About the author  ⁄ Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., SECB, F. ASCE, F.SEI, F.AEI

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., SECB, F. ASCE, F.SEI, F.AEI (www.stancaldwellpe.com), is a consulting structural engineer in Plano, Texas. He currently serves as the chair of the SEI Futures Fund Board of Directors. He also serves as a member of the SEI Board of Governors, the SECB Board of Directors, and the Structural Engineering Licensure Coalition Steering Committee.

The public generally takes the safety of the structures around them for granted, and for good reason. A landmark study by Robert E. Melchers in 1987 compared the annual risk of death due to a variety of activities. He found that smoking is a high-risk activity, with about 1,000 deaths/million smokers/year. Automobile travel is a moderate-risk activity, with about 210 deaths/million motorists/year. Swimming is similar, with about 175 deaths/million swimmers/year.

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Unlike the students aspiring to enter many other professions, structural engineering students in most states are not permitted to take their licensing examinations immediately upon graduation. Rather, they must first serve an apprenticeship of three or four years. During this period, they typically have titles such as Engineer-In-Training (EIT), Engineering Intern, or Graduate Engineer. By state law, EITs are required to perform engineering work only under the direct supervision of licensed professional engineers.

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Structural engineering education today is a real mess! The problem starts with the young students who are traditionally attracted to our profession. Almost without exception, they like math and science much more than other subjects. Many, if not most, are more comfortable interacting with other people through their computers and mobile devices than doing so in person. This left-brained, somewhat introverted group is the raw material that feeds the pipeline year after year. Thus, the stereotype begins early.

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Structural Forum is intended to stimulate thoughtful dialogue and debate among structural engineers and other participants in the design and construction process. Any opinions expressed in Structural Forum are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NCSEA, CASE, SEI, C3Ink, or the STRUCTURE® magazine Editorial Board.

Structural engineering has been around since the first cave shortage, yet there is a growing perception that this noble profession might now be dying. What fuels this troublesome notion? Perhaps it starts in high school, where many of the brightest students are discouraged from pursuing the long, hard path to engineering.

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