7 Practical Tips to Ace the SE Structural Engineering Exam

Structural engineers looking to accelerate their career growth aim at acquiring SE structural engineering license. A thorough review of theoretical concepts and sharpening of problem solving capabilities ensures a top score in the exam

Structural engineers are:

Key players in the design and construction of buildings, dams and bridges

Key contributors to the maintenance and improvement of the environment

Developers of innovative solutions in the face of challenging work environments

Working as a structural engineer can be exciting and challenging at the same time. The work profile of a structural engineer is extremely versatile; it involves the design of simple houses to large sport stadiums and from skyscrapers to oil rigs. The Institution of Structural engineers produces highly-skilled structural engineers who have passed the toughest examinations. The image below represents the various facades of structural engineering.


What does it take to become a structural engineer?

The first step is to ensure that you have the right aptitude for pursuing structural engineering. Gaining expertise in structural engineering concepts requires a good grasp of mathematics, geography, science, art and design. While at high school make sure that you choose major subjects related to structural engineering. For a career in structural engineering, ensure that you have vocational qualifications in engineering, construction or related subjects. This is also the stepping stone for pursuing higher education in structural engineering.

How to acquire the SE Structural Engineering License?

If you wish to contribute your services directly to the state, then you need to acquire the SE structural engineering license. Not just that, clearing the SE structural engineering exam enables you to upgrade your skills and gain a strong foothold in the industry.

The SE exam is a 16-hour exam that is divided into vertical and lateral forces components. To be eligible for licensure students must obtain a qualifying score in both vertical and lateral component sections. The requirements for taking up the SE exam are:

  • Hold a valid Civil engineering license
  • Gain minimum work experience of 4 years in the relevant field

7 Highly Effective Preparation Tips for the SE Exam

Whether you are preparing for the SE exam on your own or by enrolling for a review course, these tips would help you ace the exam.

Gather complete details on the exam: Knowing about the exam well must precede your preparation plan. Understand the exam pattern and the difficulty level so that you can gather the right preparatory resources and work out the study plan

Decide on the when, where and how to study aspects: Most engineers preparing for the SE exam are working professionals. Work timings vary from one to another. Decide on an ideal time for exam preparation and a fixed location for studying

Work out an overall study plan and schedule: Sketch an overall study plan that focuses on covering the entire syllabus and also allocates time for revision. Once done, break this plan into daily and weekly targets for easier execution and easier review of progress.

Gather enough practice resources: Practice is the key to exam success. Not only does your problem solving capability increases, but your time management skills are also enhanced through rigorous practice. If you are planning to enroll for a review course, ensure that the course provides a wide range of practice resources including full-length practice test papers and question banks.

Preparing for the SE Vertical Forces Exam

Are you in the midst of your career journey and looking for a SE certification? SE certification is always needed as it gives the proficiency and responsibility to approve structures like building and bridges on your job. However, clearing the SE exam isn’t an easy task. The exam itself is 8 hours in duration and covers all topics related to structural engineering. It is advisable to get all the materials and a good preparation is indeed the key to passing the SE exam.

se-vertical-forces-exam-courseProper preparation for the SE exam leaves you worry less during the examination. Knowing that the examination is 8 hours in length, you should be well prepared to face the exam. The exam consists of theoretical part and problem solving. The SE vertical forces course curriculum prepares you well for the exam. You can be benefitted by the 60 hour online reviews that cover the important topics for the exam.

Exam Preparation

Nothing can replace a good preparation for the exam. And time is a big factor as working people seldom find time to prepare. But that can never be an excuse. SE exam takers must start their preparation at least 6 months in advance. There are numerous topics to be covered in structural engineering, and taking ample time will ensure that you cover all the topics before the exam. The SE review course covers topics from analysis of structures, construction administration, design and details of structures, design of building and design of bridges.

Course providers like School of PE, Kaplan etc provides good prep materials that can be very useful in preparing for the exam. There are totally 60 hours of online review course that can benefit you. Out of the 60 hours, most of it is used for covering the concepts and some hours are dedicated for problem-solving. You can as well save the online lectures, and listen to them on demand whenever you want to. Listening to all the live lectures from experienced professionals and practising the problems will make you comfortable while taking the real exam.

Getting a SE certification will be a huge break in your career. The SE is a competitive exam, and getting a SE certification helps you to take up responsible engineering positions within an organization. It is viewed as a benchmark to your engineering skills. The SE vertical forces course and the training curriculum will put you well on the way to securing the SE certification.

Route Map to Become a Structural Engineer

Engineering is what creates the physical world we live in. It is through the science and practice of structural engineering that we are able to enjoy the benefits of physical infrastructure like bridges, building, dams, subways, etc. a structural engineer is not merely an engineer. He / She has an even farther role to play in the making of a safe and livable physical world.


The typical job duties and responsibilities of a structural engineer

Structural engineers work in close association with a wide range of stakeholders. They remain in constant connect with clients, contractors, architects and engineering professionals from other related fields of engineering. In any given engineer project, a structural engineer will be handling job responsibilities like:

  • Developing the structural design with the aid of CAD (Computer Aided Designing)
  • Identifying which material (glass, concrete, steel, etc.) to be used for the structure
  • Developing designs for core structural arts like foundations, beams, arches, pillars, etc.
  • Defining structural strength for the structure through 3-D modelling
  • Devising strategies to keep the structure intact during changing weather conditions
  • Communicating and convincing the structural design to the team of engineers, architects and contractors
  • Coordinating with project teams for review and recourse of the structure design

How does a Structural Engineer become capable of doing all this?

A professional course/certification in engineering is the established route to become an employable structural engineer. Specific programs like a SE lateral forces course make the engineer expert in particular structural engineering forms that are much sought after in the civil engineering industry.

To be eligible to take a SE lateral forces course an individual must hold a UG or PG degree in engineering. Acumen in science and math are also desired since the occupation deals largely with complicated calculations. From weight measurements to angle calculations, a structural engineer’s daily life is literally immersed in a world of numbers and figures.

Training and development to become a structural engineer

Having a degree or equivalent course only makes a student eligible to become a structural engineer. Training and personal development is what makes the student capable of being a structural engineer. Along with the training, the student might also be required to undergo on-the-job experience in order to be a complete market-ready structural engineer.

This training cum work experience can span anywhere in between 3 to five years. On completion of the same, the student will be able to take the structural engineering exam, the passing upon which he/she can pursue employment or professional practice as a structural engineer. Job opportunities for structural engineers are abundant in global powerhouses like Middle East, Europe and Asia.

How to Study for SE Exam

A team of three were constructing a building, a passerby enquired each of them separately about what they were building. The first man said he was putting together bricks and cement to make a structure. The second man said he was building a home. The third man gave a reply which impressed the passerby – he said he was building a masterpiece! No matter what kind of work we all do, it can be a masterpiece only if we take pride in doing it. Buildings that steeped in aesthetics, homes that are vibrant with love and energy and official buildings that are functional and withstand the test of time are possible only when the Structural Engineer takes pride in his work and ropes in dedication and commitment in building structures. Not just buildings, but a structural engineer is responsible for building bridges, machinery, medical equipment and other architectural structures that are structurally strong.

se structural engineering examWhat is the scope of work of a structural engineer?

Structural engineering is all about designing the framework of buildings, pipelines and bridges, taking into consideration factors like weight of the structure and action of resist forces. A structural engineer needs to liaise with architects, building contractors and other engineers. Lateral forces and vertical forces are the two branches of structural engineering studies. The scope of work of a structural engineer is as below:

  • Design building framework with software
  • Accurate calculations about each individual structures within the framework
  • Finalizing the construction materials based on the weight and resist forces
  • Using computer aided design (CAD) to simulate various pressures and stresses
  • Liaising with construction workers, architects and other engineers

With such a wide scope and critical nature of work, a structural engineer attracts a good pay package with an estimated annual job growth of 8% (as per U.S Bureau of Statistics).

What are the educational and licensing requirements for SE Structural engineering exam?

Entry level jobs in for a structural engineer require an under graduate degree in Civil engineering or a Master of Science degree. Most big players in the industry prefer to have a structural engineer having a SE licensure. The requirements for the SE licensure are given in the table below:

Educational qualification

An undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering and FE licensure in Structural engineering

Work experience

Minimum of 4 years (varies in each state)


Analytical, eye for detail and creativity

Software proficiency

AutoCAD and RISA

Once you have the basic requirements for the SE structural engineering exam licensure, you are all set for exam preparation. The first step is to gather the reference material for the exam. You need to focus on vertical and lateral forces exams for a high overall exam score. Enrolling for a prep course can streamline your preparation so you don’t miss out on exam critical topics and practice on problem solving. Some prep courses also provide guidance on the usage of calculators and provide free training on basic math. More important than enrolling for a prep course, is the choice of the educator. Institutes like School of PE, Testmasters, Kaplan and ppi2pass have a proven track record of pass rates.

What are the alternative career options for a structural engineer?

A structural engineer need not limit his or her career to just design of structures. Structural engineers can foray into careers as a Civil engineering technician, architect, geotechnical engineers, hydraulics and water resources, urban planning and construction managers.