Need a book? Engineering books recommendations...

Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

RE: Definition of Structural Engineering for High School Students

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]




Structural Engineers are primarily employed in the United States by
small private firms with 1-30 employees with lousy benefits. Some firms
have many more employees and are spread throughout their state or the
country. Structural Engineers are responsible for the life-safety aspect
of the supporting skeleton of the structure. They typical design the
roof framing, floor framing, foundations, and sometimes the walls of a
building. These framing members support the structure for gravity loads
including the weight of people, the contents of the building, the
self-weight of the building, and equipment. The engineer then designs
these same members to resist forces from short term loads like wind,
earthquakes, soil pressures, vehicles, impacts, and on occasion blast
loads. Structural Engineers work with people in related professions such
as Architects, Developers, Construction Managers, Home Owners, Insurance
Companies, and a non-english speaking laborers. The greatest joy for a
structural engineer is working with Building Officials and responding to
plan check comments. A close second, is fixing field problems that
result from incompetent trade workers like plumbers who cut holes in
beams. A typical day may involve a field visit to a site where one will
be escorted by your new best friend, the site foreman. The foreman will
kiss your backside and praise your drawings, then proceed to show you
how great a job his crew is doing while spitting tobacco into the
plywood floor diaphragm every 45 seconds. When you discover
discrepancies, he will then say it wasn't in the drawings. After a 30
second reprieve to collect your thoughts, you get to tell him all the
mistakes, and then for the next 2 hours you get to walk him through the
plans to show him where things are wrong. Your new best friend will then
say "can't you just write a letter sayin it's good?". You must resist
this temptation even though he will bad mouth you to the owner and
architect. Expect a call from either or both when you return to the
office. Your office space will usually include some folding tables, a
computer 2 years outdated, a phone with a complicated voicemail, hold,
and transfer system, and plans of old projects you're just waiting to
file, but know the phone will ring with a question forcing you to go
back to the file room anyway to dig it up. "If we don't do our jobs, we
get sued" one SE wrote. "people just assume that the structural
engineer's work is a necessary evil to get a permit" another SE wrote.
The structural integrity of a building is based upon sound engineering
judgement built by the lowest bidder employing illiterate workers who
never even read the prints that are not produced using ammonia.
Engineers must be above reproach, even though the client will chose a
cheaper and less dutiful engineer on the next project. An unusual aspect
of structural engineering is that he/she must understand the timing of
the project. Usually, projects were to be completely designed 2 weeks
prior to getting the phone call to "bid" on the job. Random inspections
and unsupervised tours never occur unless the building inspector doesn't
like the contractor and wants to get you involved. Builders are not
honest and is best summed up by Ricardo Montablon at the end of The
Naked Gun when Pricilla Pressley asks him "how could you" in reference
to his plot to assassinate the Queen of England at an Angels Baseball
game. His response: "You forget my dear, I spent 2 years as a building
contractor". If a structural engineer conducts inspections, he can
expect a complaining phone call about the fee. The building inspections
are best left to an Independent Special Inspector who will gloss over
the plans and sip coffee and bullshit with the foreman for a few hours
each visit. "You've got to expect that the company building the
structure will cut corners and do the best you can to be there 24/7 so
you can hold there hand while they load their nail guns" one SE wrote.
An interview with the construction manager offsite will generally make
it plain to the SE that he understand nothing you are saying and is
basically a glorified secretary with a boiler gut, loud voice, and a
plethora of dirty jokes. There are exceptions of course, so when you
find them, kiss their ass in return. Structural Engineers need to posses
a keen eye for detail, a comprehensive understanding of building
standards and materials and that their job is difficult, important, and
a rewarding one in a S&M type of way.


Structural Engineers must have a college degree in engineering, either
Civil, Mechanical, or architecture. Fewer than 70 colleges offer and
undergraduate major in structural engineering for obvious reasons.
Courses include physics, mechanics of materials, mathematics, material
science, traffic design, water resources, technical writing, economics.
Possible courses also might include drafting/cad. You usually leave
undergraduate school thinking you know everything. You soon learn you
know nothing except hopefully what questions to ask your boss when you
get to the task at hand. A structural engineer must be familiar with all
the pieces of construction, including possible toilet and sewer line
penetrations through structural members that the laborer will determine
after inhaling a burrito from the roach coach. One state requires that
structural engineers have 2 years experience in the construction
industry to sit for a CIVIL engineering exam that has 4 parts. Then if
you pass, 3 years later you can take another exam to use the title
"structural engineer". Most states do not have a S.E. designation, but
you can use the title legally if that is your area of practice, pass the
exam, and have 4 years of experience. Expect very low pay initially with
minimal increases as you gain licensure and experience. You will be
making about the same amount of money as a used car salesman or an Arena
Football player should you choose this as your life path. Candidates
should have job experience that demonstrates a significant level of
maturity, patience for the inept, and some outlet for stress buildup
like shooting animals in the wild or develop a drinking problem. One
should not be a narcissist seeking glory or praise for their work, the
architects do that for you.


Many structural engineers have a construction background and they return
to this field because their fathers told them "that's where the money
is". They become construction managers if they can talk, material
purchasers if they can use a phone, architectural assistants if they
have no pride, and consultants to worksites if they can't do math or
draw anymore. Their analytical abilities make them well suited to many
professions yet to be determined, but the majority of them suffer along
until they die with a house, kids who still mooch off of them, and an
extra large coffin because they sat on their ass all day working on a
computer sucking down cokes and McDonalds.



Now off to coach 7 five year old girls in soccer!

-----Original Message-----
From: Caldwell, Stan [mailto:scaldwell(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2005 1:08 PM
To: SEAINT Listserv
Subject: Definition of Structural Engineering for High School Students

I thought that many of you would be interested in this unfortunate
description of our beloved profession:

The Princeton Review is where many/most American high school students
turn for career guidance.  It sickens me to think that even one student
might have read this description and then pursued a different career.
If any of you are motivated to correct this travesty, here are the
people to contact:

The Princeton Review
2315 Broadway
New York, NY 10024
Telephone: 212-874-8282
Fax: 212-874-0775

Suellen Glasser
The Princeton Review
212-874-8282 ext.1336

Harriet Brand
Director, Public Relations
The Princeton Review
212-874-8282, ext.1091

Robin Raskin
Director, Communications
The Princeton Review
212-874-8282, ext.1647

Best regards,

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE, F.AEI

MISTAKES:  "It could be that the purpose of your
life is only to serve as a warning to others.

******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* ***
*   Read list FAQ at:
*   This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers
*   Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To
*   subscribe (no fee) or UnSubscribe, please go to:
*   Questions to seaint-ad(--nospam--at) Remember, any email you
*   send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted
*   without your permission. Make sure you visit our web
*   site at:
******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ********

******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* ***
*   Read list FAQ at:
*   This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers 
*   Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To 
*   subscribe (no fee) or UnSubscribe, please go to:
*   Questions to seaint-ad(--nospam--at) Remember, any email you 
*   send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted 
*   without your permission. Make sure you visit our web 
*   site at: 
******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ********