Graduate Structural Engineer Career Progression

At Cornell Engineers, we think long and hard about what we can do for our graduate engineers to set them up for the best possible career path.

Not a Conventional Graduate Development Program

We don’t give our training any fancy names like “graduate development program” because from the very first day our graduates become deeply involved in whatever project we’re currently working on. We’re very busy and you’re going to be run off your feet!

Of course, our graduate structural engineers get training every step of the way, not only because we want them to use our carefully crafted systems to give our customers the very best experience, but because learning is an ongoing process throughout all of the engineer’s careers.

This doesn’t mean that our engineers don’t get thrown in the deep end. You’re not going to develop critical thinking and analytical skills just by watching someone else do the work!

The only way to learn as a graduate engineer at Cornell Engineers is to try, research, ask, fail, design, modify, improve and submit.

If you’re not passionate about learning and having a go you probably won’t enjoy our culture or our workload.

Career Progression

Here’s how we see our graduates develop and progress towards chartered status and RPEQ membership:

First Year Structural Engineering Graduate

  • You’ll be asked to memorise bending moment and deflection formula for simply supported beams. You’ll be expected to correctly sketch bending moment, shear force and deflection diagrams.
  • You will develop an excellent real-world understanding of forces and distances through calculation, observation and review.
  • You will expand and vary your communication style to suit a wide range of clients and building industry colleagues including labourers, builders, homeowners, architects, insurance companies, building designers and project managers.
  • You will accompany senior engineers to construction sites to inspect timber, concrete, masonry and steel structures. From a very early stage, you will be writing and signing inspection reports (under the direct supervision of a registered structural engineer).
  • You will accompany senior structural engineers to scoping meetings and preliminary site visits so that you can comprehend the scope, prepare a set of accurate design calculations and then use AutoCAD Lt to draft drawings for building extensions and building repairs. You’ll crawl through ceilings, under houses and peek through holes in walls.
  • Daily, you will use Australian standards and design manuals for steel, concrete, timber and masonry design and construction. You will become adept at locating and interpreting technical clauses and then sometimes explaining them in simple terms to laypeople.
  • You will work directly with our clients. You will be responsible for analysing a client’s needs so that you can provide up to three solutions for every design challenge. You will receive and respond to client questions about elements of the design that you were specifically responsible for. You will receive feedback (and sometimes criticism) directly and use this information to explain or modify and improve our deliverables.

First-Year Graduate Structural Engineers

In the first year of working at Cornell Engineers graduate structural engineers will design and inspect these styles of construction:

  • Modern houses including raft slabs to AS2870, brick veneer walls, timber framing and roof tie-down.
  • Older style construction renovations and extensions.
  • Modifications to warehouses, office buildings and industrial structures.
  • Mezzanine floors.
  • Concrete masonry retaining walls.
  • Suspended concrete slabs, concrete masonry walls, steel beams and ceiling diaphragms.

We sometimes get dirty so you’ll be given up to five Cornell Engineers shirts to wear on-site or all day if you wish.

We’re always on-site so you’ll get pretty comfortable in steel cap boots.

Second Year Graduate Structural Engineers

In the second year of working, graduate structural engineers at Cornell Engineers keep on learning and developing design and business development skills

Graduate structural engineers:

  • Get their first set of Cornell Engineers business cards and are encouraged to develop a network of contacts.
  • Are invited to attend networking breakfasts with our business partners.
  • Are allocated a formal training budget to spend on training courses and professional development.
  • Develop the ability to problem-solve. Problem-solving at Cornell Engineers isn’t about finding one solution to a problem. Graduates learn to offer three or four solutions to the decision-maker.
  • Work directly with clients from start to finish on small to medium design projects. All work is checked and certified by a senior, registered engineer before it is released.

Third Year Structural Engineers

You’re no longer a graduate engineer now. You’re an experienced structural engineer, so we’re going to give you increasing levels of responsibility in your third year.

Experienced structural engineers:

  • Become the main point of contact for some of our clients and their small to medium-sized projects. You’ll be responsible for supervising graduate engineers and design drafters when they work on your jobs. You’ll be answering their questions and checking the quality of their work.
  • Develop their report writing skills this year. You will become adept at inspecting and reporting on underperforming structures and forensic engineering.
  • Are expected to spend some of your time on client development and marketing. You’ll be responding to general queries, writing quotations and following up with clients.
  • Now know whether their preference is the technical or management stream. If it is for management we’ll expect that you’ll be starting a management course (MBA or similar). If it is technical we’ll expect that you’ll be starting to become super-confident in one or more structural engineering specialisations.

Fourth Year Structural Engineers

This is the last year before gaining accreditation as an RPEQ so we expect you’ll be working on your RPEQ application and chartered membership application. You’ll also be working on your MBA or specialisation. We’re going to keep you super, super busy all day at this level too.

You’ll be simultaneously running several projects and supervising staff.

Training is still a combination of external courses and on-the-job learning but now you’ll also be giving lunchtime technical talks and mentoring junior engineers.

It’s going to be hard work but you’re almost there.

RPEQ Engineer


As a registered structural engineer you can now sign off on designs and inspections. Now the hard work starts to yield rewards financially and technically.

Training is still ongoing but now you’ll be working towards your own goals. If you have aspirations of managing your own office we’re going to help you work towards that goal.

If you want to be a technical specialist we’ll help you gain status and experience.

We hope you’ll pass your knowledge forward by mentoring some undergraduate students this year and coming years.

We’ll expect you’ll want to contribute to your community in some way too so you’ll have the opportunity to do some volunteer design work for a cause close to your heart (to date we’ve provided engineering for community hall expansions, fire stations, sports clubhouses and charities).

Maybe you want to give talks at schools and encourage students to choose engineering as a career – we’ll pay for that too.

Join Us

If you think we can help you meet your career goals, we have a pretty stringent selection process involving technical challenges, phone interviews and in-person interviews.

However, if you’re serious about a career in structural engineering, we can set your graduate development on the right course for stardom with a perfect mix of technical development, networking and hands-on design.

3 replies on “Graduate Structural Engineer Career Progression”

Hello! Just want to inquire if the graduate structural engineer position open for international applicants. I’m from Philippines and got interested with your graduate program.

Hoping to hear from you soon. Thank you!

Hi Emmeline
Absolutely. Our graduate structural engineer position is open for applications from any graduate engineer from a recognised tertiary education facility. We’re looking forward to receiving your application.

Hi, wanted to know if the Graduate Structural Engineer position is open to individuals who graduated 10 years ago. I graduated in 2012 and went into Transport Design but have always held a deep interest to do Structural.
Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.