Apprentice structural engineers work as construction team members to design and construct various structures and buildings.
As a structural engineer, you will design structures to withstand environmental and human-induced loads and stresses. You will ensure that buildings and other structures do not deflect, spin, vibrate, or collapse excessively and remain stable and safe throughout use. You’ll also check existing structures and buildings to verify whether they’re structurally sound and operating.
By collaborating with architects and other professional engineers, you will contribute to the design of most structures, such as dwellings, hospitals, office buildings, bridges, oil rigs, ships, and aeroplanes.
You’ll also be responsible for choosing the appropriate materials, such as concrete, steel, wood, and masonry, for meeting design specifications, and you’ll often be inspecting and advising contractors.
Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:
- develop engineering plans using computer software
- investigate the properties of building materials like glass, steel and concrete
- advise on which material is best for the job
- work out the loads and stresses on different parts of a building
- use computer models to predict how structures will react to the weather
- work out ways to improve energy efficiency
- inspect unsafe buildings and decide whether they should be demolished
- prepare bids for contract tenders
- supervise project teams
- give progress reports to clients and senior managers
- work out why and how buildings have collapsed, like after an earth.
- Your salary as an apprentice structural engineer will typically start from £26,000.
- With five years’ experience, you can earn up to £45,000 and higher once you become a chartered member, using the designation MIStructE.
- As a technical director, you can earn £65,000+.
Your working hours will usually be 9am to 5pm, 37 to 42 hours, Monday to Friday, with some occasional evening and weekend work where necessary.
You could work in an office, at a client’s business, on a construction site or on a demolition site.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and at height.
You may need to wear safety clothing and use safety equipment.
Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice structural engineer include:
- Level 6 Civil Engineer – Entry requirements for this level include 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship. This qualification takes 66 months to complete.
Afterwards you’ll take professional training to qualify in structural engineering.
On a structural engineer apprenticeship, you’ll learn:
- knowledge of engineering science and technology
- maths knowledge
- knowledge of building and construction
- design skills and knowledge
- excellent verbal communication skills
- complex problem-solving skills
- thinking and reasoning skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently.
The vast majority of structural engineers work for engineering firms, ranging from large multinational organisations to one-person operations. Large organisations often provide a comprehensive ‘design and build service, extensive training, a diverse range of professions, and opportunities for international travel. Smaller organisations, which usually contract engineers for projects, tend to specialise in specialised engineering fields and have a less geographically broad client base.
As an apprentice structural engineer, your goal will be to get the IStructE professional designations of Associate or Chartered Member.
You may take the ICE-accredited IPD and then the IStructE final exam, or you can pursue the direct training route recognised by IStructE. Many structural engineers get accreditation from both colleges because it gives them greater work flexibility later in their careers.
After obtaining professional status with the IStructE, you may choose to register with the Engineering Council and use the titles Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng) (CEng).
You’ll likely start as a construction designer and work your way up to project manager. You may operate alone or as part of a project team, interacting directly with the other construction specialists. Most big corporations have a formal advancement framework, but if you work for a smaller company, you may need to move positions to advance.