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NateB (Structural) (OP)
9 Sep 09 8:58
I am a registered professional engineer in a handful of states. Recently our office came across some articles that reference ethical issues surrounding the use of P.E. after the engineer's name.  The idea is that the use of these initials can be misconstrued as registration in a state that an engineer is not licensed in.

For example, John Doe P.E., registered only in Maryland, gives his business card to a potential client in West Virginia.  Clearly, soliciting work by falsely claiming that you are registered in WV is unethical; however, what if John Doe's business card has a MD address and John's office has engineers who are registered in WV.

Additionally, is it unethical to use P.E. on correspondence (letters, emails, etc.) for a project in a state in which the engineer is not registered?  This would apply in the common case of a project manager who does the bulk of the design and contract administration work on a project but does not stamp the contract documents.  Most of the correspondence will be written and signed by the project manager and will likely not require a seal and signature.  This leads to a situation where the project manager will be placing their name and P.E. on correspondence in relation to a project in a state in which they are not registered.  The PM at that point is not claiming to be registered in the state, but is a licensed professional in the state in which their design office is located and in the state shown on the letter head (or email).

We have read articles that suggest listing states of licensure after the name of the engineer as a way to clearly define licensure and avoid a misunderstanding.  However, providing a list of states can also be detrimental to an engineering firm.  The firm's clients may see states that are not listed and no longer feel comfortable using a particular engineer at that firm.  However, not all engineers at one firm need to be registered in all states where they practice engineering.  Not to mention, for some engineers a list of states would not fit on a business card.

I would appreciate any feedback on this issue.

Additional reading on this attached.
Helpful Member!  rbulsara (Electrical)
9 Sep 09 9:18
Do not read those articles.


Rafiq Bulsara

Helpful Member!(3)  zdas04 (Mechanical)
9 Sep 09 9:57
If you were a doctor and wrote a letter to someone in another state (or country) you would sign it "Doogie Howser, MD".  If you were a lawyer, you would do the same.  It is no different for engineers.  

When I give someone in Wyoming (where I'm not licensed) my card with "David A Simpson, P.E.", I'm saying to them that I am licensed somewhere.  A BUSINESS CARD IS NOT A CONTRACT.  If they see the card and want to hire me as a to do something in Wyoming that requires a P.E. then if I accept the job I am possibly violating some regulation, but not certainly so.  EPA has a regulation called Spill Prevention, Countermeasures, and Control (SPCC) that requires certification by a P.E.  Recently one of my clients hired a P.E. licensed in Colorado to do an SPCC plan in New Mexico.  My client's District Manager in New Mexico was uncomfortable with that and called the EPA.  The answer he got was that the plan must be stamped by someone with a P.E. from some state.  Their argument was that since there is no universal licensing, if someone has a license from any state, the EPA (according to one guy in one EPA district, this doesn't seem to be EPA policy) has to accept it.

Helpful Member!  swertel (Mechanical)
9 Sep 09 10:12
In your correspondance, you just have to make sure that you don't imply that you are licensed in a state in which you are not actually licensed.  That's all.  In the event of business cards or email signatures, you typically place your company address as well as your name and title.  Therefore, it's implied that you are licensed in the state in which the address is displayed and no others.


IRstuff (Aerospace)
9 Sep 09 12:47
Sounds like a lot of fun for some lawyer...

One could argue that a business card is an "offer to practice," and as such, would be illegal in California, if not registered therein, qv. California PE Act para. 6730.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

djs (Electrical)
9 Sep 09 13:14
On my signiture I list the state license number and the state for that number. End of confusion.
JLSeagull (Electrical)
9 Sep 09 14:15
My organization has a corporate business card policy on the intranet that requires listing the state or states after P.E.  I submitted a business card request using that format and the engineering administrative assistant thought that I was crazy.  Only one other person had requested cards in that manner; and he was another of the troublesome engineers who reads such policies.  My cards arrived EXCLUDING the state.


Helpful Member!(3)  Ron (Structural)
9 Sep 09 20:39
zdas04 said it nicely.  A business card is not a contract!!

It is not an offer to provide engineering services. It is not a representation that you are licensed in any state other than "some" state.

State boards mostly have their heads up their a$$es.  They persecute an engineer for not having the proper size seal or for not sealing every page of a bound set of drawings or any of a dozen other minutia of crap, while others are allowed to call themselves "engineers" without any intervention.

Services are services.  Unless there is a code anomaly, or a soil issue unique to localities, there is very little reason to have individual state registrations or licensing.  Licensing should be done on a national level, in concert with the examination....which is generally the same from state-to-state.  The primary reason is the autonomy of individual state boards.  They want to exist.  The feel they need to exist. I agree; however, they need to police the profession, including those who  
Ron (Structural)
9 Sep 09 20:49
...somehow my previous post got sent without my finishing....damned laptop!!

Anyway....I agree; however, they need to police the profession, including those who usurp the term "engineer" by calling themselves such without having the license or qualifications....(OK you "exempt" guys...don't get your panties in a wad...I'm not talking to you).  It just pisses me off every time I stop beside an air conditioning contractor at a stoplight and see on the side of his van "Air Engineers" or "Thermal Engineers" when they don't do any engineering and don't have engineers on staff (I know...'cause I check).  They figure that "engineers" are smart guys...the public thinks why not call ourselves "engineers"?  Then the public will think we're smarter than the guy down the street who calls himself "air contractor".

I could stay on this soapbox all would only increase my blood pressure.

Thanks, David.
NateB (Structural) (OP)
9 Sep 09 22:06
I definitely agree on the misuse of the term "engineer" and "engineering."  The term that bothers me the most is "value engineering."  There is, in fact, no engineering that occurs... it is simply a contractor's idea to reduce cost.  This typically requires re-engineering on our part.

My goal is to satisfy myself that using PE after my name is not going to result in a fine from some state that I am not registered in.  I personally don't think it is unethical, but I just wish it were crystal clear what does and does not constitute a violation of regulations.

The best I can tell, as long as I am licensed in the state that is listed on my business cards, letter head and emails I should be okay to  use PE freely without listing the states I am registered in.
Ron (Structural)
10 Sep 09 7:01
NateB...I promise I won't be long on this soapbox!  "Value Engineering", as you note, usually has nothing to do with engineering and in fact, often results in "de-engineering".  It also has nothing to do with "value", except that developers and owners usually equate cost reduction to value on the front end, only to be ready to point their fingers when it turns to crap on the back end.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
10 Sep 09 10:23
If you expect to be distributing your business cards out of state, I think there's all the more reason to include the states in which you are licensed.

Otherwise, what's the point of the card?  You don't want to disappoint people in states where you're not licensed, and you want to compete against others who do list the same state that you're qualified in, no?  

Given two cards, one that clearly states licensing in the state I'm interested in, and one that doesn't, who would you think I would call first?


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

zdas04 (Mechanical)
10 Sep 09 11:31
I don't know about you, but I have one card.  It doesn't list states that I'm licensed in, just says I'm a P.E.  I hand this card out all over the world, even in states where I'm not licensed and do work that doesn't require a P.E. (most work does not).  I present at conferences a lot and I would be surprised if my card has not found itself to all 50 states.  If someone finds it and calls, we have a conversation, if what they are looking for requires a P.E. in a state where I'm not licensed then I decline that particular work.  I would much rather have a converstation that a policy.

I've only had confusion once that I know of.  A client asked me to design an evaporation pond in a state where I'm not licensed.  I looked at the regs and saw that the pond design had to be stamped.  I explained the problem and declined the job.  They are still my client and I still do work for them in that state.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering
Please see FAQ731-376: Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

"Life is nature's way of preserving meat"  The Master on Dr. Who

NateB (Structural) (OP)
10 Sep 09 12:11
IRstuff, I agree with your statement, if you or others at your firm are not registered in state X.  At that point I would make a statement such as, "My firm is not currently registered in X, but we can obtain a license should the project move forward."

On the other hand, what if I am distributing my card on behalf of my company.  If an engineer at my firm is in fact regsistered in state X there is no reason for me to put doubt in a potential clients mind by listing MY states of registration on my card (i.e, the lack of mention of state X on my card could loose our firm the project).

If I do end up acquiring my license in state X, I would then also need to add that state to my buisness cards... more money.
JLSeagull (Electrical)
10 Sep 09 13:08
A problem could exist if the person was licensed in a different state - and not the state reflected on the business card address - and had PE after her name.
bridgebuster (Civil)
13 Sep 09 15:26
NateB: See if this helps; it's a link to the Pennsylvania Board's interpretation of the use of PE.

If you're heading from MD to WV via PA don't worry if you give someone your business card you won't be persecuted (although it wasn't always this way here.)

As a side note, I'm also registered in NJ and I've read about disciplinary actions taken because the seal was the wrong size or the title block was incorrect. I agree with Ron: Persecuted.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
13 Sep 09 18:02
While, offhand, the size of the seal being wrong seems a low-level offense, authentication requires that the customer have simple means of determining such.  

If seals can have arbitrary sizes and title blocks can be created willy-nilly, how is the customer to know that every document was signed and sealed by a legitimate authority?


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

Ron (Structural)
13 Sep 09 22:59
Seals are manufactured in a narrow size range, from about 1-5/8" to 2", maybe as large as 2-1/4".  The visually discernible difference between a 1-5/8" seal and a 1-7/8" seal is negligible, yet seemingly important to the bureaucrats.

The title block thing is generally for a requirement of minimum information (name, address, license number, business authorization number, date).
stevenal (Electrical)
14 Sep 09 12:24
Regarding zdas04's post regarding the EPA, EPA is not responsible for enforcing the individual state's licensure laws. The Colorado PE might want to check with the New Mexico board on this before stamping those out of state SPCC plans. Federal environmental laws might be satisfied while state licensing laws are not.   
zdas04 (Mechanical)
14 Sep 09 16:16
That is what I'm finding.  A New Mexico SPCC Plan stamped by a Colorado P.E. satisfies the EPA (since they are required to give "full faith and credence" to the licensing laws in every state and they are not responsible for enforcing New Mexico laws), but the New Mexico regulations require a New Mexico Stamp for things stamped within New Mexico.  I haven't heard of a board action on this, but in informal conversations with the board they were pretty sure that the Colorado P.E. was in violation of the proscription against "holding yourself out to the public as an Engineer" in New Mexico if they didn't have a New Mexico Licence.

StressGuy (Mechanical)
18 Sep 09 11:32
Wouldn't that ultimately depend upon who the governing body was for the project?  If the work is done under the auspices of the EPA or some other Federal agency on Federal property, then the state licensing requirements wouldn't apply.  I'd have to dig for it, but I recall the Texas PE code having something specific about addressing work done "in" the state, but on federal property (such as a post office or military base).

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

djs (Electrical)
18 Sep 09 13:19
Ah LAHD or Local Authority having Jurisdiction. In other words the people you have to get the permits from. Again get final inspection. They determine whether sealed drawings are necessary and also what codes apply. For example many public entities have not yet accepted the latest NEC.  
stevenal (Electrical)
18 Sep 09 17:58
SPCC are not done for the EPA, they are done for an entity that needs to comply with the EPA SPCC laws. Some may be federal agencies, but most are not.
RacingAZ (Structural)
23 Sep 09 3:59
As a side topic to this thread, I've seen some SE's putting the PE,SE title after their name even though they are only licensed as a SE in 1 state and as a PE in another. Is that really appropriate? Not really sure that's why I'm asking.    
FSS (Structural)
28 Sep 09 17:00
Just saw a card today with M.S. on it as well as the P.E.  I asked about it and he said it was for his Masters degree.  I guess I need to add me some new letters to my card as well.....
JLSeagull (Electrical)
29 Sep 09 7:35
Perhaps MS or PhD may add something.  Advanced degrees provide better initial income potential.

Some people like titles and certificates.  Business cards include titles like senior engineer, senior staff engineer, senior principal engineer, etc.  Such titles mean nothing.  Some people buy additional certificates such as project management.  The certificates lack the established national and state boards, examination and state enforcement rules. I am nots impressed by such certificates.  Including P.E. after your name is enough for me.  OK, list the states too.
GregLocock (Automotive)
29 Sep 09 7:53
"Advanced degrees provide better initial income potential."

Except in Australia, every time I checked. Actually there is a bit of a trend that Masters aren't quite the mark of Cain that they used to be, but a PhD is a guarantee of a low average starting salary, for engineers.



Greg Locock

SIG:Please see FAQ731-376: Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

zdas04 (Mechanical)
29 Sep 09 8:55
Doesn't that depend on experience?  In the states, someone with an MS or PhD looking for their first Engineering job is subject to finding a very limited market and probably low salary unless they stumble into the perfect niche.  On the other hand, someone with 10 years Engineering experience seems to get paid a premium for an advanced degree.  Is Oz really that much of a "horse of a different color"?

BJC (Electrical)
29 Sep 09 9:00
I have done work for the goverment and they wanted a PE to do it.  Didn't matter where the PE was just as long as I had one. Work on a federal installation is exempt from state laws ( I know I am probalby starting an argument).  they required a stamp on work I have done on federal installations overseas.

If your bidding a job in a state where you don't have a PE read the rules or call the board.  Most will allow you to a and issue a temporary conditional license ( for mere money).
Ron (Structural)
29 Sep 09 9:01'd have to use the back,too!!

A lot of the advanced degree argument depends on the discipline and the job.  In most practical applications, the Master's degree is somewhat of a peak, with the PhD sometimes being an impediment.  In academia of course, the more the better.

If the job is in manufacturing, general consulting, or field applications, the PhD doesn't seem to help.  In research or academia, where they get grants based on paper qualifications, the PhD is gold.
GregLocock (Automotive)
29 Sep 09 9:38
Key word is "initial". According to the annual survey in The Australian's Higher Ed Supplement, starting salaries for ex PhDs are lower than for BEngs, in engineering. I can imagine 2 reasons. First, mining pays the big bucks, employs enough engineers to strongly affect the average, and probably tend to take fewer PhDs.

Secondly, perpetual students probably get attracted to staying on at uni, and when they are finally forced out into the real world have to settle for what they can get, as they blink in the sunlight.



Greg Locock

SIG:Please see FAQ731-376: Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

NateB (Structural) (OP)
30 Sep 09 8:46
I beleive that the use of PE, SE is appropriate.  This means that the engineer has not simply passed the civil or SE1 exam, but has minimally passed both the SE1 and SE2 exams... a much greater acheivement.  The use of SE is a perk of passing both exams and satisfying the licensing requirements of a state that licenses by disipline, something to be proud of.

Naturally one can only use SE if they are registered in a state that liceneses SE's.  Additionally, using just SE could be misleading since not all states recognize disiplines.

This is my take, but I could be convinced otherwise.
dstan02 (Electrical)
4 Feb 10 18:14
If your an engineer that has earned their PE, use it just like a doctor. All your saying is "hey, I have my PE".
mauricestoker (Mechanical)
5 Feb 10 10:20
You can imply or assume anything that you want. If someone from Maryland provides a business card to a person in West Virginia, has P.E. on it, and "MD" is assumed to mean "medical doctor" and not "Maryland", well I guess being we have plenty of lawyers means that they could still be sued. What basis is their to make a reasonable presumption that the person is registered in WV, or for that matter, in any specific State? Did they wear a "greenttooth" instead of a "bluettooth"? Did he invite you over to burn a couch on his lawn at the next home football game? Did he ask you what every teenage boy in WV and Lebron James have in common?

Maybe it was a poor example. I'm from WV and work with lots of PE's in MD, DC, PA, VA, etc. If someone has "PE" and "PA" on their business card, I don't presume and invite them to the family reunion.
JLSeagull (Electrical)
5 Feb 10 10:29
My engineering organization often include the PE abbreviation in conference notes when referring to Project Engineer or Process Engineer.  I notice it without getting twisted.

Outside of the civil structural discipline perhaps few would know the meaning of SE on a business card.  Perhaps SE would be more notable if I were in the highway or mining business instead of the oil/gas/petrochemical business.
McLovin (Civil/Environmental)
4 Mar 10 1:22
In most circumstances you DO need to include which state(s) you are licensed in.  The early example by Zdas04 could get him in trouble.

Specifically, The state of Wyoming requires that the company the engineer works for hold a Certificate of Authorization from the board prior to offering any engineering services (there is also a mandatory requirement that at least one owner or principal must be a PE licensed in WY).  In addition, WY restricts the use of key terms "professional engineer", "registered engineer", "licensed engineer", etc.  If you even *verbally* use these terms in solicitations for work, you are violating their policy and are subject to discipline.  Most likely you'll get a slap on the wrist for it, but any disciplinary action is then reported to the NCEES Enforcement Exchange and can lead to further disciplinary action in other participating states.

Each state also defines what "engineering" consists of via state statue(s).  In Wyoming:

""Engineering practice" means professional service or work requiring  engineering education, training and experience and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to the professional services or creative work as consultation, research investigation, teaching, evaluation, planning, surveying practice as defined in subparagraphs (vii)(D) and (E) of this subsection, design, location, development and review of construction for conformance with contract documents and design, in connection with any public or private utility, structure, building, machine, equipment, process, work or project.  A person shall be deemed to be practicing or offering to practice engineering if he practices any branch of the profession of engineering, or by verbal claim, sign, advertisement, letterhead, card or any other manner represents himself to be a professional engineer, or quotes fees for professional engineering services, or executes contracts or agreements for professional engineering services or holds himself out as able to perform or does perform any engineering service recognized by the board as engineering;"

Each state has its own set of rules.  You can look them up as needed or simply clarify your title.  Personally, I don't call myself a PE unless I have to.
brandoncdg (Civil/Environmental)
4 Mar 10 12:07
That Doogie Houser comment was funny!

So Engineers are held to a higher standard than a Doctor or Lawyer?  Please engineers stop the madness!

Civil Development Group, LLC
Los Angeles Civil Engineering specializing in Hillside Grading

JLSeagull (Electrical)
4 Mar 10 21:45
I understand your question regarding physician certification; different story for those with a JD -  or is it a DJ?
NateB (Structural) (OP)
5 Mar 10 9:32
Since posting I have done some additional research and have found a way of dealing with this issue that makes me comfortable, since there is obviously no black and white answer.  

Many people say that as long as your buisness address is listed along with your name, then the use of PE is assumed to be for the state in which your buisness is located.  Our firm happends to be in MD, a state I am registered in.  So all coorespondence, and naturally our buisness cards, list the address of a state that I am registered in.  

If I were NOT registered in MD I would need to say so.  For example, if I were only registered in VA then I would need a statement under my name to clarify that I am not registered in MD.  Something like this:

Nateb, PE
Not registered in MD

Alternatively, I guess you could list the states you ARE regiestered in, but this could get annoying if you are an engineer that adds new registrations frequently.

I happen to be registered in 5 other states (other than MD), but since they are not my place of buisness there is no need to list them all on my coorespondence and buisness cards.  Seems to me the best thing to do is become registered in the state in which you work and include your buisness address on all coorespondence, documents and cards in which PE is used after your name.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
5 Mar 10 10:30
hmm, seems to me that your other registrations would get a short shrift, in that case.  If you were corresponding with a customer in one of those states, wouldn't you want him to know that you are licensed to practice in his state, particularly on letterhead?


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

Helpful Member!  BRGENG (Structural)
20 Mar 10 22:14
Since each State could play by a different set of rules you could get 50 answers on here that are different but yet all correct.  So why not just ask the State Board since they would be the one to punish you if you did break a State rule?  

I am always amazed that people ask for clarifications of State Statues/ Rules on here instead of calling the State Board itself.  No offense to anyone on here but if I want to know an answer that could affect my career or get me disciplined I am asking the rule maker and requesting the answer in writing.   
NateB (Structural) (OP)
22 Mar 10 13:37
Agreed BRDENG.  Obviously the states have their own sets of rules and could tell you their rule regarding this issue.  However, the question at hand is not so much what the rules are, but how to address the rules that are in place.  I do not plan on having 50 different buisness cards to adapt to each state's set of rules.  

As with most threads on this website, we are just looking for opinions on how practicing engineer's handle this issue, if at all.
hidalgoe (Electrical)
25 Mar 10 3:35

Just a kind reminder that US territories like Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, also have licensing boards and are NCEES recognized.

alehman (Electrical)
26 Mar 10 22:00
Being registered in 27 states and two territories, it would be really awkward to list all of them on my business card and emails.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are practicing as an employee of a company, many states require the company to be registered with the license board or have a certificate of authority in that state/territory. A P.E. can be held responsible for the violation for sealing a document for use in a state in which his company is not properly registered.

"The engineer's first problem in any design situation is to discover what the problem really is." Unk.

bridgebuster (Civil)
12 Apr 10 6:55
I think this thread shows that as a society we're over complicating things. In law, courts sometimes apply what is known as a "reasonableness" test. For example, I'm registered in three states, but suppose I give my business card - which says PE - to someone in a state where I'm not registered, am I breaking the law? Yes? No? Maybe? Actually, it depends on my intentions.

If I'm giving the card to someone solely for the purpose of contact information I'm not breaking any law. If I'm marketing my firm, maybe but probably not. There's no law against saying my firm is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

If I take on a project and have no intention of complying with state law, then I'm breaking the law. Most of my work is with public agancies in a particular state. When they issue an RFP one of the qualifications is that the project manager must be licensed in the state or have the ability to become licensed within six months. That's reasonable.

Sometimes a state board is unreasonable; sometimes not. Here's an example. 15 years ago I moved from  state A to state B; shortly after I needed to obtain a license in state C. State C rejected my application because I wasn't registered in my home state. I called the board in state C, explained the situation about moving. They agreed to issue the license provided that I obtain a license in my home state within one year. They were reasonable.

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