Francis O' Toole Author – Careers Ireland

Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

  • August 2019
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Working in Engineering







SPEAKER: Elaine Dillon – Michael Punch & Partners


DEFINITION OF CAREER AREA: Structural engineering is a field of engineering that deals with the design of a structural system with the purpose of supporting and resisting various loads. A structural engineer is most commonly involved in the design of buildings and non-building structures, but also plays an essential role in designing machinery where structural integrity of the design item impacts upon safety and reliability. Large man-made objects, from furniture to medical equipment to a variety of vehicles, require the input of a structural engineer.


The difference between a structural engineer and an architect is that an architect is a person who is involved in the planning, designing and oversight of a building’s construction. In the broadest sense, an architect is a person who translates the user’s needs into a physical, built solution.


A structural engineer will then propose the most economical way – both structurally economically – to physically achieve the vision outlined by the architect.  This requires compromise on both sides to achieve a solution that will look as it should but will also be a safe and secure structure. 


TYPICAL DAY: This really depends on what career path is chosen after completing the degree.  A “typical day” is difficult to define as the workload is so varied for every project undertaken.  Typical duties would include meetings with design teams and clients, detailed design, drawing preparation and approval, site inspections and quality control. 


ROUTES OF ENTRY: There are very few Structural Engineering specific courses in Ireland.  However, all the major universities in Ireland carry a course in Civil Engineering, a module of which is structural engineering.  In addition to the strong reputations of the National Universities of Ireland, many of the Institutes of Technologies around the country provide excellent courses. 


Entry requirements will always involve a minimum mathematics grade such as a B3 in honours for University College Dublin.  However, other institutions offer a lower grade entry with provision made in the course to bring all students to the same level.  A minimum grade science subject is also typically required.  It is advisable – but not necessary – to take subjects such as physics, chemistry, graphical design and engineering design.  It should be noted that all Leaving Certificate material is typically covered within the first year of the college syllabus.


The course is typically four years and can include extended periods of work experience.  Depending on the university, there may be one or two years of “general” engineering where the different engineering disciplines are more broadly covered before a specialist subject is chosen.  Other colleges do not provide any general engineering and specialise in a discipline from entry level. 


By 2013 it will become mandatory for all engineers to hold an MA in Engineering to achieve professional chartership status thus the course requirement will become five years in total. 


The course itself is challenging and will push their minds as much as possible.  The hours are long but very constructive to provide a well rounded education so that there will always be time to enjoy the more sociable aspects of an active campus. 


CAREER PATH: Structural engineering is typically divided into two main areas of bridge design and building design and the main sectors of employment being in consultancy or contractor based companies.  However, a degree in any discipline of engineering will open up doors to a variety of career paths with approximately 80% of the top management levels in Ireland being filled by engineers across a broad range of businesses.  


SALERY SCALE: From the 2006 graduate survey, the average starting salaries are shown below.



One Response to “Working in Engineering”

  1. Samuel L. said

    Hey, nice tips. Perhaps I’ll buy a bottle of beer to that person from that forum who told me to go to your blog 🙂

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