All professionals in either field have very intensive and specific training, becoming experts in fields that directly affect their specific type of engineering. They will first go through the normal four-year undergraduate degree in whatever field. They will then go through three years of intense professional training before proceeding. To prove they are ready for the workforce, trainees in either field must take and pass a fundamentals of engineering exam. After passing, they are licensed by whatever industry organization oversees their area of the world. But they aren’t done with this exam quite yet. After working in their fields for several years, both architectural and structural engineers are required to take a second half of the exam. Of these two, this article specifically centers on the current work of structural engineering design. It is a very ancient trade.
For as long as people have been building buildings—or structures of any kind, really—they have put a lot of effort and thought into the science of making sure those structures were strong enough to withstand the many forces of nature. Hence, structural engineering. The science of structural engineering has developed and perfected over time. It took the definite modern shape during the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century. Up until around about that time it was seen as just one of the duties of the architect.
However, one of the many things that the Industrial Revolution did was to give it its own shape. This ages long development process has resulted in a present structural engineering industry that now has access to an incredible amount of knowledge and tools. In addition, there have been a whole lot of developments in the structure itself. For instance, the code for how structures were to be inspected, the Uniform Building Code, was published in 1997. This long list of codes has itself been refined many times and is now known as the International Building Codes.
This is an incredibly detailed code of rules of regulations, stipulating specific procedures for individual types of building and building material. The IBC created and classified two kinds of structural engineer. There is the Structural Engineer of Record (or SER) who supervises, analyzes, designs, and documents the preparation and building of a structure to make it safe against any possible trauma or normal natural forces. They also ensure that it can merely stand up well under its own weight. The SER is required to be fully licensed and is not always just one individual.
Sometimes it is a structural engineering contracting company. Whatever the case, they are responsible for the structure of the building and must have their signature on the final papers. Then there is the Specialty Structural Engineer (SSE). The SSE is a structural engineer who is advanced, experienced, and has proven him or herself exceptionally superb in all of these areas. SSEs, structural engineer individuals who have proven themselves, usually specialize in complex aspects of overall structures and work in cooperation with SERs with SERs in the lead role.
The SERs will sometimes contract to handle SSEs to handle particularly complex parts of projects. They are to take the calculations for a portion of so that SERs can work with the architect for the project as a whole. It is highly recommended that all projects that require hiring an architect, also involve the hiring of at an SER.