Architectural Engineer Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Civil engineers, which include architectural engineers, earn a mean annual wage of approximately $86,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming an architectural engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as an Architectural Engineer

Architectural engineering is a subdivision of civil engineering. An aspiring architectural or civil engineer can typically start entry-level work after earning a bachelor's degree, but additional training and licensing exams are required to work independently.

PROS of a Career as an Architectural Engineer
Employment growth of 20% expected for civil engineers from 2012-2022*
Earn average starting salaries of about $62,000 a year with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering (2014 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey)*
Engineers trained in one area can work in related areas with more employment possibilities*
Room for advancement (with experience and voluntary professional certifications)*

CONS of a Career as an Architectural Engineer
Design standards and deadlines can cause job pressures and extended hours*
Must be licensed to sell services directly to the public*
4 years of relevant experience after graduation are required for licensing*
Some states might have additional licensing requirements*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As an architectural engineer, you might specialize in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; structural engineering; or building systems design related to electrical engineering, construction, or lighting. As a civil engineer, you'd mostly likely work a typical 40-hour week, but extensive travel is a possibility. You also might spend time outdoors at building sites. Design standards and deadlines could cause you extra job pressures and extended work hours. Some civil engineers also have supervisory duties.

Career Prospects and Salary

According to the BLS, civil engineers, in general, might expect employment growth of 20% between 2012 and 2022. That's much faster than the average for all occupations. However, your opportunities in various geographic areas might differ because local the economy can have negative effects on construction. As long as the population continues to grow, though, buildings will continue to need fixing and replacing.

In May 2013, the BLS reported the mean annual wage for civil engineers working in the architectural, engineering and related services industry was about $88,000. The National Association of Colleges and Employers also revealed findings from a 2014 survey that reported individuals with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering were earning starting salaries averaging approximately $62,000 a year.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

For a career as an architectural engineer, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree that may take four or five years to complete. Engineering programs normally involve general engineering courses, your chosen specialty area coursework, math, science, computer aided design, social sciences and humanities. As a student in architectural engineering, you'll also study building construction, surveying and architectural history.

College programs vary widely, and you'll want to do a lot of research. For example, some programs prepare you for a job, while other programs might prepare you for graduate school. You'll also want to check on current civil engineering professional track requirements. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) revealed that the future goal was to require a master's degree, or at least 30 additional credit hours, before the licensing exam.

Licensure Requirements

All states require that you be licensed if you want to sell engineering services directly to the public. In order to earn a license and become a professional engineer (PE), you'll need an engineering degree from a program accredited by the ABET - previously known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology - four years of related work experience and a passing score on your licensing exams. The first exam is called the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE), and you can take that right after graduation. Once you pass that, you're considered an engineer in training (EIT). After you've completed your work experience, you can take the second exam, which is the Principles and Practice of Engineering. You also might want to earn certifications available through professional organizations in order to show that you're competent in certain areas of engineering.

Real Job Postings

Architectural engineers are needed to design, repair and replace buildings and building complexes. Read the following excerpts taken from real job listings in March 2012 to find out what employers were seeking:

  • An aviation company in Minnesota advertised for a full-time architectural engineer to design wind tunnel facilities. This company required a bachelor's or master's degree in architectural, civil, or mechanical engineering. The employer also looked for 5-10 years experience, technical writing skills, working knowledge of electrical and mechanical engineering, proficiency in computer aided design and PE licensing. Up to 25% of this job involved travel.
  • An energy company in Tennessee was looking for a full-time architectural, civil, or structural senior engineer to review and approve engineering plans, consult with other engineers and managers, recommend and approve other professional services, in addition to a wide variety of managerial duties. Requirements included a bachelor's degree in civil or structural engineering, PE license and computer proficiency. This employer was seeking a wide range of experience, including working with requirements of electric projects, developing engineering input to plant capital cost estimates, software programs for analysis and design, computer-aided engineering systems and power plants. Base pay was listed as $100,000-$150,000 per year.
  • A company in Massachusetts advertised for a full-time senior engineer to help government clients in planning and designing renovation and repair of facilities and infrastructures. This company required a bachelor's degree and experience in civil, structural, or architectural engineering. The employer also looked for strong analytical and interpersonal skills, computer literacy and professional registration in engineering or certification in architectural design.

How to Maximize Your Skills

There are several ways that you can make sure your resume is noticed. You can earn continuing education credits, even if your state doesn't require them for relicensure. You might also cross-train and earn certifications to demonstrate your competency in various areas of engineering. Continuing education credits and certifications are available through professional organizations like the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI).

Other Career Paths

If you want a career that is more focused on a building's design rather than its engineering systems or one with fewer education and licensing requirements, below are listed a few alternatives that might interest you.

Architect

An architect designs buildings and other public and private structures. They take into consideration a client's requirements as well as zoning laws, building codes, and material costs, then draw up plans used for the construction of these structures. A bachelor's degree is required for entry-level positions, but professional degrees in architecture takes five years to complete. All states require architects to be licensing and go through a training period prior to applying for licensure. Additional requirements vary by state. According to the BLS, architects earned a mean annual wage of over $79,000.

Civil Engineering Technician

Civil engineering technicians assist engineers in a variety of tasks, such as designing and planning, estimating costs and inspecting work sites to make sure they are going up according to plan specification. Becoming a civil engineering technician requires an associate degree, though many schools offer 2-year or 4-year engineering technology programs. These hands-on programs would prepare you for design and production work, instead of jobs that require more scientific or theoretical knowledge. You would work under the direction of a licensed engineer rather than be licensed yourself. According to the BLS, civil engineering technicians earned a mean annual wage of over $48,000 in 2011.

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