Structural Design Technologist

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Structural Design Technologist


Structures like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Eiffel Tower have been standing for centuries and are both good examples of well-planned out projects on the part of structural engineers and technologists. If a building collapses to the ground, then the designer obviously did not take all the proper precautions during the design process. Structural design technologists provide technical support and services to structural engineers and contractors and help design and build several different types of structures, including buildings, roller coasters, Ferris wheels, tunnels and power plants. Structural design technologists help design and figure out how to build these edifices safely and economically so that they can withstand all expected loads. Structural design technologists help shape all of our lives and provide our cities and towns with a safe infrastructure.

A structural design technologist serves as the link between structural engineers and construction workers. They adopt scientific, mathematical and engineering theories in order to solve various technical problems in the areas of research and development, manufacturing, construction, inspection and maintenance. Some technologists estimate constructions costs and suggest materials to be used in particular projects, while others conduct land surveys and ground tests and take measurements. Technologists develop designs and drawings from preliminary concepts and sketches and prepare construction specifications, cost and material estimates, project schedules and reports.

Most structural design technologists specialize in a specific area once they gain some experience, such as research and development or quality control of designing. While working in development and research, technicians often conduct scientific studies and research in laboratories. They also participate in field surveys, inspections or technical investigations of topography, soils, drainage and water supply systems around construction sites and provide their findings as data in projects. Quality control involves conducting inspections and tests that must be performed in order to examine the existing quality of buildings. This type of work is helpful for reference when designing new structures.

Structural design technologists use traditional and high-tech tools like Intelligent Transportation Systems and Smart Systems to help engineers solve problems and meet challenges such as traffic congestion, exhaust pollution and urban development in relation to our infrastructure. Then they can create structural designs from this data to help improve roads and other existing structures. Accordingly, when structural design technologists conduct research, they must find the most cost-effective solutions to problems within safety and environmental standards. They 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  
Structural design technologists are interested in mathematics, science and technology. They enjoy working with scientific equipment and computers in offices and laboratories, but also like to switch working environments, and work on-site or outdoors. Technologists analyze information and design sketches in order to solve problems. Attention to details is an important trait to possess as well as working effectively under pressure with deadline situations. Since many structural design technologists design and draw in projects, creativity and artistry is also desirable. Finally, they should also enjoy working with people because when on site, they are dealing with engineers, construction workers and architects.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop and implement structural designs and drawings from preliminary concepts and sketches
  • Prepare construction specifications, cost and material estimates, project schedules and reports
  • Conduct field surveys, inspections or technical investigations of topography, soils, drainage and water supply systems in relation to structural designs
  • Conduct inspection and testing of construction materials
  • May supervise, monitor and inspect construction projects
  • 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
  • Structural design technologists spend more of their time in offices and laboratories than on-site however, there is some outdoor work involved. A typical day in the laboratory setting offers hands-on scientific research and experimentation, whereas office work will involve designing on the computer. Usually a technologist will travel to a structure site and then take their findings back to the office. They generally work standard 40-hour workweeks they are required to work longer hours to meet deadlines.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Structural design technologists work in both the public and private sectors. They are employed by government agencies such as the departments of transportation and the environment (especially in the municipal sector), engineering consulting firms, construction companies, electrical utilities, research and educational institutions, communications companies, the manufacturing, processing and transportation industries, among many other industries.

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

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

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a two- or three-year college program in civil engineering technology is usually required for structural design technologists. A certification in civil engineering technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians, and may be required for some positions. A supervised, two-year period of work is required for employment.

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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