For a solid career blueprint, consider architectural engineering. As an architectural engineer designing building systems, you could work for manufacturers, builders, mechanical contractors, consulting firms or governments. Regardless of the path you choose, architectural engineering is relatively welcoming to women: Nearly 23 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the field in 2011 went to women, according to the American Society for Engineering Education. That’s well above the 18.4 percent rate across all engineering disciplines.
As an architectural engineer, you’ll be hard at work before a building ever breaks ground. You’ll design structural systems to help buildings survive earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. You’ll also design buildings for basic comfort, such as making plans and using materials that cut vibrations from traffic or wind. Another option is to work for structural engineering technology businesses, drawing plans for the steel fabricators who make building beams. Job titles include structural engineer and structural design engineer.
To bring buildings to life, specialize in construction. There, you’ll be in charge of the flow of construction supplies and equipment, and you'll put together work schedules. Plus, architects will ask you to help them find ways to make a design possible if the materials they want to use are scarce or pricey. In this field, you could work for commercial developers, home builders and general contractors, all of whom need architectural engineers to fill positions including field engineer, construction inspector, estimator and project manager.
From indoor air temps to fire sprinklers, architectural engineers help keep people safe and sound. You’ll design systems for heating and cooling, water, security, fire protection, plumbing and lighting. For a theater, you could make concerts sound great with better acoustics. For a hockey arena, you might invent a system to keep ice frozen. And if you want to design green or energy-efficient buildings, you definitely want to go into mechanical systems. Look for careers with mechanical contractors, lighting designers or fire safety companies. Expect to work as an electrical group member, HVAC systems specialist, electrical systems engineer or fire protection engineer.
To work on a variety of projects, consider consulting. Engineering and architecture firms hire architectural engineers to help clients plan and design projects. With a firm, you could work on everything from energy efficiency to site planning. Firm-based engineers often support licensed architects and engineers by using building information modeling or computer-aided design to draw up plans. Architectural engineers in consulting may go by titles such as technical architect or interior architect. Surveying and technical writing are other options.
Local and state government agencies hire architectural engineers to help with public works projects. In the public sector, expect to assist civil engineers in designing and building roads, highways, bridges and tunnels. If you want to make a difference at the city level, work as a town or urban planner. Cities also hire architectural engineers as building inspectors.
- Kansas State University: Architectural Engineering
- Front Range Community College: Architectural and Building Science
- University of Cincinnati: Architectural Engineering
- Illinois Institute of Technology: B.S. in Architectural Engineering
- University of Detroit Mercy: Why Architectural Engineering?
- Tennessee State University: Architectural Engineering