Everything you need to know about Structural Engineering

What is the Structural Engineering Course (SE)?
The Structural Engineering course is the test that tests the basic knowledge eligibility of a student to study and practice structural engineering. The 16-hour long exam establishes the ability of a student to design and build safe buildings, bridges or any other physical infrastructure that will withstand the forces of nature, especially earthquakes and high winds. The test is targeted for engineers who practice in States where an official accreditation is required for rendering professional services. The SE Exam has two components: Lateral and Vertical.

Structural Engineering

SE Exam pattern and duration
SE has two major components: SE Vertical Forces course and SE Lateral Forces course. The design standards for both the components are released six months prior to the exam dates. The exams are usually conducted in the months of April and October. The updates are released in November and May respectively. The exams are conducted on Fridays and Saturdays.

The SE exam is an open-book pattern exam. Students are allowed to take inside the exam hall reference material notes, text books, papers in bound form. Stapled materials are prohibited so are sticky notes and flags unless they remain attacked to the reference materials.

Passing credentials
A student needs to obtain acceptable results on both the 8-hour components of SE in order to pass. However, licensure candidates are not required to do the same. They can take one 8-hour component in one sitting, attain acceptable marks in it and take the next 8-hour component at a later stage for completing SE. However, there cannot be a gap of 5 years between both the sittings.

Scoring methodology
Both the SE Vertical Forces Course and lateral course are multiple choice question based during the morning session. The students have to mark the answer in a special answer tailor made for the purpose. The correction is done by a OCR machine which generates accurate scores of the student for the multiple choice question section. The afternoon session marks the constructed response (essay) pattern examination which will be evaluated by subject-matter experts, usually professors or practicing Structural Engineers.

Results reporting
The SE exam results are released in ten to twelve days from the date of the exam completion. Depending on the State where the student wrote the exam, the results will be communicated via the online portal of NCEES, through post or through mail intimation. The result will inform the student’s score in both the morning and afternoon components. The student must achieve minimum competency on combining both the components to be declared SE pass.

Students who do not attain the acceptable scores will be provided a diagnostic score report of both the components. The intend of the diagnostic report is to help the student identify personal strengths and weaknesses for better performance in the next attempt.


Should I take SE Structural Engineering Exam?

After years of hard work and experience, gaining a PE licensure alone doesn’t mark the end of progress for your structural engineering career. There’s an even more grueling exam designed to test your in-depth knowledge of structural engineering – the SE Structural Engineering Exam. While most engineers may not feel like putting in the extra effort for the SE exam and are satisfied with a PE licensure, a few would prefer otherwise. The SE exam would demand a lot of your time and commitment. You’ll also need to shell out money for books, exam fee, review courses etc. If you’re still debating on whether you should or should not take the SE exam, then read on carefully and make a decision:

structural engineering

The upside:
Perhaps being aware of the host of opportunities the SE structural engineering exam can open up may put your doubts to rest. Here’s the upside of attempting the SE exam:

i)Respect and authority
Simply having an SE title commands respect from people. Your opinion and words tend to carry more weight, which in turn translates into a sense of unmatched authority.

ii)Boosts confidence
You’ve just passed a grueling 16-hour long exam and you’ve got every right to flaunt it as one of your biggest achievements. This accomplishment can help boost your confidence level.

Let’s face it – in order to pass the SE structural engineering exam, you’ll need to put in at least 200 hours of study time. The extent of knowledge you will gain in the process should make you feel good about yourself

iv)Career opportunities
For all those engineers with a legal SE credential, the array of opportunities is endless. As an SE, it is your job to stamp structural drawings and a lot of potential employers may be eyeing you as a viable candidate.

The downside:

i)No pay raise
Gaining an SE title doesn’t instantly guarantee you a pay raise as firms are gradually starting to accept SE as an industry standard. This means that the chances of your employer awarding you with a raise are very slim.

ii)Extra costs incurred
Right from the exam fees to the material costs, you must invest a lot to pass the SE Structural Engineering Exam.

iii)Time wasted
What if you do not make it? The hours you’ve wasted studying could have been spent on something else you liked.

So should you take the SE Structural Engineering Exam? Why not? Even if you fail to make it past the exam, a little extra knowledge never hurts. Keep up an optimistic attitude and take up the SE exam to reap the countless benefits that passing the SE exam will provide.