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Structural engineers around the world

Structural engineers around the world

(OP)
Hi all,

Just wondering if there are any structural engineers (architectural buildings) out there that have experiences practicing in multiple countries/continents (mainly in big cities) and could share some of their experience in terms of:

Salary, working hours, cultures, how structural engineers are viewed, level of hierarchy, work load, level of complexity in the projects or other different aspects.

I'm a junior structural engineer and would really like to know some of the differences around the world. I know some colleagues (junior level) in different countries, some just design simple span beams all day for 10 hours, while some get to run participate in all aspects of the projects - refering to structural engineering discpline. I want to know if these are just individual cases or are these related to the differences in the cities and countries we work in.

Thanks

RE: Structural engineers around the world

i'll tell you in six months, lol

RE: Structural engineers around the world

tvboy,

I have worked in Australia, England and the US.

Most of the issues that effect engineers in the US are also applicable in the other countries. In each country there are opportunities to do any of the broad spectrum of engineering that you have described.

High rise buildings are not as common in Australia and the UK as they are in the US so if that is the type of work you want to do then US definately has the most opportunities.

Seismic is not so much of an issue in Australia and the UK as it is in the US so the codes are not as stringent.

The codes in Australia are not as comprehensive as they are in the US which is both good and bad. On the one hand it gives you more freedom in your design without having to comply with a multitude of code clauses, on the other hand it requires that you use more engineering judgement in certain cases.

A and E firms tend to be less common in the UK and extremely rare in Australia. Separate engineering companies are the norm.

All other countries (that I know of) except the US use metric calculations and measurements.

Salaries tend to be a bit higher in the US than either of the other countries. They tend to work you just as hard at the larger companies although the focus is on productivity not on hours spent (if you get your job done in the minimum 38 hours then they are usually happy for you to work that).
A bonus is that you get 4 weeks annual leave rather than the ridiculous 2 that you get in the US.

Structural/Civil engineering is one of the most exportable professions and you can pretty much work anywhere in the world. In many countries, english is a standard professional working language so language is not normally an issue.

RE: Structural engineers around the world

(OP)
Thanks csd72 for sharing your experience.  I very much agree with you last statement.  However, do you think familiarity (or lack of) with local codes is an issue with potential employers?  I just started my career for a year, and while I very much want to explore engineering around the world, I am apprehensive about the fact that potential employers might see the lack of local code familiarity as an issue (particularly at the junior level).  In my personal opinion, while codes are part of engineers work, I think technical skills and peoples skills are the more important, but then again, I don't know how employers might see this.    

Another question.  From your experience, what is your opinion regarding working in a city where seismic design are everyday life, vs in a city where seimic is not an issue.  Do you think it is an important knowledge/experience to have if one is to pursue a career in various countries?

Does anyone have experience working in Asia (Japan, Korea, Singapore, China)?  I notice a lot of UK and US firms do work on high profile projects in China.  Those seem really interestings.  

RE: Structural engineers around the world

tvboy,

whether or no code familiarity depends on the employer. Every time I have switched countries I have faced people who thought it was going to be an issue and have also found people who didnt. You will need to make it clear that you are willing to do a bit of work in your own time to get up to speed (usually take a book home for the first couple of weeks will do it).

A bigger issue for overseas placements is whether or not you have spent any extended time overseas before. They will be worried that you might get homesick and want to quit.

I would recommend that you get at least 2 or 3 years experience before you start working overseas as it will not only help you get the job over there, but will also help you get a job when you get back.

I dont know much about Japan or Korea. Singapore is easy to work in, lots of work, everyone speaks english. e.t.c. I believe that the design work for china is usually done in the home country of the engineer (e.g. Australia or the UK) and the people based in china are ussually only to manage/inspect the construction.

If you have specific questions regarding china, my sister is working there as an architect si I should be able to get you some answers.

Seismic is a big issue in many countries, it just happens that UK and Australia are not. Your education and experience in the US is very valuable in other seismic countries where that type of experience and knowledge is not as prevalent.

RE: Structural engineers around the world

(OP)
csd72,

How do you see the difference amoungst the different countries in terms of how projects are run?  (although I guess this has to do with project scope and size)  From what I have seen in my limited experience in the industry is that at the junior level, the junior engineer gets assigned one or two projects and deals specifically to those, while from what I heard, in other countries, the junior engineers get a specific task (say design all the slabs) and does it for a number of projects. Is this true ?


Which do you think is more important early on in the career?  Be given lots of responsiblity and get a chance to design all the structural aspects of a building, or getting involved in big high profile projects (even if it means a much smaller involvement - perhaps just designing only small bits of the job).  I ask this becasue from discussion with other colleagues (junior level), it seems the ones who work in the big structural firms, they get to work on high profile jobs, but their work is very repetitive usually just designing beams and columns, and no chance to do anything other than that.  Others who work in small/medium sized firms, get to do all the design, client contacts, coordinations etc. (of course under supervision).

If ultimately one's goal long term is to design/manage/oversee design of high profile architectural building projects, what route do you see as more appropriate? Work in a firm that lets you do all aspects of the project and develope some skills, even if it means working in a smaller/medium sized firm and then switch later to a big firms, or just start off in the big firms even if it means you have limited role in the projects to start off with.  

RE: Structural engineers around the world

tvboy,

I believe it is more a factor of project/company size than with the countries.

In a small company you are more likely to be exposed to the full spectrum of engineering.The downside is that you will not be involved in the large prestigious projects.

Experience at a smaller firm doing overall design of smaller projects is invaluable at building your engineering skills at a junior level. after a couple of years of doing this you will be in a better position to go for the types of roles that you want.

Smaller project knowledge is not directly transferrable to larger projects, but it is a good stepping stone. There is always a learning curve.

Dont forget the career part of the profession. When you stop learning where you are, then that means it is time to look for a different role. My wife summed it up when she once said, "If you know how to do the role that you are going for then maybe you should be going for a higher position".

RE: Structural engineers around the world

(OP)
Anyone else want to kindly share some of their experience as well?  Thanks

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