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Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.
17

Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

(OP)
The premise of this thread is whether Structural Engineering needs to break away from Civil Engineering like many other Engineering disciplines (Electrical ,Mechanical etc.) have over the years. If your only desirable path is Structures, should you have to spend to much time on non-structural classes? I did not enroll in CE and later decided I want to be an SE, I wanted structures from day 1. For me, yes it is time to break from Civil Engineering. Looking at the really old "roots" of Civil Engineering, to me, it is obvious it is time to create our own curriculum.

Now, that is my opinion. Please when responding, state whether you are an academic versus practitioner ( or both), a BS, MS or PhD etc. Give us an idea of your background. I am a MS practitioner. I am an old geezer who tries to stay in touch with new educational concepts but tends to fail at the new concepts.

If you are not a structural or civil engineer, please bear that in mind if you choose to respond. I am concerned about the path new structural engineers are traveling compared to the path I am about to retire from. I am not looking for an argument, I am looking for some insight. In recent years, potential SEs have asked me questions, that I have no good solid answers for.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I have no declared interest in this argument, but I will note that this argument has been considered previously in Australia, such that Structural is considered a separate category for registration / chartered status. It did cause a few issues in terms of the more experienced engineers who were registered as Civil, being the only relevant category available at the time, but is now generally accepted. I cannot comment on what this may mean for educational pathways.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Ron I entirely agree with this premise. I am a retired practitioner who always wanted to be a structural engineer. I first declared it as a Junior in high school to the Rotary Club, even though I probably did not fully understand what the requirements were.

I got my BSCE in 1972 and a poor job market kept me in school working on my MS for another year and a half. Completed all of the coursework. My master’s project (non thesis option) got waylaid when the mainframe computer was being replaced and my FEA punch cards were no longer functioning as intended. I pulled the plug and went to work. All the advanced structural courses helped me throughout my career.

Twenty seven years later I started a distance learning MS program and finished it in 2006. It had always bothered me that I had not completed it back then.

Electives will still be available, so one can take soils, foundations, etc. that are structurally related and avoid wasting time on topics we aren’t interested in. Believe me, I hated many of them.

That should also allow for some advanced structural option courses to be completed.

gjc

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I do not think structural should be it's own specialization out of Civil. I believe the other courses which get packed into civil need to be removed and replaced with a focus on soils and structural. If I am looking to hire a new graduate to be a structural EIT there coursework resume will include hydrology, wastewater treatment, roads and urban transportation systems. None of the above from the u of Toronto civil undergraduate program are relevant to a new EIT.

From my experience as a consultant what I find in the new EITs straight from school is the lack of common sense, knowing the building code even exists, how to approach the problem, what info the they need to get, what tools they need to use, how to use software and how to write a report. I find new EITs are good at being spoonfed one step at a time not having any understanding of what the next steps are until after about 3-5 times before any progress is made. Now if I were to get a specialized structural EIT straight from school I would not expect any substantial improvement in how they would approach the problem.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I'm a mid 30's structural with a bachelor's degree only. I don't think there is the resource or capacity at the Universities, at least in Canada, to break up the civil program, even if it would be better. Also, I'm not convinced it is required. Engineering school teaches people how to learn and how to think like engineers. The particular courses are not overly important IMO. I've worked with structural engineers with mechanical and chem eng bachelor degrees who picked things up enough for the particular field of structural.


The reality is, school will never teach you even a fraction of what you will need to know as a practicing engineer. So, School should teach you how learn (and learn quickly and efficiently). This is why tech diploma grads are probably more useful than an engineer if both compared on graduation day. Techs will be able to call up beam sizes quicker using the tables and codes they were taught at school. But an engineering grad, while not well versed in the practical parts, will understand, or have the capacity to understand, why the tables were written as they are.


If anything, I would be in favour of more rigourous maths being required of young engineers, more software/programing courses, and especially, more English language courses! Engineers these days cannot speak, read, or write well enough.


I will say though that I have the fortune of working with a bunch of 24ish year old grads who impress me. In fact, I honestly don't think I was as smart or mature when I was their age.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

3
I'm in my early 30's, BS practitioner (3 credit hours away from finishing my Master's in Civil Engineering, about 90% structural and 10% soils coursework), licensed. I enlisted in the military out of high school, and while waiting the summer after graduation to ship out to basic, I worked with a small GC in west central Florida swinging a sledge hammer for $10/hour. I fell in love, and got in trouble for spending too much time figuring out how the buildings had been put together and not enough taking them apart. I sat down with a retired SE from my church and discussed the profession and was hooked. I wished I'd signed for the SEABEES, but playing with nuclear reactors was fun enough while it lasted. I left the Navy went straight to school with the same goal that had been playing in the back of my mind for 6 years - become a Structural Engineer.

I would say the answer splits two ways depending on your goals as an SE:

Do you want to build bridges, or do you want to build buildings? If you want to build bridges, I think the current curriculum is solid. Studying hydraulics/hydrology helps you understand the fluid loading on a bridge pier. Studying transportation helps you understand the road layout that your bridge will carry. Studying environmental helps you grasp the impact of your structure on the ecosystem along the river/stream where it's being built. Of course there are aspects of these courses that have nothing to do with bridges, but the insight into the background of the other Civil Engineers you'll be working with would, I think, make you a better member of the team.

Do you want to build buildings? The current CE curriculum is a pretty big waste. Sure, the getting of the degree will ideally teach you how to learn what you need, but that really only works if you're properly motivated to do it yourself or your university has a strong mentor-ship culture where the faculty is fully engaged in your success (this just isn't feasible at a lot of larger state schools, at least not early on before the classes have been culled and it's needed the most). I've heard tell of an interesting program called Architectural Engineering, which prepares students for building design by exposing them to architectural concepts, electrical concepts, mechanical concepts, structural concepts, etc. Then the students can specialize in one of the areas. This way, you could have a structural engineer that is sufficiently well versed in all aspects of designing a building (much as a CE based SE could be with a bridge as stated above) to integrate into a team more quickly. Of course they still need the requisite OJT, but their educational background is a little more tuned to what they'll be doing. I could be way off base on this one - anybody have additional knowledge of these types of programs? I know they're still few and pretty far between.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

phamENG - great point regarding bridges vs buildings. I hadn’t thought of it as my focus was always on buildings. Took bridge design classes in both graduate programs, but never had to put it into practice.

Reviewed my BS transcript and see the following courses I never used: Surveying (12 credits); Sanitary (3); Fluid Mechanics (4); Hydrology (3); Intro to Thermodynamics (3); Transportation (3); and Hydraulic Engineering (3).

The Fluid Mech. and Thermo classes were from the ME Dept. and were intended to give us Civil’s some insight into other disciplines.

I will admit that some Surveying training is probably warranted, but three terms of four credit classes was way too much. Other than the terminology used, I already knew most of it from coordinate geometry.


Somewhat related story - During second job, the VP of engineering stops by to tell me they just interviewed a MTU CE Senior with only one “B”, but doubts he’d accept an offer because he’ll have so many options. Well he did come to work there and was seated next to me. After getting to know him, I asked what course he got the B in. Turned out it was Transportation. Even I got an A in it. I asked what happened. He said he hated the Professor, had 100% going into final, and knew that he could not get less than a B. So he put his name on the final and turned it in.

gjc

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Wow - 12 hours of surveying is a lot, even for a Civil/Land Development Engineer. I have found my 3 hour surveying class useful on small projects where some surveying information is needed, but hiring a surveyor isn't warranted. I had access to a Cleveland Rod and a level, so it was rarely a problem to grab a few "rough" elevations or determining angles for layouts while gathering other data on site.

Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulics have also come in handy on a few industrial jobs - when the piping engineer gives you a blank stare when you ask for support and restraint reactions it's nice to be able to run them yourself.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I think the track when I was in school was a nice spot. There were seven areas to civil and environmental engineering: Structures, Construction Management, Geotechnical, Transportation, Construction Materials, Water Resources, Environmental. I had to take the introductory course for five of the seven and then pick one secondary to go with my primary focus of structures. In the secondary I had to take the introductory course plus two more (as opposed to the 4-5 more I had to take for structures). That was all at Bachelor's level. Then Master's degrees are usually nearly 100% structural coursework with maybe one or two electives if the student has extra time (most don't).

I think that's a good set up because you focus on structural and add knowledge in a complementary area (mine was construction, perhaps geotechnical may have also been useful). Perhaps you could reduce required introductory courses to four. I took structures, construction, geotechnical, transporation, and materials. I took no water resources or hydrology coursework and no environmental coursework. As a buildings guy, the only real fluff I thought I had in civil courses was maybe transportation, but even that helped on a traffic loading question or two on the SE exam.

Quote (NorthCivil)

The reality is, school will never teach you even a fraction of what you will need to know as a practicing engineer. So, School should teach you how learn (and learn quickly and efficiently). This is why tech diploma grads are probably more useful than an engineer if both compared on graduation day. Techs will be able to call up beam sizes quicker using the tables and codes they were taught at school. But an engineering grad, while not well versed in the practical parts, will understand, or have the capacity to understand, why the tables were written as they are.


If anything, I would be in favour of more rigourous maths being required of young engineers, more software/programing courses, and especially, more English language courses! Engineers these days cannot speak, read, or write well enough.

Agreed. Fortunately not seeing any here, but I've seen some threads where engineers advocate eliminating some of the general education/humanities courses. I'm vehemently opposed to this. It's extremely important that engineers are well-educated outside of engineering. We need to recognize that there's a large world outside of engineering that we need to interact with and we do that by becoming more well-rounded, not less. Most of the people I interact with outside of my company and ALL of my clients are not structural engineers.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Agree with you, MrHershey. I've also heard the call for reducing liberal arts and humanities (by my own civil engineering professors at times). If you want to skip that kind of stuff, go to a vocational school and pick up a trade. As engineers, we have to communicate across professions at a high level, so the "soft skills" that are typically refined in those arts and humanities classes are invaluable if you want to go beyond sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers and writing technical instructions to a machine operator.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Quote (phamENG)

anybody have additional knowledge of these types of programs?
I'm a product of an Architectural Engineering program, Bachelors of Architectural Engineering - Structural. Mine was a 5-year (min. 168 credit) curriculum. First 3 years involved courses in Architecture inclusive of Studio work, Drawing production and reading, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Construction Management and Lighting all the courses included review and application of building codes. Along with the general first year engineering courses in those subjects there were courses focused solely on the design of systems for buildings. 4th year you selected a specialty and the final 2 years involved coursework specific to the specialty and the 5th year included a year long "thesis" project, more like a bit more in-depth capstone project vs a master's level thesis, where you were tasked with taking an existing building and reviewing the gravity and lateral systems and then redesigning with another structural system.

For the structural path there were quite a few of my bachelor courses that were masters level civil courses.

There are a few of these programs around the US and from my limited research when I was applying for them 18 years ago they all had similar coursework.

I think the biggest separators over the Civ Eng path was the focus on reading and applying the various codes, drawing reading and production, and trimmed out the utilities portion of the Civil Program to allow for the more focused coursework on your chosen specialty.

Open Source Structural Applications: https://github.com/buddyd16/Structural-Engineering

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Thanks, Celt. That's similar to what I've heard about it elsewhere. It would be nice if more such programs could be developed. One website says there are only 27 of them in the US. Working in building design, I can see tremendous value in that kind of coursework.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I will say they are a great program if you already know you want to do building design and are really set up for those students. When I went thru my education it would have been a decent struggle to transition into the program after your 1st year. I am a certainly bit biased though.

To me they are a bit more of a vocational education and aim to have you be ready to be able to arrive at a design firm and know how to start a code based design and then document it. Over various new hires from in and out of those programs, the folks who went thru an AE program typically are able to jump in while some others needed a couple months of getting familiar with how to draft/document and the various material and building codes. We're also an office where the engineers are expected to both design and draft with AutoCAD and Revit.

Open Source Structural Applications: https://github.com/buddyd16/Structural-Engineering

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Sounds like the vocational side of it was made up for in the credit requirements. My university only requires 130 hours for the BSCE. You can do a lot of extra stuff in 38 hours worth of classes. Did you still have the standard arts and humanities and theoretical study of engineering mechanics, etc.?

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

yes we still had humanities and engineering mechanics, etc. I went to a state school so that came with some extra gen ed requirements as well, in fact I kick myself a bit now because with another semester I could have likely received a minor in both engineering mechanics and architecture, but I was young and ready to get to work.

The material specific classes for steel, concrete, masonry, and wood focused a bit more on design of those elements per the applicable code or standard so didn't get to in depth on things like lateral torsional buckling beyond what is said in Chapter F of AISC.

Open Source Structural Applications: https://github.com/buddyd16/Structural-Engineering

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

You didn't miss much. Our steel design course was the same way. We got the fundamentals of stability, but not much. Not until my masters did we start really diving deeper.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I think that the civil program is basically fine as is. The first couple of years are general anyway (math, chemistry etc), and you have some flexibility to choose a specialty in the last years. Also, engineers by personality tend to hyperfocus to their own detriment, and a little more generalism is healthy.

I am a practitioner with a BS.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I would definitely like to see more specialization. If only so that we can play catch-up in America. I spent a lot of time overseas for grad school, and the undergraduate structural engineering curriculum at a top university was almost equivalent to the masters degree in America. I was pretty dumbfounded when I observed the advanced topics they studied. I think it has to do with curriculum specialization and the expectation of advanced math and technological literacy straight from secondary school. The American civil engineering degree has devolved to being just an expensive stepping stone to taking the FE exam, not so much being a competent engineer. Practitioner w/ Master's degree. Quit Ph.D. for financial reasons.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

The answer to this usually falls along party lines....those with an SE license argue it does need to be more specialized, those without an SE license argue it does not need to be more specialized

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

MotorCity - I'm not sure it's quite so clear cut as that. The question was geared more toward education and the classes we have to take to get a CE degree that are never used (at least by those of us in the building design side of things).

To look at it from the license perspective, though, there is still a difference. When I took my PE, I had to take the Civil - Structural exam. Fortunately, there wasn't much "fluff" on there - much of the Civil morning portion was geared toward more practical construction engineering problems and engineering economics, but there were a handful of open channel flow, traffic curves, and the like. There were also questions about vehicular bridges. (I call it fluff because I haven't used it since the course where I first learned it, and I'm not likely to use it again in a professional capacity.) The alternative, of course, was the 16 hour SE. A few years prior, however, there was a third option. A PE exam for just structural was offered. It was an 8 hour exam, both morning and afternoon portions were nothing but structural design and construction. Sadly, it was discontinued.

So I'd say it's possible to specialize the field beginning with education, and then provide a separate PE exam for those not getting an SE. After all, somebody practicing in northern Alabama where seismic is pretty calm, winds are relatively light, snow isn't bad, and there aren't many sky scrapers probably doesn't need to go for the full SE. But having a more concentrated background in structures could still benefit them and their clients.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I never worked in states that required the SE license, but was registered as a PE in 7 states.

My problem with the education in my BSCE and the 1.5 years of graduate CE structural classes was how much I didn’t know. Yes my classes taught me analysis tools and the design of steel, concrete, and timber. But I did not know how much I did not know!

My first job was with a structural consultant working on architectural projects. I knew little of the terminology, i.e. girts, purlins, etc. I did not know anything about masonry design, or architectural requirements. This was before the modern technology so I continued learning by buying books on specific subjects and had done so throughout my career.

Once I got registered - Continuing Education was required; and so met that criteria for the last 35 years of my working life. That became easier with the internet toward the end.

gjc

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

That's a good point, mtu. A lot of students (and the practitioners hiring them) seem to think a BSCE should be akin to a vocational or technical degree, where you come out and start producing day one. Though I think that opinion is held widely, and not just in the engineering community. More effort should go into disabusing people of that idea and helping them realize that college is more about learning how to learn than what you learn, and by focusing in CE (and further in structures), you are simply learning how to learn about Civil and Structural Engineering. If you can manage to retain a bunch of the raw data, so much the better for you.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I graduated in the mid-80's with a B. Engineering (Structural). The course had 48 courses and was a Co-Op program. All students took identical classes for the first 50% of the degree course and the second 50% of the course students stayed with Civil or went Structural. Those who went structural did not have to take open-channel flow, construction management, traffic engineering etc. Structural students had both compulsory courses and subject electives like advanced matrix analysis, FE analysis, indeterminate prestressed concrete analysis and design, geotechnical/soil, measurement of structural behavior (lab), etc. We also did a thesis - bound, original work, but less than what a Master's thesis would entail.

This course, with a structural emphasis, is no longer available today,

Both the structural emphasis and the Co-Op course helped me tremendously in my early career (project responsibility and earnings), and when I look at today's recent graduates some current coursework syllabus [for example: no course in prestressed concrete] are to the detriment of the graduate, without sufficient specialization, and therefore miss opportunities, or are ill-prepared for their pending employment/career.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Quote (MotorCity)

The answer to this usually falls along party lines....those with an SE license argue it does need to be more specialized, those without an SE license argue it does not need to be more specialized

I have an SE. School should not be significantly more specialized than it is now, at least for the tract I went through.

Quote (phamENG)

That's a good point, mtu. A lot of students (and the practitioners hiring them) seem to think a BSCE should be akin to a vocational or technical degree, where you come out and start producing day one. Though I think that opinion is held widely, and not just in the engineering community. More effort should go into disabusing people of that idea and helping them realize that college is more about learning how to learn than what you learn, and by focusing in CE (and further in structures), you are simply learning how to learn about Civil and Structural Engineering. If you can manage to retain a bunch of the raw data, so much the better for you.

Very much agree with this. And to be fair, a lot of people coming out are useful on day one but only in the narrow band they learned about in school.

If practitioners are that concerned with getting someone who can walk in and be real productive immediately, hire people with 1-2 years of experience. They cost about the same as new grads and in theory can give you what you want. Leaves more fresh grads for me.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Internships, at least in computer science, can change that dynamic. In many cases, the summer internship before senior year is essentially a two-month probationary and on-the-job learning period, with a view to getting an full-time offer after graduation.

We've done similar things with EE and ME interns, offering them full time jobs after their internships end, since we now know their work habits, have trained them on tools and design processes, and they've done some design work.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I cant fault an engineering grad for believing they can individually contribute the first day, many senior engineers seem to have the same belief about niches they've never worked in.

I'm not qualified to comment on CE/SE education, however one possibly relevant observation from the outside looking in - IME the mechanical product development world is very uniform between companies as far as tools, process, and documentation so its fairly easy for new but experienced engineers to start contributing. I haven't been in many CE/SE offices however it seems like every one is pretty drastically different in terms of how they run. Not sure if that's a matter of the difference in average company size or if its education, but it just seems rather strange to me.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

(OP)
I recall some of my classes I have rarely or never used similar to what mtu1972 listed. Surveying (3 hrs), Sanitary (3), Water Quality (3), Transportation (3), 2 different Fluids at 3 hrs each and a choice of Thermodynamics or Electric Circuits (3). The Thermo or Circuits may not be to give us insight into other fields, it may be to help CEs pass the EIT. CEs are at a distinct disadvantage because both of those we did not need but both are on the EIT. So they require CEs to take at least one of them.

But even if I could substitute these CE courses for something more structural in nature and even if they allowed me to substitute my Humanities for structural courses, I also had the problem that there was not always that many other courses offered. So even with an extra 30 hours to use, some courses I could have used were either non-existent or only offered every other semester due to enrollment. Cold-formed and masonry are 2 good examples of courses I have not seen offered at most curriculums unless there was a Guru on the subject teaching at that university.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

@Ron247: As a facade structural engineer I use thermodynamics for calculating energy performance and glass thermal stresses. We are constantly surveying sites or asking for site data. I have used fluids for aerodynamic studies including some relatively flexible structures of my own design and two forensic studies of wind induced vibration problems. When I worked as a bridge structural engineer, transportation was useful (albeit indirectly). I have not done any sanitary or water quality work, and electrical circuits only come up very infrequently, but who knows what the future holds!

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

glass99 - what about the swanky glass conference room walls you can fog/clear with the flip of a switch? I could see those being used in an exterior application. Several downtown offices in my area on the first floor, and you can pull up a chair and watch meetings if you were so inclined. That sort of thing in a facade could have its benefits.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

@phameng: yes, its called electrochromic glass! It's got a lot of potential in hot climates for solar control too.

So actually just last week I was figuring out what a "dry contact" was bc we are want to shut down some actuated doors in high winds and we need to get the weather station to talk to the security system. In my world its called "being a swiss army knife". In some ways there is an argument for adding a year to college so you can cover more of this stuff.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

(OP)
glass99, are you meaning there is an argument for adding a year to college for a SE or CE degree to cover the items you have noted? Most of the items you are noting seem more like a mechanical engineering pursuit than a CE. While you obviously must use these in your field, I have never needed them for basic structures.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

glass99 - sounds interesting. I've recently found myself in a "multi-discipline engineering" role and I'm thanking my lucky stars for some of the extra classes (though most of what I need is more mechanical, so a lot of the extra CE courses are even less valuable to me now - at least until we need to cut a new road through the facility!). And while I take your point, I have to concede Ron247's. Probably not needed for your average (or even and advanced) structural engineer. Sounds like a graduate degree or certificate would be more the thing for what you're talking about.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

@phamENG: you mentioned in another thread that you were asked by your boss to look at some rotating equipment of some kind. Definitely not traditional structures, but solid application of first principles.

My old firm was a traditional movable bridge firm, so all the structural engineers needed to know about trunnions and wire rope to some extent.

@Ron247: I actually did seriously consider extending my CE degree into a fifth year to take some ME and architecture classes. At the time (the late 90's) I believed the future belonged to automation in architectural construction processes. In retrospect I think I was right about the future, but glad I didn't waste the year bc the first principles have been enough.

Also: I personally have always felt that traditional engineering practice was a little too conservative for its own good. Say for example the slow takeup of CLT or TMD's and other structural technologies - a broader view academically I think is healthy.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

6
Practicing engineer with a BSc in Civil Engineering. Year 1 was a general year. Year 2 was the beginning of a broader specialization (MecE, EE, ChemE, CivE, etc.). Year 3 you continue specializing by taking two design fields with three levels of courses and an additional design class that you take the to Level II. Year 4 you finish it all off. The benefits of humanities and electives are understated in making a "well rounded" professional; I'll die on that hill.

To respond to the original question: I don't believe structural needs to be separated from civil in a way that focuses the student at an undergraduate level. The graduate programs available are sufficient to do that academic work. Rather than overhauling the undergraduate system, make the graduate degree more accessible. It's really not these days. Too many universities weigh competitive academic records heavier than practical experience, and it's unfortunate.

Focusing a student too early in their career really puts the blinders on them. And civil engineering is such an integrated field that it is important to have an general awareness of the construction works you are involved in. There are so many other skills (drafting, writing, statistics, calculus, etc) that a student needs to grasp before understanding advanced concepts of structures. I could see myself being interested in listening to "yield lines" and "fracture mechanics" and "steel plate shear walls" in undergraduate lectures, but I don't believe that you can conceivably understand the application of those topics without practical or further academic experience. And, to be honest, my jobs have involved way more interpretation of reports, reviewing of drafting, and directing construction methods than the specialized topics.

Agreed. Undergraduates are under prepared entering into their first jobs. I know I was. But I think structures, or any engineering for that matter, fundamentally relies upon mentorship in practice.

I really admire the ambition of young students to jump right into the deep end getting those letters behind their name. However, fundamentally I think the the acceleration of that route is flawed and misses a lot of the nuance that makes a genuinely well-informed and confident engineer.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Yes, into Structural Marine, Structural Buildings, Structural Dams, etc, etc.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

@skeletron: agreed about the humanities. People become engineers so they can avoid dealing with people, but turns out you can't.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

4
Don't know what makes you SE and CE types so SPECIAL; almost all engineers are underprepared for their eventual careers. I was EE, but am not now, so technically, almost ALL of my EE training was wasted, although I had to brush up on Fourier transforms this week.

And if the statistics are to be believed, a huge percentage of degreed engineers aren't even doing engineering. Moreover, specialization implies foreknowledge of what you want to do for the rest of your life, and many don't even know that until AFTER they start working. My last ophthalmologist was a degreed ME, who didn't change careers until he was in his thirties.

College is only intended to prepare you to learn more, by giving you the tools, skills, and basic background, such as at least vaguely remembering that you even learned Fourier transforms in college.

While there may be subjects you could have learned in college, but were steered away from; there are disciplines where there wasn't even the rudiments of the physics in existence when I was in college; metamaterials, weak value measurements, metasurfaces, etc. have only been in the literature for the last 20 or 30 years. We're still trying to work out the theory to support quantum gyroscopes and accelerometers.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

I've often thought the same thing about geotechnical engineering. If you took out some of the other civil courses you could do a 4 year degree including all of the course-based content from a master's program in geotechnical engineering. I'm expecting that within my life time at a minimum a course based master's degree will be a requirement for licensure as a P.E. as a geotechnical or structural engineer in most jurisdictions.

On the other hand, does anyone actually know what they want to practice as an engineer as 1st year or 2nd year student? With the odd exception essentially everyone I know had no idea. With the benefit of hindsight I can confidently say a 4 year geotechnical engineering degree including the course content from the master's program would have been hugely beneficial to my degree, and I likely would have skipped doing co-op / internship jobs in transportation, municipal and state governments, environmnetal sampling, and just focused on geotechnical jobs. But, I didn't know I wanted to be a geotechnical engineer until my last co-op job was geotechnical focused and it was only through muddling through different courses and jobs that I finally found what I liked.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Geotech... I may have been one of the exceptions. As a junior in HS I told the rotary club that I wanted to be a structural engineer. Third generation CE, but first in structural. Grew up 6 miles from MTU and we were always told that was where we were going to college.

Grandpa always said, “If it was a barber college, we’d all be cutting hair right now”.

Dad and Grandpa were with Michigan highway department. One uncle was a professor with a focus on hydraulics, dams, etc. The other uncle taught in the 2-year technology department.

After first 1.5 years I considered switching to be a Math/Physics teacher. The Statics and Strength of Materials classes convinced me to stay on track. During Sr. year, only 3 (Cliff, Tony, and I) of 109 CE’s took the structural options.

gjc

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

(OP)
geotech: My senior high school class had several people go into Chemical Eng because it paid $800/year more in starting salary than any other engineering curriculum at that time (mid 70s). So, not only are high schools grads not be sure what specific role they envision, some have no real idea what engineering curriculum to enroll in. They read that stat, decided on ChemEng. A more adult mind would have said, that is now, what will it be in 4 years? A more adult mind would have also deducted taxes and turned it into a weekly amount (less than $10/week after taxes). Many of those Chemical never completed college or changed curriculum.

The 2 main things I remember about people I went to school with is that many of them had a specialty they desired (hydraulic for example) but their career path became more dominated by what jobs were available when they graduated.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

Quote (skeletron)

Focusing a student too early in their career really puts the blinders on them.
As someone who is still in the first decade of their career, I completely agree with this statement.

I’ve a BE in Civil engineering and recently completed my ME in Structural engineering. I was one of those students who were forced into taking admission in civil engineering because of shortage of seats in the discipline of their choice (software engineering to be precise). Back then, the only thing I knew about civil engineering was that it’s the study related to construction somehow.

Civil engineering is such a vast field that I know very few students are 100% sure of the path they are going to follow in their first or even second year. I know I myself wanted to go into management side during the first two semesters and went into structure instead when I fell in love with structural designing. Some of my class fellows who were so sure that they were going to pursue a career in structural designing ended up in construction management because of lack of jobs in consulting firms after graduation. I also know some people who worked in structural designing for a couple of years, found that the pace is too slow for career advancement and switched fields.

So, yes, I’ll say it is important that we were taught all those subjects, which today for us dedicated structural engineers may seems totally unnecessary, but proved to be quite important for some people in their starting career.

Quote (IRstuff)

College is only intended to prepare you to learn more, by giving you the tools, skills, and basic background
Agreed. For me, if the knowledge I acquired in the university is the foundation, then the structure standing on it, is the knowledge I gained as a practicing engineer. This is the reason I usually advice my juniors to take couple of years break between bachelor’s and master’s degree. I took 4 years break between mine.

Euphoria is when you learn something new.

RE: Does Structural Engineering Need to Be More Specialized.

There's at least 4 sorts of people who enter engineering:
> those that know what they wanted when they were (fill in the age) and stayed the course
> those that know what they wanted when they were (fill in the age) and changed later on
> those that know what they wanted when they were (fill in the age) and were "forced" into something they didn't want and maybe changed later on
> those that never know what they want

I think that if you're going to spend $160K+ for an education, you ought to have the wherewithal to change horses midstream and even change streams.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

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