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First Job in Structural Engineering
19

First Job in Structural Engineering

First Job in Structural Engineering

(OP)
I'm about to start my first job in the world of structural engineering. I graduated in june of last year, and after working for a contractor for some months, I have decided that I want to try structural engineering before it's too late.

Even though it's been less than a year since I graduated, I have already forgot a lot of the more technical details of structural analysis and design. I have my EIT and I took a lot of my coursework in structures so I'm sure I can recall a lot of it with some practice.

I was just wondering if any structural engineers read this, if you put yourself in my shoes and were about to start a new job you're a bit nervous for: What would you review before starting? What knowledge is most useful or used?

I know I will be learning a lot and will probably have to ask a lot of questions, but I really don't want to appear clueless when I first arrive.

Any help is appreciated!

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Don't be afraid to admit when you don't know something. Also, make sure you spend the time to find an answer before you go asking your coworkers for help. You should go to your supervisor/coworkers with a problem/question as well as possible solutions, and seek guidance for which solution is correct/the best option.

Edit: Also, it can be very helpful to familiarize yourself with the topics/documents you'll be using in your day to day. If you're going to be doing lots of steel design, then flip through the codes, textbooks, and read forum posts here. That way when a question comes up in the office you'll know where to look first. It's important to be resourceful and know where to look to find answers and solve problems. Knowing the answers when the question is first asked will come with experience.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

If you had a class in the subject, then that material will probably come back very quickly with a short review or when you get your first project in it.

If you're like most new grads, you know next-to-nothing about loads, so you might consider starting there. Get a copy of ASCE 7 and hopefully some examples.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

To answer your question, review hand methods for calculating things. Beam capacities, load takeoffs, unit conversion factors, column capacities. You'll probably transition into using some sort of software pretty quickly so it'll help you recognize when you've modeled something incorrectly.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

What kind of space will you be working in? Architectural? Industrial? Transportation?

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

(OP)
Judging from what I know of their work portfolio, they seem to do mainly residential/architectural structures, anywhere from a large house to 20-30 story apartment/office buildings, or the odd industrial warehouse.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

I recommend the books shown below, in that order. All easy reads. If you did just the first three, cover to cover, you'd be at least four years ahead of your cohorts. For many, it feels like the most important thing is mastery of technical matters. Really, most juniors lack right of the gate is:

1) Knowledge of how buildings go together in the real world.
2) How to manage a project so that it is successful from both your and your clients' perspective.
3) What matters to the other disciplines involved in a project and will, consequently, matter to you.
4) What assumptions are typically made in the design of buildings.

Truly, I wish that someone had done this for me back in the late 90's. Of course, I was tool then and probably wouldn't have listened. Kudos to you for seeking this kind of assistance in the first place.

I read the Underwood book recently and loved it. Usually, in my mind, "structure for architects" = my wheelhouse for dummies. Not so with this book. I found it to be such a good entry level structural book that I question it's value to architects. I think that it would be over their heads / beyond their needs to a large degree. It's a fun read and hits a lot of the "how do engineers look at this problem" buttons. If a new grad engineer came to me understanding the entire content of this book, I'd be thrilled.






I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

0) Get half a dozen representative, PDF drawings from your employer. Read them thoroughly and when you show up at the job, ask people to explain anything that you didn't understand the reasoning for. Knowing how a set of efficient drawings goes together is a must. And it's almost impossible to make money on anything unless you kind of know what it's going to look like before hand.

5) If you expect to do much light frame wood at all, I highly recommend the book below. I have considerable wood frame experience and even I learned quite a bit from this book. Wood framing can actually be especially difficult to understand because the associated structural drawings are usually very sparse, often for reason of available fee. The books geared toward Californa construction but much of it will apply anywhere in North America.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Find out what the client wants, what you have to work with, and when your work is needed.

Learn proper nomenclature for residentical framing so you can intelligently talk to the Architect and contractor.

If you have questions, ask, no not assume. Assuming could come back to bite you.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Don't put pressure on yourself to have all the answers when you are starting out. You'll soak it in as you go. In fact, if a fresh grad walked into my office on their first day acting like he or she had all the answers already, they would need to be "re-calibrated". Like others said, ask lot's of questions and practice active listening. Obviously, engineers like answering questions and supporting each other's continuing education, since this forum alone has nearly 70,000 members!

In my opinion, knowing where to find the answers is just as valuable as having the answers. If you can spend some time now to generally familiarize yourself with reference documents, codes and standards, etc, you will have a good idea of what resources are available and applicable to various design aspects. Mapping out and scoping out resources is as worth your time and effort as anything else at this stage in the game.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Knowing what your design office does would be a start. if they do a lot of wood.....heavily review that.

I think one of the most important things to bring to the table is a good attitude. Having that will go a long way. I've worked at a lot of places where they pitch a lot of s@#t at the young guys......and you've got to be ready to take that with a smile. That (along with a strong work ethic) will go a long way.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

3
I think universities often give engineering students and fresh graduates the false impression that they know how to do the job they're about to embark on. In reality, though, what they've really done is help you learn to think.

You'll learn as much, or more, in the next four years than you learned in the previous four, so don't sweat it too much.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Quote (bones 206)

Don't put pressure on yourself to have all the answers when you are starting out.

I still don't have all the answers, and, I've been at it for over 45 years...

Dik

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

KootK:

Ron, of Eng-tips has a fairly decent book out that is fairly comprehensive. I've actually read it cover to cover and have loaned it to a dozen or so engineers. I cannot give you the title, it's currently out on loan.

Dik

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

@dik is it "Principles and Practices of Commercial Construction" by Woods, Andres and Smith?

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Thanks dik. It's on my iPad now. No way I'm not going to own any book written by Ron. Hopefully he just eared $0.32 on my $103.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Shotzie: could be... sounds like it... don't have it in front of me. The book is very diverse.
KootZ: you won't regret your purchase... and, I understand there is a new edition out.

Dik

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Arghhh..... no, it comes up in May.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

KootK: Thanks... you can wait... Dik

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

No, I can't. I already made the purchase of the old one.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

KootK... the old one is good, but...

Dik

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Huh... Amazon let me cancel the purchase. I wonder how they get it off my iPad. Interestingly, my helper was named Alexa.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Sorry Ron... he's the sort of guy that would have bought both editions...

Dik

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

You're right, I would have if they'd forced my hand. Of course, for $206, we're getting close to where I'd rather just fly down to Florida and take Ron out for lunch.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

3

Quote (kipfoot)

I think universities often give engineering students and fresh graduates the false impression that they know how to do the job they're about to embark on. In reality, though, what they've really done is help you learn to think.

You'll learn as much, or more, in the next four years that you learned in the previous four, so don't sweat it too much.

Agree so much with this. Important part in school is the fundamentals and general frame of mind and making sure they're second nature by graduation. Codes often change, fundamentals usually don't. I would much rather take someone who knows the fundamentals really well and teach them codes and software than have to teach a software junkie fundamentals.

To the OP, there's been a lot of good advice in this thread that I won't repeat. But will say this: please don't consider your time with the contractor to be a waste. Most structural engineers have never personally constructed anything in their life. A lot only rarely get to go to job sites and get their boots muddy. Use your brief experience to your advantage and keep your time as a contractor in mind when you design. Always think about how things will be built and all the efforts (many nonstructural) that go into it. Most engineers pay little to no thought to this, they're focused on the design drawings and construction is someone else's problem. What would have made your life as a contractor easier? What did designers do that made your life as a contractor inordinately difficult? Talk with your mentors to see if it's something that can be changed.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

6
A few thoughts:
1.) Be inquisitive. Ask "why" - a lot. Many times the question should be directed at yourself so that you can find the answer on your own. Other times, it should rightly be aimed at co-workers, supervisors, and the PE you are working under.
2.) Exhibit a strong work ethic.
3.) Work some overtime (paid or unpaid). Keep a running list of topics you would like to learn more about and use some of your own time (after 5:00 PM and/or weekends) to dive deeper into those subjects.
4.) Have a good attitude. You have a lot to learn and no one expects you to know it "all" in the next few years. Having a great attitude will endear you to co-workers and the more senior engineering staff.
5.) Architecture is 100% about the aesthetic and the client cares far more about the color of the carpet than your structural system.
6.) You are embarking on a career in a very serious profession - take due time with decisions and in preparing calculations and drawings. Most structural engineers have more responsibility and liability on their shoulders than all other design disciplines combined.
7.) Check all input and output with regard to software. Computers are a wonderful tool but they are just that: a tool. Garbage in = garbage out.
8.) Invest in a good personal library. Many excellent structural engineering references can be purchased in a used format very inexpensively. Make it a goal to purchase at least four books per year (one book per quarter) and more if you can afford it.
9.) Take continuing education seriously.
10.) Find a good structural engineering mentor.
11.) Find a good mentor in the architectural department.
12.) Read the "Design!" paper by James M. Fisher. It is a summary of a presentation he gave at the 2006 North American Steel Construction Conference. It should be mandatory reading for all structural engineers, especially entry-level ones.
13.) Check back in at Eng-Tips.com from time-to-time. We would be interested to know how you are progressing.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

It all sounds great, but there also is grunt work. Don't be surprised if you are not right in there designing right away. How good are you at preparing drawings, with knowing the sources of member sizes, etc? How about specs? That's also part of the job.


RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

So many great posts above. Won’t repeat their advice. I was lucky. First job with small branch office which did Arch. and light industrial buildings. Partner/Owner was terrific mentor.

Second job was in design Dept. of heavy industrial Design Build firm. Learned project management and construction issues/concerns there. Next job was with consultant in Midwest city. We transitioned to CAD there.

Best job was with engineering department for midwest Paper Manufacturer. My previous diversity gave me the expertise to become a key Structural Project Engineer/Manager on many greenfield projects and numerous rebuilds on existing facilities.

Knowing what you don’t know, but where to find it is invaluable.

gjc

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Looking at all the comments, those are fine remarks. However, I have a basic question. How's come your first job was "working for a contractor" and now why a change? Why start there and now looking else where? Wasn't that job checked out as to being suitable as a starter for the future? I'd say an assessment of just where you want to go needs much more evaluation before you look for the new job. There are other things to check out such as where to live, any room for advancement, etc? Salary level now should not be high priority. Jumping around from job to job early on can be a negative not easily dismissed later on.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

Make good use of this forum. I have found answers to so many of my questions here.

In google, type what you are looking for followed by "site:eng-tips.com"

I use this constantly and it helps find relevant threads. (I've never used the bilt-in search) You can then archive threads for future reference. I've got tons of threads saved personally.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

To Hokie93
with regards to your post as shown below
Read the "Design!" paper by James M. Fisher. It is a summary of a presentation he gave at the 2006 North American Steel Construction Conference.

could you please give me a link to this paper.

Thank you.

RE: First Job in Structural Engineering

2

Quote (Hudhaifa)

could you please give me a link to this paper.

Jim Fisher's 2006 paper "Design!" is here in Modern Steel Construction magazine: Link

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