Structural Engineering – Spotlight on Becoming A Chartered Engineer

structural engineering

Today I’m talking to Andrew Wiggett, one of our latest Structural Engineers to pass his Chartered exams.

Why Did You Choose To Study Structural Engineering?

When I was a school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

I chose the A levels that were interesting and “do-able” – Maths, further maths and physics and chemistry AS

I didn’t know what engineering was, or that you could do a degree in it

I thought I was going to do a Physics degree, or I looked at Medicine – but that was an idea that died out pretty quick!

In lower 6th form someone suggested looking at Engineering, I thought that’s a good idea – this is what I pictured physics to be like.

structural engineering

I did a general engineering degree at Cambridge University – 4 year Masters

My best module in first year was structures and materials – my two favourite subjects. I tried to avoid pure Maths, but there was a lot of this.

What Do You Like About Being An Engineer?

It’s a varied job, with lots of projects on the go at the same time.

I’m glad that none of my projects take too long, I wouldn’t like to be working on a project that had a two year deadline .. I wouldn’t know where to begin with that. Whereas twenty things to do in the next month is a lot more interesting.

Any Downsides To Structural Engineering?

Lack of protection of the name “Engineer” A friend said once they did a two day course installing BT infinity and now they were an “Engineer”

People come up to me and say “you’re an engineer, why can’t you do this task” it’s usually sawing a bit of wood in a straight line!

What Skills And Qualities Do You Think Are Important To Become A Structural Engineer?

Maths, but not someone who gets bogged down in the exact details.

Rejecting the negative answer out of hand and explicitly state it, it would drive pure mathematicians bonkers.

The ability to visualise things. That why I always struggled with the electronics side of things at university because it was something that I couldn’t picture. Whereas building structures I can picture as well as the mechanics and materials.

Communication skills There’s no point knowing the answer if you can’t tell someone what it is and there is no point designing something that a Contractor can’t build.

What Was The Exam Preparation Like?

I’d advise you doing the January exam, if you are like me and don’t like Christmas!

A big chunk of my revision was based around past papers, but I didn’t actually sit down and do a whole paper for 7.5 hours.

I started by working on basic scheme design. Coming up with two distinct schemes for a question. Choosing questions that I wouldn’t necessarily pick in the exam. Then I’d move on to the sketch drawings.

structural engineering

Any Tips?

I did prepare a folder of how to do calculations by hand – the sorts of calculations that would come up and set up so I could copy them out – much faster than just having the formula or procedure to hand.

The scheme design was what I concentrated on as that was the part I failed the first time.

I also worked on the end of the afternoon – the method statement. As this was something that I rushed badly last year, but you pick up some good marks here. There are 10 marks out of 50 available in part B – 40/45 minutes. I stopped what I was doing in the exam when I had 45 minutes to go and concentrated on the method statement.

You find out if you fail or pass.

If you fail you get a mark and feedback, but no mark if you pass. However there is a “best solution prize” – it’s across all the papers, across the world.

What Does Becoming Chartered Mean to you?

 It’s sort of the next step in my career.

I remember doing the first graduate interviews for my first job after University and they’d always say “where do you see yourself in 5 years” … Annoyingly it’s taken me 5.5 years – but I got there!

Do You Have A Favourite Building Structure?

 I’m a big fan of timber.

From a sustainability point of view, timber structures are the way things are going especially in this country.

Design lives of buildings are much more suited to timber, rather than putting up concrete and brick monstrosities to be then torn down in 40 years.

It’s like electric cars, we can’t all switch to timber overnight, there’s not enough of it. I think we need to push things in that direction, it’s slightly better.

what is a structural engineer

Preparing for Your Chartered Exams?

Are you preparing for your exams? 

Click here to find out about the Institution of Structural Engineers Chartered Membership exam and Professional Review Interview –

Good luck!