How to Become an Architectural Engineer

If you excel at mathematics, devise clever solutions to problems and have an interest in designing buildings, you might wonder how to become an architectural engineer. Architectural engineers are professionals closely related to civil engineers and structural engineers. They design buildings to ensure function and structural soundness as well as aesthetic appearance.

Unlike architects, who deal more comprehensively with the aesthetic art of designing the appearance of buildings, architectural engineers design buildings with regards to the physics and mathematical engineering principles that help ensure that structures are sturdy and safe. They have a hand in planning the construction of buildings as well as the physical appearance of the finished project. Their work includes the planning of important building systems, such as electrical power, lighting fixtures and heating and cooling systems as well as the design of the building itself. Architectural engineers often work with architects, taking aesthetic designs created by the architect and incorporating systems and engineering principles into those designs to make sure that the finished building will be functional and structurally secure.

To begin preparing for a career as an architectural engineer, candidates must first invest in earning a formal education from an accredited college or university. A growing number of academic institutions are now offering programs of study in architectural engineering specifically. Students should be sure to choose an architectural engineering program rather than the similarly-named architectural engineering technology program, which typically prepares students to be assistants rather than full-fledged architectural engineers themselves. During the four to five years of study required to earn a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering, students will study physics, mathematics and civil engineering principles. They often gain real-world experience in engineering through internships.

Upon completing their formal academic career, aspiring architectural engineers must spend at least four years working in the field of engineering before they are eligible to earn the Professional Engineer (PE) designation from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Earning the PE designation allows individuals to work as full-fledged engineers. The NCEES’s Principles and Practice of Engineering exam in architectural engineering includes questions on building systems integration, electrical systems, mechanical systems, structural systems and project management and construction administration.

Collectively, civil engineers earn a median salary of $77,560 per year, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Actual wages vary based on employer, position, location, experience and education, so experienced architectural engineers have the potential to earn even higher wages. Civil engineers as a whole can anticipate faster job growth than workers in many other occupations. The BLS expects a 19 percent increase in employment opportunities in this field by 2020 as compared to only 14 percent job growth expected for all occupations. If you pay attention to detail, are comfortable working with numbers and scientific concepts and resolve problems resourcefully, knowing how to become an architectural engineer could be the start of an exciting new career designing buildings in the fast-paced field of civil engineering.

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