By Dan Tashlykov, BSME

Have you ever looked up and marveled at the sight of a towering skyscraper, or admired the intricate beauty of a bridge? If you’ve ever wondered just how these colossal structures are designed to withstand the test of time and the forces of nature, then structural engineering might be right in your wheelhouse.

As a structural engineer, you’ll have the responsibility of bringing these monumental creations to life and be the mastermind behind designs that ensure the safety, durability, and efficiency of buildings, bridges, stadiums, and other structures that shape our world. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the result of your hard work and ingenuity standing tall, making a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals day-to-day.

By pursuing a structural engineering master’s degree, you’ll have the opportunity to dive deep into the intricacies of this fascinating field of study.

In the upcoming sections, we’ll discuss what you can expect while studying for a graduate degree in structural engineering. You’ll learn about various concentrations you can choose from that cater to your specific interests and aspirations, and get insight into the unprecedented opportunities that await you once you’ve completed your journey to becoming an expert structural engineer.

What Is Structural engineering?

Whether you realize it or not, you have somehow interacted with structural engineering. Structural engineering is a specialty within the realm of civil engineering. Structural engineers are intricately involved with constructing buildings, roadways, and other physical items. They analyze sites, make drawings, and ensure that buildings and other structures are safe. Becoming a structural engineer requires a robust understanding of various fields, including math, engineering, and construction.

All fifty states require that structural engineers have certain licensing and educational requirements. This means that they must pass a licensure test before they can begin to advertise themselves as structural engineers and sell their services accordingly.

People who want to pursue a career in structural engineering will ultimately have many different employment options, including:

  • Working for private companies involved in the construction of buildings and other physical spaces. For example, structural engineers work very closely with architectural firms.
  • Working for governments as part of giving out permits and inspecting buildings. Structural engineers are often responsible for ensuring that buildings are built safely and securely.
  • By specializing in a certain field, an individual can work in specific areas of engineering. This can include construction, environmental engineering, nuclear engineering, and much more.

10 Master’s in Structural Engineering Online Degree Programs

Consider the following master’s in structural engineering online degree programs to learn more about the program features that fit your needs.

Bircham International University – Master’s in Structural Engineering

This online program allows students to earn a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate. This allows students to stop their education at a time that suits their needs. This is an international program available to students across the world. It may hold many advantages if you don’t live in the United States or plan on traveling outside of the United States for future job opportunities.

Missouri S&T – Masters of Science in Structural Engineering

Missouri S&T lets students get a variety of engineering degrees online, including a master’s in structural engineering. Students who know they want to earn a degree but aren’t sure what, they offer certificate programs. Students who obtain their certificate in a certain program can then apply those credits to their master’s degree or graduate with a certificate.

Norwich University – Master in Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering Concentration

Norwich allows for a concentration in structural engineering, treating the degree as part of a branch of engineering. It does ask students to spend one week on campus. However, it has a variety of positives: Online classes have no more than fifteen students per class, and students can graduate in as little as eighteen months.

Ohio University – Masters in Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering Specialty

Many schools offer a master’s degree in civil engineering but treat structural engineering as a specialty rather than a separate master’s. Ohio University is one such school. This program allows students to get their master’s degree in as little as 21 months. Thanks to its flexible school, students can take years before getting their master’s. Furthermore, the format comes with asynchronous options, meaning you can learn at your own pace. This may fit some busy schedules better than programs that only have synchronous learning options.

University of Alabama – Master’s in Structural Engineering

The University of Alabama allows students to get their master’s in structural engineering in as little as nineteen months, making it one of the fastest programs available today. In addition, there is no entrance exam required, the degree is ABET-accredited, and there are three semesters available. All of this allows for high levels of access and the chance to learn at an accredited school.

University of Illinois – Master’s in Structural Engineering

The University of Illinois offers a 36-credit-hour master’s program. Six of these courses are required, but the remainder are electives. Students can take online classes that fit their interests and include courses like decision and risk analysis and fracture and fatigue. This array of courses helps create a more individualized experience than that offered by some other online schools.

University of Louisville – Master’s in Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering Certificate

The University of Louisville has a huge and robust online school. Students can get a master’s in civil engineering with a certificate in structural engineering. The master’s degree, which takes a mere calendar year, can be completed 100% online. Students can also obtain multiple certificates while getting their master’s degree, thus ensuring that they have multiple marketable skills.

University of Southern California – Master’s in Structural Engineering

This program interacts with USC’s extensive array of on-campus educational opportunities. Students absolutely can take these classes in an online environment only. Still, if they are interested, they can take a series of on-campus classes that can help give them additional concentrations or expand their knowledge base. Furthermore, USC guarantees the same faculty teaching online as those who teach in person, ensuring no difference between the two learning methods.

University of Texas at El Paso – Master’s in Structural Engineering

This program is housed within the school’s civil engineering program and is one of five degree options in engineering that students can obtain. It thus offers a highly integrated degree program. Many courses are exclusively offered online, thus ensuring that the format taught by instructors meets the needs of all online students. A student can earn their master’s in thirty-degree hours.

University of Washington – Structural Engineering and Mechanics Masters

This program offers courses that students can take in a real-world or online format. In addition to required classes, students can take a “companion seminar” series designed to integrate students into the local engineering field. This can help develop relationships that turn into job opportunities. Students taking classes in person can also take a variety of online courses, including energy infrastructure and construction engineering. This can give students who get their master’s more flexible offerings.

Master’s in Structural Engineering Online Program Overview

When enrolling in online engineering master’s degrees, you should expect to enter into a comprehensive curriculum that covers topics such as advanced structural analysis, design principles, material properties, and structural dynamics.

By participating in virtual lectures and collaborative projects with your peers, you’ll develop the skills needed to design and maintain safe and efficient buildings, bridges, and infrastructure elements. An online program gives you the freedom to learn at your own pace and can help you save time, money, and the hassle of commuting or relocating.

Here are a few of the concentrations available for a master’s in structural engineering:

Bridge Engineering:

Focuses on the design, construction, and maintenance of bridges, which are essential components of modern transportation systems. You’ll learn about types of bridges, the materials used in their construction, and techniques for assessing their safety and durability.

Earthquake Engineering:

Earthquake engineering is critical for designing structures that can resist seismic forces, especially in earthquake-prone geographic regions. In this concentration, you’ll study the behavior of structures during earthquakes, model seismic effects on buildings, and develop strategies to minimize damage and ensure safety.

Composite Materials:

This concentration explores the design and application of composite materials in engineering structures. You’ll learn about the unique properties of composites, advanced manufacturing techniques, and strategies for selecting the most suitable materials for specific applications.

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM):

SHM is an emerging field that focuses on techniques for assessing the conditions of structures in real-time. In this concentration, you’ll learn about various sensing technologies, data processing methods, and strategies for detecting structural damage and predicting potential failures.

Why Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering?

If you’re looking to play a part in shaping the world around us, earning an online master’s degree in structural engineering might be the perfect opportunity.

Why should you earn your degree online, you might ask? Well, flexibility is a key reason.

Pursuing an online master’s allows you to learn at your own pace and on your own time. You don’t have to worry about relocating or sacrificing your current job for full-time study, and you can easily balance work, family life, and your educational goals while gaining valuable skills and knowledge from either the comfort of your own home or an individual study area you work in.

Beefing up your credentials with a master’s in structural engineering opens doors to countless opportunities. You’ll gain advanced knowledge and develop specialized skills that make you an attractive candidate for higher-level positions.

Employers value experts who can take on complex projects and deliver innovative solutions; if you possess these skills, you could find yourself designing iconic landmarks, ensuring the safety of critical infrastructure, or pioneering sustainable technologies.

Lastly, let’s not overlook the potential financial perks of earning your degree online. Engineers with advanced degrees tend to earn higher salaries compared to their peers with bachelor’s degrees, and investing in a graduate degree can prove to be a lucrative decision in the long run.

Master’s in Structural Engineering Curriculum and Common Courses

In this section, we’ll start exploring the curriculum and common courses you’ll encounter as you pursue a career as a structural engineer.

From learning the fundamentals of materials and structure design to mastering advanced software tools, your educational journey will be as diverse as the skyscrapers and bridges you’ll be constructing. Let’s take a look at what a typical curriculum and degree program may look like.

Structural Engineering Curriculum & Common Courses

Even though every college and university is different, most structural engineering programs will allow you to choose from several common courses that expand your knowledge of specific areas within the discipline.

Here’s a simple breakdown of what you can expect during your studies:

  • Mathematics for Structural Engineering: Dive even deeper into the math concepts that are crucial for structural engineers to know, like differential equations, advanced calculus, and linear algebra.
  • Engineering Mechanics: Learn to understand statics and dynamics on a deeper level, getting insight into how different forces affect structural behavior. You’ll learn how to apply these principles to assess the stability of various structures.
  • Materials Science: Study the properties of construction materials, including steel, concrete, wood, and masonry. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each material will allow you to make informed decisions when designing structures.
  • Structural Analysis: Explore the methods used to analyze structures subjected to various loads, such as wind, seismic, and self-weight. You’ll become familiar with software tools that aid in this analysis and design process.
  • Design of Steel Structures: Learn principles and guidelines for designing steel structures, such as bridges and buildings. This course covers topics like steel composition, connections, and stability.
  • Design of Reinforced Concrete Structures: Learn about designing reinforced concrete structures while considering safety, serviceability, and constructability. You’ll study topics like beam-column joints, shear walls, and foundation design.
  • Earthquake Engineering: With a focus on seismic design, this course addresses the effects of earthquakes on structures and how to develop designs that can withstand seismic activity.
  • Bridge Engineering: A specialized course that teaches you about bridge design, construction, inspection, and maintenance. You’ll learn the unique challenges associated with bridge structures, such as load distribution and environmental impact.

Accreditation for Master’s in Structural Engineering Degree Programs

With countless programs to choose from, it’s essential to find one that not only suits your needs, but also has the necessary accreditation to ensure your degree will be recognized and respected in the professional world.

In this section, we’ll dive into the world of accreditation, specifically discussing the significance of ABET Accreditation for your master’s in structural engineering degree program.

ABET Accreditation

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the standard for accreditation when it comes to engineering degrees. ABET meticulously evaluates educational programs based on their curriculum, faculty credentials, facilities, and more. By obtaining an ABET-accredited master’s in structural engineering degree, you’re ensuring that your education meets the highest industry standards.

An ABET-accredited degree not only guarantees recognition by potential employers, but also opens the door to professional licensure.

In most states, you’ll need a degree from an ABET-accredited program to become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). Without a license, there are certain engineering tasks and responsibilities you simply won’t be authorized to undertake, such as signing/sealing build drawings and plans as a structural engineer.

What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering?

Every time you walk into a building, drive across a bridge, or visit a stadium, you can thank a Structural Engineer for ensuring its safety and stability. It’s incredible to think that your master’s degree in structural engineering could potentially impact millions of lives.

In this section, we’ll explore various career paths available to structural engineers that are waiting for you to make your mark.

Structural Engineer

As a structural engineer with a master’s degree, you’ll have the exciting opportunity to design and analyze structures such as buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure. Your expertise will ensure the safety and stability of these structures, considering factors like the material properties, environmental forces, and expected loads.

The BLS reports the median salary for a Structural Engineer, typically categorized under Civil Engineers, to be around $88,050 per year.

Bridge Engineer

Bridge engineers focus specifically on the design, construction, and maintenance of bridges. Your specialized knowledge of materials, load-bearing capabilities, and safety requirements will play a critical role in connecting communities and ensuring people’s safety.

Data from Salary.com states that the average salary for a Bridge Engineer is about $99,020 per year.

Building Envelope Engineer

As a building envelope engineer, you’ll help design solutions to protect a building’s interior from moisture, temperature fluctuations, and other environmental factors. This role is vital in ensuring the long-term durability, energy efficiency, and comfort of buildings.

According to the BLS, a Building Envelope Engineer can expect an average salary of approximately $98,060 per year. This falls under the category of architectural, engineering, and related services.

Wind Engineering Specialist

Harnessing the power of the wind while addressing its potential impact on structures becomes your focus as a wind engineering specialist. You’ll analyze wind forces on buildings, bridges, and other structures and design solutions to minimize wind-induced damage or vibrations.

Even though BLS data doesn’t specify the salary for wind engineering specialists directly, the median salary listed for Civil Engineers and Electrical Engineers, which will have salaries very close to Wind Engineering Specialists, was around $88,050 to $101,780 per year, respectively.

Earthquake Engineering Specialist

In this specialized field, you’ll focus on designing structures capable of withstanding the forces produced during earthquakes. By evaluating soil conditions, structural materials, and architectural designs, you can help create safe and resilient buildings in earthquake-prone regions.

The BLS cites a median salary for an Earthquake Engineering Specialist, which is closely tied to structural engineering and civil engineering, to be about $88,050 per year.

How Much do Structural Engineering Graduates Make?

As a structural engineering graduate, your earning potential depends on various factors such as your education, experience, and location.

Let’s break down what you can expect to make on your journey from entry-level positions to the peak of your career.

Starting Salary for Structural Engineering

As you step into the professional world after graduation, it’s essential to know what awaits you in terms of starting salary.

On average, entry-level structural engineers in the United States can expect to earn around $60,550 per year up to around $70,000. Of course, this figure can vary depending on the company, geographical location, and your negotiation skills during the hiring process.

Remember, starting salaries can be negotiable – so don’t forget to research and prepare before sealing the deal.

Average Salary for a Master’s in Structural Engineering

On average, those with a master’s in structural engineering earn around $76,000 to $85,000.

But keep in mind, these figures are just medians – specific job roles or industries might offer higher compensation.

What’s the Most a Structural Engineering Graduate Makes?

As you gain experience and get closer to the peak of your career, it’s only natural to aspire for higher earning potential.

Structural engineers (often categorized into the civil engineering discipline) who are at their career peak can expect to make around $133,320 or more per year, per data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Several factors contribute to this peak salary, including years of experience, leadership roles, specialized skills, and professional certifications. It’s essential to continuously learn and adapt to stay relevant in the ever-evolving field of structural engineering.

Tips for Increasing Salary Potential

With the ever-changing job market and increasing demand for skilled professionals, it’s never a bad time to take charge of your career and ensure you’re getting the compensation you deserve.

Below, we’ll explore some practical tips to help you increase your salary potential and reach new heights in your professional journey.

Here are some quick tips you can implement to begin boosting your salary potential:

  1. Higher education & learning: Investing in yourself through qualified degree programs can open doors to higher-paying positions. Consider pursuing a PhD or advanced certificates in either structural engineering or a related field, as this will give you the expertise needed for more advanced roles and, ultimately, a bigger paycheck.
  2. Specialize in high-demand areas: Explore emerging trends or technologies within the industry, such as green building design or earthquake-resistant structures. Specializing in these areas can position you at the forefront of innovation, making you more attractive to employers and clients.
  3. Develop your soft skills: Technical knowledge is key in structural engineering, but don’t forget the soft skills! Improve your communication, leadership, and project management abilities to better showcase your value to potential employers.

Continuing Education After a Master’s in Structural Engineering

So, you’ve taken the plunge and completed your master’s in structural engineering. Congratulations! You might be thinking, “What’s next?”

Let’s take a look at continuing education options available to you after your master’s, including advanced certificates and a doctorate in structural engineering.

Advanced Certificates

You may have your master’s in structural engineering on hand, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Advanced certificates offer a way for you to continue honing your skills and staying ahead in the ever-evolving field of structural engineering. Advanced certifications, such as those in seismic design, bridge design, or sustainable construction, can help you specialize further and become an expert in specific areas.

While pursuing these certifications, you’ll not only deepen your knowledge, but also strengthen your professional network. These advanced certificates can lead to promotions or open up entirely new career opportunities, setting you apart from your peers.

Employers appreciate individuals who aren’t afraid to learn and grow, so go ahead and explore the different types of advanced certifications you have available; you never know how far they might take you!

Doctorate in Structural Engineering

If you’re eager to become a true expert in the field of structural engineering, consider pursuing a doctorate in structural engineering (Ph.D.). A doctorate allows you to delve even deeper into your chosen specialty, conduct cutting-edge research, and potentially contribute new knowledge to the industry.

A Ph.D. process can be challenging but equally rewarding. You can eventually find yourself collaborating with other like-minded professionals and scholars, working on groundbreaking projects that can redefine the world of structural engineering.

Beyond academic prestige, a doctorate degree can offer access to high-level research positions, top-level consulting roles, and even lucrative teaching opportunities.

Scholarship and Financial Aid Information

You’re pursuing a master’s in structural engineering, but the only thing standing between you and this exciting field of study is the cost – what do you do?

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to make your dream a reality. In this section, we’ll explore scholarship and financial aid opportunities that can help ease the financial burden of obtaining your advanced degree.

Financial Aid

As a master’s student in structural engineering, you have several financial aid options at your disposal.

Some of these include:

  • Federal Grants and FAFSA: By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re opening doors to a number of federal grants designed to support graduate students like you. Grants, unlike loans, do not need to be repaid – so make sure you explore all your options.
  • Loans: Federal and private student loans can help cover tuition costs, living expenses, and other education-related expenses while pursuing your master’s degree.
  • Employer Support: Some employers recognize the value of advanced education and may offer financial assistance or tuition reimbursement programs to their employees. Check with your employer about available opportunities, which could significantly reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.

Scholarships

Scholarships can play a vital role in funding your master’s in structural engineering.

As a prospective student, here’s what you should do:

  • Research scholarships specifically for engineering students: Many organizations, universities, and professional societies offer scholarships tailored to engineering students like you.
  • Go through the application process: Begin researching scholarships early and be thorough in your application process. Pay close attention to deadlines and eligibility criteria to maximize your chances of success.
  • Experience the benefits: Scholarships come with numerous benefits, from easing the financial burden of your education to giving your resume a competitive edge after graduation.

Internships

As you navigate the path of obtaining a master’s in structural engineering, internships can give you valuable hands-on experience and real-world exposure to the industry.

By having an internship during your graduate studies, you can:

Gain practical experience:

Internships allow you to apply your theoretical knowledge to real-world situations, giving you the experience and confidence you’ll need in your future career.

Network with professionals:

Interacting with experienced professionals in the field can lead to networking opportunities and potential job offers after graduation.

Explore specializations:

A well-placed internship can help you determine which area of structural engineering interests you most by exposing you to various projects and challenges.

Improve your resume:

Adding an internship to your resume showcases your hands-on experience in the field, making you a more attractive candidate for potential employers.

Develop soft skills:

Internships not only help you refine your technical knowledge but also foster essential soft skills like communication, teamwork, and time management.

Potential for full-time job offers:

Performing well during an internship might lead to a full-time job opportunity with the same company after graduation.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

How Much Does a Master’s in Structural Engineering Cost?

The cost of a master’s in structural engineering varies depending on factors such as the school, location, and whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. Generally, you can expect to pay between $13,547 and $36,296 for your degree per year, more if you attend a prestigious or private university. Keep in mind that financial aid and scholarships can help reduce your overall costs.

Is a Master’s in Structural Engineering Degree Worth It?

Yes, it’s definitely worth it! A master’s in structural engineering can open doors to advanced job opportunities and higher salaries. With this degree, you’ll be equipped with advanced knowledge and skills that can help you tackle complex structural engineering projects and stand out in the job market.

How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering?

Typically, an online master’s degree in structural engineering takes about 18 months to 3 years to complete, depending on whether you’re studying full-time or part-time. The flexibility of online programs allows you to balance your education with other commitments.

Is a Master’s Degree Required to Advance in Structural Engineering?

While a master’s degree is not always required, it can certainly help you advance in the field of structural engineering. Employers value candidates with advanced education and specialized skills, which can lead to more responsibility and higher pay.

Are Structural Engineering Jobs in Demand?

Yes, structural engineering jobs are in demand, especially as the need for sustainable and resilient infrastructure grows. As populations increase and urbanization continues, the demand for skilled structural engineers will only continue to rise.

What Industries Are Hiring Structural Engineering Graduates that have a Master’s Degree?

Graduates with a master’s degree in structural engineering can find work in various industries such as construction, transportation, energy, and even disaster relief. Companies like architectural firms, engineering consultancies, and government agencies are always seeking structural engineers with advanced skills.

Is an Online Master’s in Structural Engineering the same as an On-Campus Degree?

An online master’s in structural engineering offers the same curriculum and learning objectives as an on-campus degree. The main difference lies in the flexibility and convenience of the online format, allowing you to learn at your own pace and schedule. Ultimately, employers view both types of degrees as equally valuable when considering job candidates.

Sources

https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm#tab-5

https://www.bls.gov/green/wind_energy/

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172051.htm

https://www.salary.com/research/salary/recruiting/bridge-engineer-salary

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