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Structural engineer

Alternative titles for this job include

Structural engineers help to design and build large structures and buildings, like hospitals, sports stadiums and bridges.

Average salary (a year)

£24,000 Starter

to

£55,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

37 to 42 a week

You could work

between 8am and 6pm

Meet Niklas

Find out what Niklas does each day as a wind turbine structural engineer.

3 minute 15 second watch

View transcript

As an engineer, you have the opportunity to really contribute to society by developing a certain field of technology and it's often not considered in that way by the society how big the impact is that engineers have on their life.

My name is Niklas Meyn, I'm a structural engineer at ACT Blade and we're designing wind turbine blades. So this starts with making usually a model for what we are planning to design or build. And then we are finding strategies how to analyse if that structure that we're planning to do is going to survive the loads that we see on an actual wind turbine site. And then based on that we can optimise the structure that we're building.

Once we're happy with a design, we would be running it through a simulation programme, which allows us to predict how the blade behaves on a turbine on an actual wind site. And we would go through a couple of these cycles until we are satisfied with the results and to the point where we have an optimised wind turbine blade.

We can't continue with the energy production how it is done today. We see the impact that climate change has already. Wind turbine blades are just a huge opportunity for the society that can offer a massive supply of energy, which is completely sustainable.

The wind turbine behind us, for example, is greater than 7 megawatts with a diameter of 170 meters. And at the moment, the industry is trialing the first double-digit wind turbines meaning they produce 10 megawatts or more. And they usually have a diameter of 200 metre, 210, 220 metres. Thus operating a 10 megawatt wind turbine for an hour provides electricity for 5 households for a year. And this is in just one hour of operation of the wind turbine.

At ACT Blade, we've chosen a completely different approach to designing wind turbine blades. It's completely different from what the industry does at the moment. The background of our company is the sailing industry. So we have been supplying sail makers and ship designers with a toolbox that allowed them to design sails and optimise them for a certain type of ship.

So we want to carry this technology forward onto wind turbine blades to make them more lightweight than what they are at the moment. And it's a major contributor to the cost is how stiff you have to design the blade. So the textiles that we are using and also the ones that are used in the sailing industry are very, very flexible. That helps us to keep the cost down.

If you want to improve from the current status quo, and this is what we all thrive to do. You need to do research to do that. It is worth doing all of the research, although a lot of it fails just for the few cases where it is successful, and where you as a society you find a new way forward,

It's exciting just to be part of the industry that tries to make energy production and living on Earth more sustainable in the future.

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become Structural engineer

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

University

You can do a degree or postgraduate course in:

  • structural engineering
  • architectural engineering
  • civil and structural engineering

You might have an advantage if you do a course that includes an internship or a year in industry placement. Your university careers service can advise on how to find relevant work experience.

You can find accredited courses through the Engineering Council.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including maths and a science for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More Information

College

You could do a college course in civil engineering. This might help you to find work as a trainee structural engineer. You'll then need to do more training on the job to qualify.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for these courses vary.

More Information

Apprenticeship

You could apply to do a Civil Engineer Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship and take professional training afterwards to qualify as a structural engineer.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship

More Information

Work

You could start as a civil engineering technician and study for a degree qualification while you're working.

More Information

Career tips

If you're 11 to 18 years old, you can do 'taster' days and short residential courses with the Engineering Development Trust (EDT).

This will give you an idea of what it's like to study and work in engineering.

Professional and industry bodies

You can become a member of The Institution of Structural Engineers.

Further information

You can find out more about careers in structural engineering from The Institution of Structural Engineers and Go Construct.

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • 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

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

As a structural engineer  you could:

  • develop engineering plans using computer software
  • investigate the properties of building materials like glass, steel and concrete
  • work out the loads and stresses on different parts of a building
  • use computer models to predict how structures will react to the weather
  • inspect unsafe buildings and decide whether they should be demolished
  • work out why and how buildings have collapsed

Possible green job

This job could help the environment.

For a structural engineer to be a green job, you could:

  • create energy efficient building designs
  • recommend the use of low-carbon materials like sustainably sourced timber and recycled steel
  • design structures which can be used to generate sustainable energy

Find out more about green careers

Working environment

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.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

You could move into:

  • construction design
  • project management
  • research or lecturing
  • freelance consultancy work, like providing services to building insurers
  • work on construction and engineering projects overseas, with disaster relief agencies

You could also specialise in:

  • renewable energy projects
  • sustainable building materials
  • forensics, where you investigate why a building or structure has failed

Current opportunities

Find apprenticeships, courses and jobs available near you.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Apprentice Land Surveyor

  • Wage: £12,000 a year Annually
  • Location: Carlton, Nuneaton

Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeship in Central London

  • Wage: £16,500 a year Annually
  • Location: London

Courses In England

Civil Engineering — BTEC Level 3 Diploma

  • Provider: THE CITY OF LIVERPOOL COLLEGE
  • Start date: 09 September 2024
  • Location: LIVERPOOL

Civil Engineering BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma

  • Provider: WIGAN AND LEIGH COLLEGE
  • Start date: 02 September 2024
  • Location: Wigan

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