You've described the structural engineer's job conditions pretty accurately.
Those are the conditions; they aren't the job. The job is worth it if you
can find satisfaction in accomplishing a project well-done, while overcoming
the conditions you've described.
You've started your career by being directed by others: applying the rules
and procedures that you've learned in school and that are required by your
Next you'll begin to be more self-directed, seeking out and applying to your
assignments the knowledge of the people who supervise you and who work with
you, as well as the knowledge and understanding that you take in from
reading journals, codes, the threads on the seaint-list and technical
magazines; attending seminars; hearing the prominant of the profession
speak; joining a professional committee and keeping your ears open wider
than your mouth and helping out with the drudge-work of subcommittees.
Finally you'll proceed to putting all of that together into a package made
unique by your own personal style, and you'll begin to innovate. Its then
that the job begins to become really satisfying. It's when you are solving
problems that no one around you has solved before, and developing design or
analysis techniques that you've figured out yourself (not learned from
others), producing a design that would not have been produced if you had not
been the designer, that you
can take the hassles in stride and find the joy in engineering.
Don't get discouraged by the others-directed and the self-directed phases --
you've got to go through them. There's no short cut to get to the
innovation phase. I guess its called paying your dues.
The two great motivators are love for what you are learning, and
affirmation. If you are not getting at least one of these, or both, you
probably won't make it out of the first two phases -- and, if you've got
options, you will probably start looking around for something else to do.
If you keep loving what you are learning and keep getting affirmed for what
you are doing, you'll probably get to the third phase, and find your
profession most satisfying.
But don't make your family pay your dues. Priorities are a juggling act,
and I've dropped more than a few balls -- enough to make me realize that
it's really important to keep your family at the top. Your job is for them,
as much as, if not more than, it is for you.
And, keep your faith at the top of your priorities --that's where the
perspective that really defines your purpose for life, and all your other
priorities, is found.
About 15 years ago, I was the bum on a project on which I didn't make the
deadline. I knew that I was doing a good job but that it wouldn't be a good
job if I released it on the due date. It was a discouraging time for me --
I was taking a beating from myself as well as from the people to whom I was
responsible. But the building got built; it's still a building to be proud
of, and probably no one but me still remembers that I missed my deadline.
That was the first job on which I felt that I was successfully innovating.
Knowing that it was a job well done, and that no one else would have done it
in the same way, was (and still is) most satisfying.