Details on a Career in Architectural Engineering

Architectural engineering offers a great career to those who want to bring creative architectural ideas to life. The architect creates building ideas, concepts and drawings. The architectural engineer is responsible for assuring the actual structural systems are properly designed for actual use by the public.

There are different career paths you can take after earning your engineering degree. Because the architectural engineer can be involved in the planning and design of particular building components, it is not unusual to specialize either.

For example, you may choose to specialize in illumination which includes all the electrical systems. You could specialize in air conditioning and heating systems for large buildings.  Other specialties include plumbing, fire control systems, and total structural design.

There are a growing number of opportunities in areas like “smart buildings” and “green buildings.”

You can also specialize in particular topical areas like:

  • Urban planning
  • Interiors
  • Industrial design
  • Engineering technology
  • Energy conservation (green buildings)
  • Construction management

The amount of money you earn will be closely tied to the type of work you choose to do. This degree leads to some of the highest paying jobs for college graduates just starting their careers. According to PayScale a civil engineer, which is what this particular profession falls under, is paid an average salary of $62,425.

A building design architect, in comparison, is paid $53,658.  You can earn quite a bit more right out of college with an architectural engineering degree.

Choose the Industry

Architectural engineers work in a number of different areas. You have a choice of architectural engineering careers in the following industries:

  • State and federal government agencies
  • Universities or colleges
  • Architecture firms
  • Construction firms
  • Nonprofits like the Peace Corp
  • Self-employment
  • Computer assisted designs

In the category of architecture/engineering/construction federal government staff earns the highest average annual salary at almost $70,000 according to PayScale.

Also earning high salaries are state and local staffs at $68,000 and the self-employed earning the same amount as state and local professionals. Once you have your state license and some hands-on experience, you can become an independent consultant if you want to be self-employed.

Generally speaking, the more experience you have the more you will earn with average annual salaries topping off at $106,000 after 26 to 30 years of experience. This is according to the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies.

Professional Assistance Can Boost Your Career

You need a bachelor’s degree and a state license to pursue your architectural engineering degree. You can also take advantage of a number of professional organizations to network and stay on top of industry standards. Rapid technological changes make it imperative that you pursue continuing education opportunities for as long as you work.

Following is a short list of some of the many professional organizations offering certification workshops and ongoing education:

  • The Architectural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, Inc.
  • American Society for Engineering Education
  • National Association of Management Personnel in the Design Profession
  • Society of Fire Protection Engineers
  • Structural Engineering Institute

The demand for architectural engineers is expected to remain strong. During your career, you will work with many other professionals including mechanical and electrical engineers. This is a great career choice because it’s the type of job that is adaptable and offers new opportunities all the time.

One of the reasons is that technology is constantly improving. Building system innovations are leading to innovative career paths. For example, sophisticated computer software is frequently being introduced both for planning, design and building controls.

According to the University of Kansas, Architectural Engineers began their careers at an average annual salary of $51,411. The range was $39,500 to $60,000 which is a fairly wide spread. Many factors can impact starting pay including the city of employment and the industry in which the job is located.

Career Paths

Your career path will begin with a job working for a licensed senior engineer. During this time you will get hands-on experience with actual projects. As the project progresses, you will probably take on additional duties including higher level analysis work in the focus area such as HVAC or illumination.

Once you obtain your Professional Engineer license, you can then take responsibility as a project lead. Eventually you could become a project manager which includes building site monitoring and implementation of new technology.

In many states the licensing exam is given in 2 parts. The first part can be taken upon completion of your studies leading to a bachelor’s degree. The second part is taken after you have at least 4 years of work experience.

You can also pursue a graduate degree in Architectural Engineering if you want to fast track your career.

Get an Architectural Engineering Degree Online for a Lucrative Career!

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between an architect and an architectural engineer. They are not the same despite having the word architecture in the titles.

In fact these two careers are two entirely different disciplines. An architect gets a degree in architecture.  An architectural engineer gets a degree in engineering. When you complete an architectural engineering degree onlineyou are prepared to develop engineered plans for building systems. An architect is more concerned with aesthetic and functional designs of space and form.

But the architect and architectural engineer often work closely together. They may even have taken some of the same classes in college, but there the similarity ends. The architectural engineering programs are typically specialty engineering programs that may focus on one or more of the following systems associated with buildings.

  • Structural planning and design
  • Construction
  • Electrical systems
  • Ventilation and heating and cooling systems
  • Fire protection
  • Plumbing
  • Energy conservation across all systems

When taking classes at the architectural engineering schools you learn how to bring architectural designs to life through structural designs and materials choices.

Comprehensive Study Program

If this sounds like a great career then your first step is to enroll in one of the architectural engineering colleges. Your program of study will include classes in the various building systems previously mentioned plus many general engineering courses. In addition you will study architecture as it relates to the engineering field, surveying and computer software in addition to math and physical sciences classes.

The degree requirements are demanding. but that is because it is essential that only well trained and knowledge people work in this job.

You should only choose this career if you enjoy highly detailed work. Your work may be primarily in an office but you will be required to visit construction sites to. This is an advantage of working as an architectural engineer because you are not limited to only office work in many positions.

This is a job where the theoretical meets reality. Your primary job will be to plan and design structurally sound buildings meant to last.

This can be a very lucrative career. The more experience you have, the greater your earnings will be. For example, an entry level architectural engineer may earn between $37,000 to $51,000 according to surveys completed by the University of Kansas and the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

You can compare those starting numbers to the average pay for someone with 9 to 10 years of experience as reported by the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies. An architectural engineer with 10 years experience earned an average of $74,000 in 2009.

The annual earnings jump to $81,000 for 13 to 16 years of experience and $92,000 for 17 to 20 years of experience.  The highest paid earn over $100,000 annually.

A Great Career Starts with a Degree!

You can now get a BS degree in architectural engineering online.  To maximize your earnings you can also go on to earn a master’s degree if you want. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all engineers are required to be licensed in order to work without supervision. In most states you must first work a designated number of years under direct supervision at an engineering firm.  You must also pass a written test.

Once you get your engineering license you can expect to earn a higher annual salary because it means you can handle your own projects without working under another engineer.

Looking at the PayScale earnings numbers, you might be happy to know you can choose any of several large cities and not affect your earnings potential. For people working in architecture/engineering/construction, Houston pays an average annual salary of $68,115 while Los Angeles pays $66,175.  San Francisco pays $64,341 while Seattle pays $61,098.

You can also often increase your earnings by obtaining professional certifications.  Certifications can be earned in specialties such as HVAC, fire protection, illumination and structural engineering.

You have several career paths to choose from. You can work for building contractors, architectural businesses, engineering firms or as an independent consultant. Much of the work is done as a member of a team. The goal is to incorporate system designs into buildings without negatively impacting the aesthetics of the design.

Go Ahead…Pursue Your Dream!

If being an architectural engineer is your dream then the online programs are ideal. Not all local universities or colleges offer this degree, but anyone can access online education. You can work on your degree at home and at your convenience.

Distance learning is a growing industry and new degrees are being offered all the time. The online architectural engineering degree is just one of many engineering degrees available through distance education programs. You don’t need to put your dreams on hold any longer!