Bridge Design Technician

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Bridge Design Technician


What do the Golden Gate Bridge, the Booklyn Bridge and the 7-Mile Bridge have in common? They are all examples of American bridges that at some stage involved the technical work of bridge design technicians. Many people take our modern bridges for granted, yet they connect people to cities and make transportation over water accessible by road. Bridge design technicians work under the guidance of bridge engineers to plan and design the construction, maintenance and decommissioning of a wide variety of bridge structures. A bridge design technician serves as the link between bridge engineers and construction workers. Their work helps improve our existing bridge infrastructure by assisting in the design of new and safe components.

Bridge design technicians adopt scientific, mathematical and engineering design principles and theories in order to solve various technical problems in the areas of research and development, manufacturing, construction, sales, inspection and maintenance. Some technicians estimate construction costs and suggest materials to be used in particular bridge projects, while others survey land and water sites, prepare sketches and drawings and monitor instruments used in different research studies. Working alongside engineers, they help design plans on computers which test and predict possible problems with a structure.

There are three areas a bridge engineering technician can choose to specialize in -- research and development, quality control and manufacturing. While assisting in research, technicians often work in laboratories conducting scientific studies and research for bridge engineers. They also participate in field surveys, inspections or technical investigations of topography, soils, drainage and water supply systems around bridges and present their findings as data in engineering projects. Quality control involves conducting bridge inspections and is thereby related to research in that tests must be performed in order to test the existing quality of bridges. Technicians are proficient at using transists, levels, density testing devices and many other quality control test instruments. The manufacturing side deals more with hands-on design, development and even possibly production.

Bridge design technicians will use high-tech tools like Intelligent Transportation Systems and Smart Systems in the design process. They help engineers find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while maintaining recognized standards. They may work independently or provide technical support to bridge engineers. Bridge design technicians are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Bridge design technicians should be interested in mathematics, science and technology. They enjoy working with scientific equipment and computers along with some time working outdoors. Technicians analyze information and design sketches in order to solve problems. Attention to detail is an important trait to possess as well as working effectively under pressure with deadline situations constantly looming. Since many bridge design technicians assist in design and drawing projects, creativity and artistry is also desirable.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop and implement designs and drawings from preliminary concepts and sketches
  • Prepare construction specifications, cost and material estimates, project schedules and reports
  • Conduct bridge surveys, inspections or technical investigations of topography, soils, drainage and water supply systems, road and highway systems, and other surrounding materials and structures that provide data for engineering projects
  • Assist in planning and scheduling bridge engineering projects
  • Perform other technical functions in support of bridge engineering practices
  • Prepare cost estimates and monitor project costs
  • Draft detailed dimensional drawings and designs layouts for projects and to ensure conformance to specifications
  • Ensure that safety and design specifications are followed and pollution control requirements are met
  • Respond to public suggestions and complaints
  • Calculate dimensions, square footage, profile and component specifications, and material quantities
  • This field provides indoor and outdoor workplace environments with both private contractors and public or governmental agencies. For those wishing to work in an office setting, opportunities exist for AutoCAD operators, estimators and designers. A laboratory setting offers hands-on scientific research and experimentation in water analysis, material testing and inspection. Outdoor work opportunities include preliminary and construction surveyors and inspecting bridge engineering projects. A typical day can often include both indoor office or laboratory work and some outdoor fieldwork. It is important to note that some bridge design technicians may be exposed to hazards on the job from chemicals, toxic materials or equipment.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Bridge design technicians work in both the public and private sectors. They are employed by government agencies such as the department of transportation, engineering consulting firms, construction companies, electrical utilities, research and educational institutions, communications companies, transportation industries and many other related industries.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Entry-level bridge design technicians may begin their career by performing routine duties under the close supervision of an engineer. They usually work in a civil engineering office helping to produce construction documents, or with a contracting firm helping to control the construction of an engineering bridge project. As technicians gain experience, they are often given more responsibility and more challenging assignments, often with less supervision.

Certain technicians may eventually move into more managerial roles and become supervisors. Additional experience could lead to work as a bridge inspector, CAD operator, or a draftsperson for a government engineering department. Further advancement opportunities could include supervisory and project management positions. Possible career options for bridge design technicians include employment as drafters, surveyors, cartographers, building and construction specialists, photogrammetrists and surveying technicians.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a one- or two-year college program in civil engineering technology is usually required for bridge design technicians.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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