2016 NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum Survey

The National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) is pleased to present the results of the 2016 NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum Survey. The survey is a triennial review of the recommended NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum at over 250 engineering schools throughout the country that offer educational opportunities for students desiring to become professional civil/structural engineers. Since 2002, the NCSEA has promoted the recommended NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum as the core subject matter deemed necessary by the profession for a sound educational background in structural engineering. The recommended curriculum consists of the following twelve courses: Structural Analysis 1, Structural Analysis 2, Matrix Methods, Steel Design 1, Steel Design 2, Concrete Design 1, Concrete Design 2 (Prestressed and Post-tensioned), Timber Design, Masonry Design, Dynamic Behavior of Structures, Foundation Design/Soil Mechanics, and Technical Writing.

For the most complete survey results, look at the PDF version of this article, linked to the right.

The Survey Process

The NCSEA Basic Education Committee (BEC) began the process of planning for the 2016 Curriculum Survey soon after the results of the previous survey were published in the August 2013 Edition of STRUCTURE magazine. The list of schools that were contacted for participation in this year’s survey was first verified by reviewing all engineering programs accredited by ABET as Civil Engineering, Architectural Engineering, Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering Technology, Architectural Engineering Technology, and other similar related programs. There were 251 ABET-accredited engineering schools and 47 ABET-accredited engineering technology schools invited for survey participation. After confirming schools for survey participation, the NCSEA BEC members verified existing or provided new, contact information for a professor/instructor at each of the schools to be surveyed. The school’s professor/instructor contact was usually selected because they serve as chair of their department, or they taught structural engineering related courses.

The survey was developed by the NCSEA BEC and deployed in three phases to improve the response rate. Phase 1 of the survey was delivered to each contact via email, with the participant given the option to complete an online survey or to download and complete a downloadable PDF form. Phase 2 was a paper survey that was mailed to the contacts that did not respond to the Phase 1 participation request. The Phase 2 paper survey provided the option for the participant to provide responses using the online survey or for the paper survey to be completed and returned via mail, email, or facsimile. Phase 3 was conducted by the NCSEA BEC and its representatives using the internet to research the engineering schools that did not respond to Phase 1 or 2. It involved studying the school’s website to determine the courses offered. Phase 3 was not utilized for the engineering technology schools that did not respond to Phase 1 or 2. After Phase 3 of the survey was completed, and before publication of the results, the NCSEA BEC emailed each Phase 3 engineering school to provide them with one final opportunity to review the survey results and report any corrections prior to publication.

Figure 1

Figure 1.

Figure 2

Figure 2.

The Survey Results

The NCSEA BEC considers the school-reported response to the survey successful, as 118 of 251 engineering schools self-responded to the survey by participating in Phase 1 or 2, for a response rate of over 45 percent. There were 16 engineering technology programs that also self-responded to the survey, and we appreciate their participation even though these results are not included here. The enclosed table indicates the recommended courses that are offered at each school and if the school offers any post-graduation acknowledgment of a concentration in structural engineering. Schools that participated in Phase 1 or 2 of the survey are shown in bold text. Schools that did not directly participate in Phase 1 or 2, but were part of the BEC Phase 3 research, are also included. However, research was not conducted to determine if a post-graduation acknowledgment of a concentration in structural engineering is offered at schools that did not respond to the survey. The percent of engineering schools that offer the indicated number of recommended courses is shown in Figure 1. The percent of engineering schools that offer each of the recommended courses is provided in Figure 2.

Figure 3

Figure 3.

Figure 4

Figure 4.

Past survey results have indicated that Timber and Masonry Design courses are not taught at nearly the same frequency as Steel and Concrete Design courses. The 2016 NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum Survey included additional questions as to why Timber and Masonry Design courses are not being offered in an effort to better understand the challenges schools face in offering these courses. Figure 3 records the survey participant’s response to why a Timber Design course is not offered at their school. Likewise, Figure 4 indicates the survey participant’s response to why a Masonry Design course is not offered. The survey also asked survey participants if their school offered any form of special acknowledgment for a student that concentrates in structural engineering. The special structural engineering acknowledgment results are presented in Figure 5.

Figure 5

Figure 5.

The wealth of information collected as part of the survey process prevents publication of all results in this article. Later this year, the NCSEA BEC intends to make all of the survey results, including a listing of additional structural engineering courses offered at each school, available on the NCSEA website.

Application of the Survey

The results of the 2016 NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum Survey can be utilized in a multitude of different ways by high school students, college students, colleges, and businesses. For instance, prospective structural engineering high school students and their parents can use the survey to evaluate the breadth or number of recommended structural engineering courses offered by a school. However, it is important to note that the quantity of recommended structural engineering courses offered by a school should be only one of many factors utilized in determining a student’s plans. College students might use the survey to aid in locating a school that offers a distance learning course they are unable to obtain at the school they are attending. Colleges can use the survey results as part of their evaluation process when comparing their course offerings to their counterparts. Businesses can utilize the survey results as part of their employee hiring process by becoming more familiar with the course offerings of a job applicant’s alma mater.

The NCSEA BEC appreciates the efforts of the over 130 dedicated educators that participated in the 2016 NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum Survey. The survey would not be possible without their participation.

Questions or comments on the 2016 NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum Survey are encouraged and should be directed to education@ncsea.com.

Should We Adjust Curriculum Recommendations?

Does the recommended National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) Structural Engineering Curriculum need an update? Is a matrix methods course still necessary? Should structural analysis courses de-emphasize “hand” calculation methods to allow more time for students to analyze structures using computer programs? Should the recommended curriculum include design courses for other materials such as cold-formed steel? Do we recommend an appropriate number of courses, too many, or not enough?

These are only a few of the questions that the NCSEA Basic Education Committee (BEC) has considered over the past 14 years. A group of concerned practitioners was the impetus behind the development of the recommended curriculum, and the practitioner will again be the motivation behind any changes. The NCSEA BEC requests your participation in the NCSEA Structural Engineering Curriculum Practitioner Survey to assist in determining if we are making the curriculum recommendations necessary to begin a successful career as a Structural Engineer. Please go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/NCSEAcurriculum to participate in the practitioner survey.

SECB Education Certificate

NCSEA and the Structural Engineering Certification Board (SECB) monitor practitioner needs through contact with structural engineers, schools and universities providing instruction for structural engineers, and professional organizations in order to monitor practitioner needs.

For several years, a sub-committee of NCSEA members and SECB certificate holders have been working with schools and universities in the preparation of a program that can be used by schools, students, and industry to recognize those students who, over time, find a greater interest in structural engineering than what is provided in a broad-based civil engineering program.

The result of this effort is the SECB Education Certificate, a two-part certificate intended to encourage students to acquire the academic credentials practitioners feel necessary for a successful career in structural engineering. The SECB Education Certificate program is now available to students and universities to recognize the academic fulfillment.

All schools interested in learning more about the education certificate program and its implementation, should contact Craig E. Barnes, P.E., SECB at cbarnes@cbiconsultinginc.com.

About the author  ⁄ Brent Perkins, P.E., S.E.

Brent Perkins, P.E., S.E. is a project engineer with Dudley Williams and Associates, P.A. in Wichita, KS.

Comments posted to STRUCTURE website do not constitute endorsement by NCSEA, CASE, SEI, C3 Ink, or the Editorial Board.


  • Reply
    Mohammed Saifuddin
    October 27, 2016

    I am a practicing structural engineer from India and in India no institution offers Timber and Masonry design course.
    So, how could I acquire the basics and in depth knowledge of such courses with genuine certificates?
    I know I can study these things through web and books but I will not get any certification through this!
    Thanks and regards.

  • Reply
    Brent Author
    November 21, 2016

    Mohammed –
    Can you clarify your need for a certificate following the completion of a Timber and/or Masonry Design Course? Are you looking for an online Timber and/or Masonry Design Course that you could have proof that you completed a course(s)? In the United States some universities also award certificates for completing a specific group of courses.
    Brent Perkins
    NCSEA Basic Education Committee Chair

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