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Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

I have a mechanical design business that I run.  Have been Inc. for 5 years.  I only have a 2 year Mechanical Engineering Tech Degree(w/15 years experience).  I have 4 year engineers on my staff, but no licensed (PE) engineers.

Does anyone know what the laws are in Iowa in regard to having an engineering business w/o employing a licensed engineer?

I have been told that I need to have a PE on my board of directors or as a partner in order to sell engineering services in Iowa, but this came from a potential partner/employee.

Thanks for any help,

Kurt in Iowa

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

Do a search on eng-tips.com for PE requirements, then go to your state board.  Every state is different, and it often takes a lawyer to work out the disparaties.

All of the states that I've looked at (none east of the Misissippi) have laws against "holding yourself out to the public as an engineer" without a PE.  There are a bunch of examples in related posts on eng-tips of people who have been fined or other punishment for just putting a job title that includes the word "engineer" on a business card.  I know of a couple of companies that were named "XYZ Engineering" that received substantial fines when it came to light that they didn't have a PE on staff in a director position or equivilent.

When I went to get my city business license I had to produce proof of a New Mexico PE before they would let me put the word within the name of the business.

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

The harder I work, the luckier I seem

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

You should really check with the state board, as they are the definitive authority.  Nothing said by anyone on this board would hold up if the Iowa board decides to fine you.  Our newsletter in Kansas always has board decisions of fines imposed to companies or individuals who are performing engineering work without a license.  Here is the Iowa board website.


Most likely, if you are only doing work for private companies who fall under the industrial exemption that most states have, nothing will ever come of it.  If you do any engineering work for the "public" or public entities, you are probably violating the Iowa laws by not having a professional engineer in responsible charge of the work.  In Kansas, which is probably similar to Iowa, the PE does not have to be an owner/partner but does need to be in a position to oversee the work of the non-PE engineers.  Another alternative is to remove all reference to engineering in your company name and only work for private companies.  Again, though, you need to check with the board for the final answer.

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

Doesn't it seem goofy that these boards (for instance, Missouri's board) can regulate the use of the word "engineer" even for work that does not require the PE stamp? In Missouri,  and just being a humble engineer with PE, I don't know all the legal technicalities, so forgive if I make a mistake; in Missouri, if you bave an engineering services company, and you design a bridge, say it must have a PE stamp so you have to have an PE on staff. If you design a widget instead, which normally doesn't need a PE stamp, it is my understanding, you still need have to have a PE on staff. But wait! Some engineering services companies (the ones that do designs/analyses that don't require the PE stamp) think they are getting around this requirement by saying that they are just providing "advice" and because the customer takes ultimate responsibility for engineering based decisions, that they, the engineering services company, are off the hook and therefore operating legally.

Another goofy thing about the system in Missouri, at least, is that it depends almost entirely what could be considered "snitching", that is, engineers reporting on other engineers. If you are talking about a bridge or a building, where the threats to public safety could be grave, then almost anything a competitor (after all, what engineer would rat out his own company? not many, though the threat to public safety would be as grave) does to prevent non PEs from approving designs would seem ethical. However, what if you are talking about a widget design by a third party such as an engineering services company which does not have a PE on staff? Is that ethical to report such a company? I would think yes, because they are providing engineering services and they aren't licensed as required by law. What does everyone else think? Is this ethical?

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?


I am originally from Iowa  the above link is to a situation I knew od personnally.  Do your home work!  It will bite you if you make some one mad and they dont want to play fair!


RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

Here is a link to the board website http://www.state.ia.us/government/com/prof/engineer/home.html you can find the rules & regulation there.

A quick look through Iowa's code I can not fined where any Certificate of Authorization is required for a company, though to practice engineering a Professional Engineers license is required.

Vita sine litteris mors est.

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?


Here is the basic law of the land (all 50 states).  If you offer engineering services to the public you must have a PE or a PE on staff willing to sign-off on the design.  For example, if you advertise as XYZ Engineering, you better have that PE and insurance.  This goes for any professional service (doctors, lawyers, dentists, etc.)

Now there are several ways to get around this issue. All of which I've used:

1: Advertise your company to the public as a XYZ Mechanical Design.  Include in all contract coorespondence with customers that any and all designs produced do not have PE approval, and they accept this liability and have the right to obtain PE approval at their own cost.  In addition, it is their responsibility to ensure the design will work as designed and won't fail.  You can provide test data, experimental results, prototypes, analysis results, etc.  However, all this work will need be PE approved...so document throughly. (Pass buck to customer)

2: Advertise your company to the public as XYZ Engineering.  Submit all designs and work to a PE, you have on retainer, for approval and pass the cost onto your customer.  Inform your customers that this is your standard practice. Note: this is leagally tricky and your lawyer should create a solid retainer contract, which in effect states the engineering services provided by your company are a service extended by the PE you have on retainer.  It is very hard to find PE's willing to accept this kind of agreement(Pass buck to third party on your behalf)

3: Advertise your company to the public as XYZ Engineering and obtain or hire a partner with a PE, who can sign-off on the designs. (Buck stops with you)

In all cases you sould carry liability insurance!!!  Always look at it from the perspective of a law suit.  You have to establish a path to pass the buck and/or have the proper insurance in place when the buck stops at you!!!

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

Two cents in:

I work in medical devices (implants) and the PE has 0 to do with our work.  We are very heavily regulated by the FDA and have lots of rules about design control, but the PE is all but meaningless in the field.  

Just something to think about, the bridge you're riding on had to have a stamp, but the screws and plates in your leg had no such thing.  

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

In the Iowa monthy notice the most common complaint or citations issued are issues dealing with land surveyors follwed by people parcticing engineering without a license.
 The bimonthly Iowa publication for licensing includes engineers, architechs, land surveyor, geologists, real estate agents and a few other professions.  I suppose it saves money, Iowans are thrifty.

You can read all the rules and regs starting here.

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

I worked for a biomedical company many years ago. They hired an engineering consultant for a several year period. He was a PE. If you are an independent business entity (consultant) and you are offering services to another business entity, you are legally required to be a PE in most states in the USA. California is one of the exceptions, but that exemption applies to manufactured products, not buildings & infrastructure.

RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

Kurt & Jabberwocky,

Jabberwocky has made a good point and reminded me of something I've over looked.  In his case, medical devices, there was no need for a PE.  This is absolutely correct and is true for many product designer/manufacturer.

For medical in particular, his company was most likely covered by "use at your own risk" product liability insurance.  In addition, they had to have FDA approval, which may help to lower insurance premiums, as well as allow them to obtain liability insurance in the first place.

This also goes for any product designers and/or manufacturer.  Telecom, consumer, toy, automotive, etc.  They all carry product and/or manufacture defect liability insurance.

The only way you'll lose your shirt in either case, is if the company unskillfully or neglegently placed a faulty product on the market OR if the company didn't buy enough insurance to cover the amount of damage caused by a product failure (i.e. plane manufacturer better have 100's of millions in coverage, where as widget manufacturers need 10's to 100's of thousands)

So now the question is...how much coverage is enough?  Depends on how much similar product failure cases are settling for in the court system.  A burnt lip given to a customer by hot coffee at McDonald's cost them $640K.  It almost cost them $2.8M!  Ask your lawyer as well as your product/manufactuers liability insurance company on reasonable coverage.

Lastly, remember that just like auto insurance (good drives get better rates than bad drivers) the insurance companies will give you better rates when your company meets certain requirements.  For example, you may get much better rates by haveing a PE on staff, or passing FDA, UL, and/or CE certification.  In some cases they may not insure you at all if you don't have a PE on staff...depends on the service and/or product you provide.


RE: Mechanical Engineering w/o a PE?

I concur that you have to see what the regulations in your state require.  In SC, where I practice, offering any kind of engineering related service as an independent 'engineer' requires that one owner of the company must be a licensed engineer. Offering engineering services under an ambiguous title such as "Design Solutions" or some other name is not sufficient.  You may get away for several years before the board finds out about your business and comes knocking.

You can't get listed in the phone book Yellow Pages under the Engineering section without the board finding your business and doing an investigation.  You have to have a Certificate of Authorization (COA) ($$$$) for the company to practice in SC.

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