How to transform to a Structural Engineer from Site Engineering?

Updated: Jan 25

I get questions like this and many more from civil engineers on a daily basis. If you are a civil engineer working in site and what to shift to a structural engineering career or structural detailing career, you should read this. Others who are fresh civil engineers with BE in civil engineering and if you are confused if you should take up a site engineering job or a structural design job, then you should also read this. Before explaining all of this, let me state the general questions that I get from civil and structural engineers. Then I will answer them in detail in the subsequent sections.

I will exactly advice, what you can do the best in my opinion under these circumstances.These are general questions posed by many civil and structural engineers at some point in their civil engineering career.

  • I have 3 to 10 years of experience in site, Can I now shift to structures, what will be my salary.Can I get the same salary as I get with my site engineering role?

  • I am a fresh civil engineer, I don’t have MTech in structural Engineering, Can I design?

  • Should I first work in site and then come back to design?

  • I have a break in my career, how can I restart, nobody is considering me.

  • I am a fresh civil engineer. I did my masters in structures also. But all structural consultants are asking to come with experience.

  • I have various experience and I want to now start my own practice. But I don’t have a great idea about structures. What do I do?

I will attend to these questions by civil engineering job seekers in best of my ability and with my experience in the structural design industry.

Shifting from Site based Roles to Structural Design

My answer is Yes, you can do this. Before answering this, let me say that structural engineering is not just about sitting in a consulting office and using ETABS or Staad Pro. It’s also about multi-disciplinary co-ordination, it’s also about site co-ordination, it also includes excellent detailing skills and so on. A site engineers’ role will help you to appreciate the site interfaces, construction tolerances needed, general mistakes that happens in site and factor in this in the design stages and so on. Read this blog additionally. The additional blog will also take you to some other blogs that will probably help you too.

Also note that if you have executed rebar detailing, then producing a drawing for you is just a matter of learning CAD or Revit. You can excel in detailing or BIM roles. Also, you can get in to design if you develop the software skills in ETABS or similar tools like Staad Pro. This needs determination, hard work and ability to adapt. This is not impossible. I have many students who have transformed quite comfortably.

Now you may ask a question – Will I be considered? Will I get the same salary?

The answer is, you may or you may not get. It depends on the way you have transformed. How much you have learnt. Have you learnt doing projects? Moreover, you should be able to present yourself as an independent structural engineer who can take decisions. If you do this, there are good chances that you get a matching salary to your site experience. Many times, it also depends on the firms that you are applying. Some companies will have design and build where your site experience also can be made use of. Some builder firms like Shobha Developers and Total Environment have structural design inhouse and they also have site engineering. Your experience will be handy. Some firms will be purely structural consultancies who might not consider much of your site experience. MNCs generally consider your over all ability. There will be different kinds of roles where you may not need exact analysis skills and you can slowly learn there being in a role like that of a delivery manager and slowly progress. Also, some companies will have secondary structure designs and small refurbishment works that are less challenging. You can start there and learn and gain experience and then progress. It all needs a strong determination, patience and understanding. Even Architectural design firms will have multiple roles where you can do a mix of site, quantities and design. In all these firms, you can also take up detailing and BIM based roles too which will be easier. Also, BBS or Bar bending schedule preparation is a good area where site engineers can focus. Popularity of precut bars has made BBS preparation a hot job. Many large global corporates like Atkins do have BBS preparation jobs outsourced to India. I have many students who are now entrepreneurs who do a lot of detailing works.

Do I need MTech in Structures to be a Structural Engineer?

Short answer is No in most cases. You can be a structural engineer with BE in civil engineering. This is the definition of a structural engineer in National Building Code of India (NBC). However, you need a minimum working experience in design to be called as a structural engineer. This is applicable to even those who have masters. They also need to have a min experience before practicing. However, states like Kerala have mandated masters for signing stability of High-Rise Buildings. Again, BE or BTech civil is allowed to design and sign drawings. Only stability that too of high risers need to be signed by a post graduate. This rule is debatable as it is not matching with NBC. Some employers might insist masters but not all. Its mainly because the gaps in education that most employers are asking for masters. Now the fact is that even after masters in structures, there are huge gaps in structural understanding. So, if you are able to demonstrate your ability, then this will not matter. How do you achieve that? Read this blog and also all the links in that blog.

If you have any doubts, note that, there are surely low-rise buildings and other design jobs that will surely consider BE civil engineers. You can also focus on BIM based roles in addition to analysis and design. It’s also worth to note that there are many pioneers and leading consultants in India who are BE Civil or even post graduates in other fields like Geo technical engineering than structures.

Should I work in Site First?