Heuristics are approaches engineers use for solving problems and making decisions with quick, often approximate, calculations and/or judgement calls. Such approaches have become marginalized in structural engineering education to make room for more theoretical and precise approaches. As a result, engineering students are less confident with heuristics and firms believe students are unprepared for using such approaches to solve messy real-world problems. This research identified and described heuristics within the social and material contexts of a structural engineering workplace and undergraduate structural engineering courses to better understand the use of heuristics in these environments. The researchers used ethnographic methods to access these environments and document the social and material contexts wherein heuristics are applied. Two different types of heuristics were found: practice-based heuristics, and profession-based heuristics. Practice-based heuristics are more dependent on an individual’s or organization’s experience with certain projects. Profession-based heuristics are grounded in a discipline’s fundamental concepts, and therefore are less context-dependent.