I had this exact question when I was a young man in the US Army. Fortunately, my father worked as a construction inspector for highway construction projects, and he was able to direct me to someone who helped in my journey. I found out which schools had engineering programs, and I learned that most colleges do not offer engineering degrees. 

To answer the question, “what kind of engineer designs bridges” in short, the answer is Civil Engineers primarily design bridges. 

What Kind of Engineer Designs Bridges? – Detailed Answer 

Although Civil Engineers primarily design bridges, other engineering disciplines may also be involved with bridge design. For example, mechanical engineers are well versed in the behavior of materials and stresses. The Civil Engineering field includes many disciplines, including:

  • Geotechnical
  • Hydraulic
  • Structural
  • Transportation 
  • Environmental 

Structural Engineering is the discipline under the Civil Engineering umbrella, which focuses on bridge design. The science of structural engineering involves the quantitative approach to determining loads (demand) and the quantitative approach of material’s ability to support the loads (capacity).

Balancing demand and capacity is the mission of the bridge engineer. A well-designed bridge (or any structure) should use minimum materials, thereby reducing costs while meeting the appropriate codes to provide a safe and long-lasting structure. It’s been said: “Anyone can design a bridge, but an engineer can design the most economical bridge.”

What Type of Degree Do You Need?

To obtain a civil engineering degree, one must enroll in an accredited engineering program. Most of the more prominent flagship state universities and many private colleges have engineering programs. In addition, internships are available to students during the summer, allowing students to obtain valuable experience prior to graduation. Then, for students who go on to graduate school to receive a master’s degree, there are many opportunities to work for the universities and continue with various internships.  

Becoming a Licensed Civil Engineer

A Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering is usually required to be eligible to sit for the Professional Engineers or “PE” exam. The PE exam is a comprehensive eight hours exam. 

In addition to passing the PE exam, a candidate must also work under a licensed PE for a minimum of four years before obtaining licensure. Some states do not allow holders of engineering technology degrees to sit for the PE exam. If one wants to obtain licensure, contact the state engineering board to see if any engineering degree other than a Bachelor of Science in Engineering meets the requirement to sit for the PE exam. 

Where Do Bridge Engineers Work?

Bridge engineers work for both private and public entities. Most of the bridges in the US are owned at the state level. State Department of Transportations (DOT’s) hire civil engineers to manage the state’s transportation systems. In addition, state DOT’s use private consulting firms to assist and serve the state agencies in designing, constructing, and maintaining the infrastructure system. 

If you choose to work with Areté Engineers, we are a certified veteran-owned professional services firm that can help with your bridge and structural needs.

Why Does Someone Become a Bridge Engineer?

Bridge engineering is a rewarding profession because we all use bridges. Bridges are the intersection of society and nature when crossing waterways and other natural crossings. Bridges make our world closer together and create safer and more efficient conditions. Many of our projects are trail bridges that allow access to remote wilderness locations. 

Whether it’s an interstate with 100,000 vehicles per day or a remote trail bridge with only two pedestrians per day, the same engineering principles governed the design of each.

Learn More About Areté Engineers 

Now that you have a deeper understanding of what kind of engineer designs bridges, you can contact the Areté Engineers team to learn more about our services and how we can help you with your next project.