Contact US

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here

What next?

What next?

What next?

First of all, I’ve passed my PE Civil structural exams so congratulations to me. I still have to wait for a couple of weeks to accumulate the required work experience period so I’ve got some “free” time.

Now my question is, what next? I wonder if I want to be in this industry for long term or make a switch along the way. I love structural engineering and I have so much passion for it but it’s ridiculously funny the amount of money senior engineers make with all the risk, liability, and insane deadlines they’ve to meet. You seal a project and you’re bound to it for a life-time and your fees don’t even reflect it (maybe I have been painted a wrong impression of this industry).

That’s just by the way. Currently, I feel I’m not meeting my potential as a young engineer (and down along this post, some will say “get a mentor”). I can bet all the 896.53$ in my account that 99% of the things I learn are from this forum (thank you all for your contributions) and me educating myself. I’d love to be in a firm where I’ve a couple grown, seasoned, and experienced engineers who can help you understand things properly rather than “we have always done it this way” or them putting your questions aside and telling you do to “exactly” when it doesn’t even make complete sense but what do junior engineers know?

Anyway, I’ve decided to start blogging, a way for me to document what I read. And as a challenge @Kootks, I’m going to read hibbeler back to back and go through the examples as well. It’s going to be a long one but I think it’s worth. I believe I should continue to educate myself by reading books $$$, yup the money is going and EBay is happy, as I’ve seen great improvement in my structural knowledge.

I’ve still got a long way to go. I hope you all can share your experiences and thoughts and how I can keep improving.
Couple of items I’ve listed
1. Review structural analysis book (hibbeler and one matrix book) and then proceed to other books like concrete and steel. Still good to read even if you’ve knowledge on them.
2. Learn a bit of programming to translate the knowledge gained and make my own simple “calculator”
3. Detailing! Detailing! Detailing! I want to also heavily focus on detailing and master Revit and dynamo. At the moment, I’ll rate myself as 6/10 when it comes to detailing. I’m still not familiar with certain detailing so I’ve got to learn those. 7/10 when it comes to Revit but I want to learn dynamo as well
4. Lastly learn how to use structural application software. I am really good at hand calculations and the structural principles but I suck at CSI software. STAAD Pro is one of my favourite which I’m good at but I’m no longer doing industrial design so I’ve to learn those new applications

RE: What next?

don't limit yourself to Ebay for books browse:
AbeBooks - for anything >$20 add to your cart and let it sit for a bit occasionally the price will drop a few dollars.
ShopGoodwill - search for specific items every now and then was able to pull a Timoshenko book from here for $5.
Many of the same sellers on ebay also dual list on Amazon and many times the Amazon price is a few dollars less.

As for what's next it's really kind of whatever you make of it our field is generally not glamorous. You will at the least be firmly middle class and in the near term should be able to afford student loan payments, rent, utilities, and be able to go to a grocery store and get more than just survival food and some extra spending cash. Highest earning potential outside of opening your own shop is to get on a business dev track which will tend to pull you away from the actual engineering.

Detailing like any other artform demands practice the more you do it the better you will become.

For dynamo find a task you want to automate, many of the tutorials out there are heavily skewed towards Architectural elements, start simple like placing foundation tags on every foundation at the bottom right corner or numbering columns in some logical order.

Software the structural packages do basically the same thing like programming it is usually a matter of learning different syntax and sign conventions, if you take the time to read the manuals and do the examples you'll be ahead of probably 80-90% of the userbase. Invest some time in a good direct stiffness method textbook also and you'll be mostly set, the Gallagher book is free on the Mastan website.

RE: What next?

Is there anything holding you to the city where you live? If not, you may want to look into moving to a different city or potentially a different state. Make sure you set up your NCEES record for multi-state licensure and get licensed wherever you're trying to go before making it known you want to leave, but look into it. If as a junior engineer with nearly 4 years of experience you have less than $1,000 to your name, you're either not being paid a proper salary, you live in a city with an insane cost of living, or you need to take a personal finance course. (Note that these 3 things are not mutually exclusive.)

Structural engineering isn't going to make you rich. If you get onto the ownership side and run the business well, it'll build wealth and you'll live comfortably, but you won't be rich. Stay in the employee pool and yeah...with good financial management you'll have a house, a nice car, a vacation every year, and can probably send your kids to a state school if they get a partial scholarship and are born at least 4 years apart. But that's about it unless you marry somebody who also has a job that pays well.

RE: What next?

I second what phamENG said. It appears you are in Texas, from what I have seen, Texas has some of the lowest, if not the lowest, structural fees in the US. Most projects we have went after in Texas a Texas engineer was willing to do for 30 to 40% less.

I couldn't tell you what current average salaries for structural are now days at various levels as the last few years have skewed the numbers quite a bit and the online sites were skewed by people doing specialty structural, but agree that until you are an owner or partner, salaries for our line of work are lower than they should be, but that is due to competition, lack of engineers having MBA's (good with numbers, horrible at pricing), and little appreciation (or understanding) for what we do from contractors, architects and developers.

RE: What next?

Your third paragraph points to a poor employer. Maybe "what's next" is trying to find one with better mentors and projects.

RE: What next?

Thanks @Celt83, I will check out those links. I’ve already downloaded the Mastan application and the matrix book. I’ve been going through it so sounds like I’m in the right direction.

@phamENG: I have started reaching out and talking to other firms to see what’s available. Hopefully, I get some positive feedback on their project scope and work culture. I love structural engineering, I’m extremely frugal, and do not seek to extremely rich like “tech bros”. But couple of things got me thinking was when I heard a senior engineer who’s expecting a baby complain about money. I thought they were getting the big bucks but turnouts they aren’t. We(other engineers) talked money and the senior engineers are earning less than $90,000. And they’ve been in the industry way longer than me so that’s bad news. That’s when I realised it’s either the company doesn’t compensate well or as Aesur mentioned, Texas fee is relatively low.

I hope to be a great project @271828. That would be a great experience.

RE: What next?

Something that really helps a structural engineer is to get out to job sites, see the work progress, talk to contractors, watch the erection procedures, etc.

Computers and books are fine (and necessary) but seeing the reality of excavation, rebar placement, formwork, shoring, staging, welding, bolting, etc. is extremely valuable.

RE: What next?

Agree completely with JAE; get out in the field and see reality (it is nothing like what is in a FEM).

RE: What next?

Quote (BulbTheBuilder_EI)

I thought they were getting the big bucks but turnouts they aren’t. We(other engineers) talked money and the senior engineers are earning less than $90,000.
90k doesn't surprise me honestly, many principals (unless they are owner) are making around 100k to 120k, sim to project managers; at least salary wise.

Not trying to justify salaries here as I think they are way too low as well, especially with inflation where fees haven't adjusted, nor increased in the past 10 to 20 years from what I have seen; but if you look at engineer output versus project fees, around 90k cap for senior engineers makes sense unfortunately.

Let's run an example:
6,000 sq-ft custom residence. Fee = 10k for calc purposes (about standard for something of this size in many locations).
Engineering hours required: 60
Drafting hours required: 60
Senior Engineer Salary: 90k
Drafter Salary: 50k
Company multiplier: 2.5 (ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 often) - covers overhead, insurance, benefits, software, hardware, rent, etc..
52 weeks of work a year, 2 weeks vacation, 1 week holidays gives 49 weeks potential work time. Assume 80% utilization (this accounts for overages on projects, downtime, training etc..) This leaves 1568 work hours a year.
Engineer Cost: 90k x 2.5 = $225k / year => 225,000/1568 = 143.5 (round to $145/hour)
Drafter Cost: 50k x 2.5 = $125k / year => 125,000/1568 = 79.7 (round to $80/hour)
Cost of that 6,000 sq-ft residence: 60(145)+60(80) = $13,500
Cost > fee, therefore typically the only options are as follows:
1. Cut costs (hard to do for many companies, note that this example uses the lower end overhead factor).
2. Adjust salaries based on fees (this is the most common method).
3. Produce more work in less time (this leads to mistakes and 60 hours engineering and 60 hours drafting is fairly reasonable for the above referenced project).
4. Increase fee (this is rare as there is usually someone who will do it for less and many architects and developers play engineers against each other).

To make financial sense, the above project type would need salaries of about 63k engineer and 40k drafter. Keep in mind this assumes the engineer doesn't need assistance from a project manager and the project manager spends minimal time reviewing the project.

As others have said many times, engineers are in a race to the bottom.

If you are wanting to stay in structural engineering, I believe your beast course is to get as much experience as you can through sight visits, fine tuning your engineering skills and speed and eventually going out on your own. The other course option is going into specialty engineering, which is repetitive and boring for me.

RE: What next?

@JAE, regarding field visit I don't really have much say or control. The number of times we can visit the site is dependent on the contract we have...good thing is I did almost all my internships with construction companies when I was in college, so I am fairly Ok on that side.

@Aesur , those are interesting numbers. For a profession with greater risks and liability is seems relatively low. I am just going to enjoy the moment and great memories that comes along with it

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login


Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close