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Structural engineers are concerned with the conception, analysis, design and construction of components or assemblies to resist loads arising from internal and external forces. Solid mechanics is the study of the distribution of stresses that a given load produces when applied to a solid element, and the calculation of the resulting strains, given the characteristics of the materials that make up that element.
The application of solid mechanics enables the structural engineer to assemble elements, such as beams and columns, into a structure that will resist both static and dynamic loads, such as gravity, wind, snow and earthquakes. In addition to steel and concrete, new materials that are being developed and used in structural engineering include reinforced plastics and polymers. The rehabilitation of existing structures weakened by corrosion continues to be an important task. While typical civil engineering structures include large buildings, bridges and dams, graduates with a specialization in structural engineering may also be concerned with designing the structures of machinery, vehicles, aircraft and spacecraft.
Employment opportunities include work with consulting structural engineers, construction companies, building development companies, engineering departments of private corporations, aircraft and aerospace related companies, public utilities, and government agencies.