Learn About Being an Architectural Engineer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

What does an architectural engineer do?

An architectural engineer ensures that buildings are built and maintained in a safe manner. They commonly work in association with architects and construction companies to monitor the plans and executions of construction projects to prevent dangerous building practices. An architectural engineer may work on new constructions or renovation projects for existing structures. Other architectural engineer responsibilities may include:

  • Collaborating with architects to assist with the design process

  • Examining blueprints and design sketches to identify any potential safety risks so that they can be rectified before construction 

  • Analyzing design schemes for quality of life concerns, such as a building with insufficient ducts for the HVAC system or improper soundproofing on a home near a busy road

  • Assessing the structural integrity of a proposed or active construction project to reduce the risk of erecting an unsafe building

  • Working with architects, civil engineers or construction crews to develop solutions to structural problems during construction

  • Understanding all government compliance regulations and ensuring that any projects fall within the accepted guidelines and rules

Average salary

An architectural engineer position is usually full-time and salaried. The size of an engineer’s company, as well as the location and the engineer’s experience, can all factor into compensation.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $85,570 per year

  • Some salaries range from $23,000 to $187,000 per year.

Architectural engineer requirements

When applying to be an architectural engineer, prospective employers will want to assess your qualifications for the position. Expectations may include:

Education

An aspiring architectural engineer must complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Architectural Engineering or a related field, such as civil engineering, where they will take a broad range of science and technical courses, including classes in physics, architectural design and construction. Further degrees are not required for all architectural engineering openings, but some companies may prefer or require a master’s degree for consideration.

Training

Architectural engineers receive practical training during the course of their degree through both classwork and from any internships or apprenticeships during college.

Certifications

Although some employers will not require applicants to be certified, pursuing additional certifications will improve an applicant’s resume and expand their range of potential jobs. Some schools offer certification options for undergraduate students, which require them to take specific classes and pass a certification exam.

Graduates may also seek the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) certification. The exam is presented annually in April and consists of two four-hour sessions, each of which provides engineers with 40 multiple-choice questions. Engineers may bring reference materials into the exam with them, but all loose papers must remain bound throughout the entire examination period. The exam is designed for experienced architectural engineers with at least four years of post-graduate experience. Areas of knowledge tested on the exam include:

  • Building systems integration

  • Electrical systems

  • Mechanical systems

  • Structural systems

  • Project management and construction administration

NCEES does not provide practice materials for exam takers. However, sponsoring societies can be contacted for help in preparation.

Skills

An architectural engineer must possess both hard and soft skills to perform their job well:

Mathematics

During their work, an architectural engineer will commonly be called upon to calculate mathematical equations of varying complexity. It is important that the engineer can complete these tasks accurately by understanding the methods for calculation and accurately performing them.

Physics

Because an architectural engineer is tasked with assessing the structural integrity of construction projects, it is necessary for the engineer to have a strong understanding of physics. This allows the engineer to assess forces and how they will act on a structure and ensure that the design has sufficient strength.

Architectural design

Although an architectural engineer will commonly work alongside an architect, checking the latter’s plans, it’s still important for an architectural engineer to have strong architectural skills of their own. Whether adjusting a design personally or suggesting changes to an existing design, a base of architectural knowledge is essential.

Communication

Architectural engineers are frequently in contact with others during a project. Whether it’s discussing plans with an architect or visiting a build site to talk with the construction crew, it’s important that the architectural engineer can convey what they have to say clearly and in easy-to-understand terms.

Teamwork

Besides communicating well with others, it is important that the architectural engineer work in concert with them. Individuals adept at settling disputes and working with others to maximize each other’s strongest attributes can strongly influence a project’s development.

Attention to detail

When creating plans and then seeing that they are executed correctly, it is essential that everything is considered down to minute details, as even small deviations can have large negative effects on a structure. The ability to notice every detail is a fundamental skill of a successful architectural engineer.

Versatility

On an average day, an architectural engineer may work in an office, hold discussions on the phone and visit construction sites all within a few hours. The engineer must be able to handle working in a variety of settings and around a variety of coworkers to perform at their best.

Architectural engineer work environment

An architectural engineer will most commonly split their time between an office and project sites. During office hours the architectural engineer will sit or stand at a desk and work on planning, and attend meetings with other staff members. At project sites, the architectural engineer will be on their feet and moving about the construction to more closely examine the state of the project.

How to become an architectural engineer

To attain a position as an architectural engineer, here are the steps you should follow:

1. Earn a college degree

As a career that requires highly specialized knowledge to be successful and to ensure public safety, an architectural engineer is expected to attend a college or university and attain a relevant bachelor’s degree, such as civil engineering. Further studies may be helpful to increase job prospects, however, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for most entry-level architectural engineer jobs.

2. Take a certifying exam

Although not required, receiving a certification from a nationally recognized association provides an extra level of verification of your credentials, as it shows applied knowledge to pass the certifying exam.

3. Write a resume

As the first thing a prospective employer receives from you, your resume and cover letter are vital to your chances in a competitive market. Your resume should highlight education, work experience and skills which are applicable as an architectural engineer.

4. Adjust for the posting

Sending out the same resume to every posting may allow you to apply to a great number of openings more quickly, but customizing it for each job increases your chances of being hired for a position. When changing your resume to send it for a specific job, make note of any skills or traits which the posting calls special attention to and increase your focus on those attributes where possible.

5. Apply as an architectural engineer

When submitting a resume to a position you should target reasonable listings but err on the side of trying if you are unsure if you qualify or not. Include a cover letter unless requested not to and use the letter to provide an initial pitch for why the job appeals to you and why you believe you would perform well if given the position. As with the changes to your resume, seek to call special attention to areas the potential employer found important enough to directly reference in the job posting.

Architectural engineer job description example

Harrison & Company is seeking a detail-oriented architectural engineer to join our land development company. The architectural engineer will be responsible for working with our lead architect in the design of new homes in housing developments. If hired, you will be responsible for ensuring that design plans are within all regulatory guidelines and are safe for construction. You will also be responsible for inspecting sites throughout the construction process and alerting crews in the event of any areas of concern. The ideal candidate will have at least five years of experience and a PE certification.

Related careers

If you’d like to learn about jobs similar to architectural engineering, consider:

  • Architect

  • Civil engineer

  • Design engineer

  • Mechanical engineer

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