to produce the most efficient, safe, and structurally sound projects. Contact us to discuss your project and we’ll work to ensure that you have the best engineers working on your project from start to finish.


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