Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering What's The Difference
Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering What's The Difference

Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering: What’s The Difference?


Be part of our exclusive Construction Professional list and get exclusive discounts and monthly executive summary

* indicates required
( ) - (###) ###-####
Subscription to Newsletter


* indicates required
Subscription to Newsletter *
* indicates required
Subscription to Newletter *

Engineering is a broad field that involves different branches, and sometimes people find it difficult to differentiate them. Today, we’ll discuss the top two most mixed-up branches in engineering: Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering.

Just like a Civil Engineer, Structural Engineers are also in the game of construction. Suffice it to say; Structural is under the branch of Civil Engineering. These two disciplines play a vital role in the world of building and managing construction projects. However, despite the similarities, both professions are slightly different.

Let’s look at the points where the Civil meets Structural and where they differ.

Who is A Civil Engineer?

A Civil Engineer plans and builds public works, such as bridges, dams, and other infrastructure projects. There are also Civil Engineers involved in private companies who manage and deliver residential and commercial building projects. It is also considered one of the oldest and most values branches of engineering, dating back to humanity’s beginning.

In this, all aspect of organizing and building a structure falls under the remit of a Civil Engineer. This can include design, planning, budgeting, surveying, procurement, construction management, and analysis. They will be accountable for finding applicable materials, solving problems in the field, and assessing the structural integrity of a building to transform an architect’s vision into realization.

How to Become a Civil Engineer

Civil Engineering is a fantastic career with a lot of opportunities in the working world. Whether holding a bachelor’s degree and starting with entry-level jobs or moving into academe like a seasoned professional, various pathways can be taken on each step of the professional ladder.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering

The fundamental level of education for this profession is a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Students take courses in mathematics, statistics, Geotech, the strength of materials, fluid dynamics, and architectural design under such programs. They learn through different mediums, including class lectures, on-site fieldwork, laboratory experimentations, and internships.

In a bachelor’s degree, a student has a chance to focus their knowledge in a specialized area of Civil Engineering through technical research projects and specialized coursework.

Complete a Civil Engineering Internship

Generally, all programs require at least a semester, a summer long-internship, or certain direct service hours to fulfill the degree requirements. Students are encouraged to use this opportunity to incorporate the theories they’ve learned in the classroom in a real job setting. It’s also a good chance for them to learn practical skills and acquire insights in particular areas of Civil Engineering that they may be interested in pursuing after graduation.

Internships also serve the students well for future employment, enabling them to meet and network with other professionals, receive a guide from experienced Civil Engineers, and perhaps secure a job in a company after graduation. The majority of internships end in junior or senior year of study.

Choose a Specialty or Concentration

Because the field is broad, most students elect to concentrate or major in a particular area of study. Some of the typical specialties include construction management, transportation engineering, geotechnical engineering, land development and use, structural engineering, and a whole lot more. Undergraduates usually spend 12 to 18 credit hours completing topics in these specializations and may even complete their internship focused on their chosen field of specialty.

Pass the Relevant Exams for Certification

Civil Engineers who plan to offer their services to the public must undergo the following steps to be properly licensed. While there are specific rules governed by individual states, some of the most common requirements are:

  • Attend an ABET-accredited institution.
  • Complete the Fundamental Engineering (F.E.) examination after finishing a baccalaureate degree.
  • Undergo a Civil Engineer (C.E.) internship and be an Engineer-in-Training (EIT).
  • Acquire a minimum number of professional hours, meet necessary benchmarks along the way, and successfully pass the Principles and Practices of Engineering (P.E.) examination to become a Civil Engineer professional.

Land an Entry-level Job

After taking on internship programs during undergrad and completing the Engineer-in-Training phases, students will most likely obtain contacts within the industry through their networking efforts. In Civil Engineering, your networking is crucial because it determines a whole lot in your career. That is to say, all students and interns should always do their best work, ask necessary questions, learn practical skills, and meet as many professionals as many as possible.

What Do Civil Engineers Do?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civil Engineers are the ones who “design, construct, operate, supervise and maintain large construction systems and projects, including buildings, roads, airports, dams, bridges, tunnels, systems for sewage treatment and water supply.”

Moreover, Civil Engineers may also handle on-site preparation activities, such as earthmoving, excavation, and grading for large construction projects. Civil Engineers may also mainly focus on the project management for construction and write technical specifications for harmful or non-destructive testing of the reliability, performance, and durability of materials and structures.

Apart from regular office works, Civil Engineers also visit project sites to supervise construction operations. They also write crucial documents regarding the project, like status updates, responses to proposal requests, and various technical reports.

What is Structural Engineering?

Structural Engineering is one of the sub-disciplines under the umbrella of Civil Engineering concerned with the framework and design of structures, ensuring their sustainability and stability. Therefore, the Structural Engineer’s job is to plan structures that can withstand stress and pressure from external forces, such as the environment, and stay stable no matter the circumstances.

Therefore, the Structural Engineering theory’s idea is the physical laws and empirical knowledge of distinct materials and geometrics with regards to their structural capabilities. Meaning, Structural Engineers need to understand mathematics, material science, and applied mechanics thoroughly. Being knowledgeable on these required courses will help them understand and predict how structures can support and resist self-weight or dead weight and imposed or live loads.

What Are The Requirements To Become A Structural Engineer?

To become a Structural Engineer, you need to fulfill specific educational and licensing requirements. You must meet the same academic level of at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for any entry-level structural engineering job for all countries. In short, a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering or Structural Engineering is a must.

As a Structural Engineer, you need to pass the Professional Engineer (PE) licensure exam, and the National Council of Exams for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) conducts.

For Structural Engineers who want to climb the professional academic ladder, a Master of Science (MSCE) Degree, or even a Master of Business Administration (MBA), are ideal. With a master’s degree, you’re qualified to hold senior-level managerial positions.

The first licensing test to take is the Fundamentals of Engineering (F.E.) exam or the Engineering-in-Training (EIT) exam, usually taken before graduation. Once you’ve passed, you can get an entry-level job as a Structural Engineer. Afterward, you will take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (P.E.) exam, with required years of experience in the field that may vary by state.

Once you pass the interview, you will need to take an eight-hour professional review examination. Passing the exam will earn you a chartered membership (MIStructE).

What Does Structural Engineers Do?

Structural Engineers design and examine the gravity support and lateral forces resistance of bridges, buildings, and other structures. Below is a brief outline of the job description of a Structural Engineer:

– Preparing reports, drawings, and designs.

– Making calculations about loads, stresses, and pressures.

– Choosing the right construction materials after the strength is analyzed.

– Providing safe designs and construction advice to clients.

– Analyzing the configurations of the essential elements of a structure.

– Inspecting and monitoring the output of the contractor to ensure their structural soundness.

– Site investigations to assess the foundations and construction conditions.

What Software Do Civil Engineers and Structural Engineers Use?

AutoCAD for Drafting

AUTOCAD is one of the simplest software for documentation and drafting of construction projects developed by AutoDesk.

Primavera for Planning and Scheduling

Primavera is a scheduling and planning software used by almost 70% of Planners for their projects. M.S. Office also offers a similar program by the name of M.S. Project. 

Pro Crew Schedule for Construction Management

Pro Crew Schedule is a project management software used by contractors for scheduling and task management of the construction team members. It also serves as a centralized system where the team can store their documents, all in one place.

STAAD Pro for Design and Analysis

Bentley System’s STAAD Pro is a Structural Engineer’s choice for concrete, steel, timber, aluminum, and cold-formed design of virtually any type of structure through its flexible modeling environment, fluent data collaboration, and advanced features.

Key Takeaway

In a nutshell, the difference between a Civil Engineer and a Structural Engineer are the following:

Firstly, Civil Engineering concentrates on the design components while Structural Engineering is leaning more on inspection materials used in construction projects.

Secondly, Civil Engineering is a bachelor’s degree course offered in universities and colleges, while Structural Engineering is an advanced specialization achieved after becoming a Civil Engineer.

Thirdly, a Civil Engineer can perform the functions of a Structural Engineer, while the Structural Engineer can’t fully carry out a civil engineer’s duties.

But you may be thinking, what is the similarity between the two disciplines? It is this: A construction project cannot be built without one or the other. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top