This work concentrates on the structural optimization of a class of non-linear systems with deterministic structural parameters subject to stochastic excitation. The optimization problem is formulated as the minimization of an objective function subject to constraints on the response level. The stochastic response is characterized by its first two statistical moments, which are computed by a statistical equivalent linearization technique. The implicit structural optimization problem is replaced by a sequence of explicit sub-optimization problems. The sub-problems are constructed by using a conservative first-order approximation of the objective and constraint functions. The applicability of the proposed design process is demonstrated in three numerical examples where the methodology is applied to systems with nonlinearity of hardening and hysteretic type. The effects of the nonlinearity on the general performance of the final designs are discussed. At the same time, some engineering implications of the results obtained in this work are addressed. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.