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P.E. License Issues in Consulting
2

P.E. License Issues in Consulting

P.E. License Issues in Consulting

(OP)
I am about a year away from being eligible to take the PE exam.  I have design experience and really enjoy it.  I would like to do this on the side as it would not compete with my current employer.

I know that I can not claim myself as an engineer or say that I do engineering work until I pass the exam.  Word on the street is you don't want to be caught doing this.  

Would it be possible to offer "Design Services" for now?  Is a license required to aid in the design everything?

If a PE is required, could I pay the fees of a local PE that does consulting to simply review what I have done?

Has anyone stepped out on their own in this area?  I am doing a little research and it seems like finding a market would be quite challenging.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Quote:

Would it be possible to offer "Design Services" for now?  Is a license required to aid in the design everything?
No, you cannot practice, or offer to practice, engineering in most all (if not all) states without having a license to do so.  In many states you cannot even market for services without a license.

Quote:

If a PE is required, could I pay the fees of a local PE that does consulting to simply review what I have done?

Again, no.  If you find a PE to do this, the PE would have to have "direct supervision" over your designs.  Many states interpret that to mean the PE has control, direction, decision-making ability, and finally review over the designs.  Bringing a finished design to the PE to simply seal and sign is "plan stamping" and illegal.  The PE would have to do either one of these two things:
  a)  Have an on-going communication with you as the design progresses, where the PE can direct you in the design.
  b)  Take your finished design and do a complete re-calculation of the design, verifying the results indepenedently.

Doing a) is probably your best option - but you have to find a PE willing to do this - and they would certainly charge you fee for this.

Doing b) is possible, but again the PE would be required to almost spend the same time you did in creating the design in verifying it.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Bide your time, get more experience, learn what clients want, how to give it to them, and how to deal with them in adverse cirmstances, learn how to bid jobs, learn from your boss and do not burn any bridges.  Be patient.  One year is a lot less time than the rest or your life.

Mike McCann
McCann Engineering

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

(OP)
In the big picture, waiting one year is not much.  I have been eager to do this for a while.

I could probably find a PE to consult with but my billing time would have to be less than theirs because I have no license.  The cost of hiring the PE would probably cancel out any prophet that I make from my time.

I understand that designing bridges, buildings, and engines would require a PE.  What about the smaller, less significant products that you see around....  A better pair of pliars, a smarter can crusher, etc....  do those require a licensed engineer too?

Thanks for the input.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

(OP)
Without the license, are there any engineering related jobs that can be done on your own?  All that I can think of is drafting.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Nothing for a profit, legally, unless you want to invent something as you alluded to with the better can opener, etc.  Anyone can do that.  If you succeed with your design, get a good patent attorney.

Mike McCann
McCann Engineering

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

All you have to do is work in an exempt industry. Cars, aircraft, consumer products generally. So far as any logic applies - things where prototyping is practical.



Cheers

Greg Locock

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

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Ya, GregLocock hit on it.  Since you are mechanical (on your handle) your talents may be more in line with industrial settings where working for an industrial company, within their walls, you can do engineering without a license.

However....be aware that if you promote yourself to them as a consultant, bringing nifty ideas to them, that is not under the industry exemption in most states as you are "holding yourself out to the public" as an engineer vs. working as an employee inside their company.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

To advertise to do "Design Services" is legal in every state as far as I am aware.  You just cannot use the word "engineering or engineer" in your company name and as long as you do not hold yourself up to be a registered engineer, you can do just about any kind of engineering, including structural and civil.  You just cannot stamp and seal drawings.  I don't know where the other posters got the idea that you cannot practice engineering without a license, but that is not true.  A license is only required if you are stamping and sealing drawings which are required in certain instances like the structural design of public buildings and bridges etc.  I have been doing industrial type design work on the side for years and never once have I told the customer I was a P.E. or stamped any drawings.  I did hold a license for years, but that was only so I could advertise "Engineering Services".

Timelord

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Timelord, for services rendered to an industry, in many cases you are correct that you can provide various "design" services for them without any problem.

The concern is that if you advertise to the public "design" services, and those services are engineering, and you are not licensed as an engineer, then you can be, and most likely are, violating the engineering practice laws in most states.

It is NOT just the term "engineering" that always causes the violation.  I could say this in an advertisement:  "Design services for structural modeling and sizing of beams" and I would be in big trouble without a PE license.

Here's a part of the Nevada state board provisions:

NRS 625.520  Unlawful practice of engineering: Penalty; injunctive relief.

      1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 4, it is unlawful for:

      (a) Any person not properly licensed or exempted in accordance with the provisions of this chapter to:

             (1) Practice, continue to practice, solicit to practice, offer to practice or attempt to practice engineering or any discipline thereof;

             (2) Employ, use or cause to be used the term “licensed engineer,” “professional engineer” or “registered engineer” or any combination, variation or abbreviation thereof as a professional or commercial identification, representation, claim, asset or means of advantage or benefit;

             (3) Employ, use or cause to be used the term “engineer,” “engineering” or “engineered” or any combination, variation or abbreviation thereof as a professional or commercial identification, representation, claim, asset or means of advantage or benefit without disclosing that he is not qualified, registered or licensed to practice professional engineering in this state; or

             (4) Directly or indirectly employ any means which in any manner tends or is likely to mislead the public or any member thereof that any person is qualified or authorized to practice engineering.


Quote:

A license is only required if you are stamping and sealing drawings which are required in certain instances like the structural design of public buildings and bridges etc.

Just not true.  Read your local state board laws, or better, call them and ask what they think of your services.  As I said above, you might be ok under some industrial exemption.

The original poster was asking about "offering design services".  Best to follow the laws, and better to find out what they say before offering your services.







RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

JAE,

Actually, I got a legal opinion from a lawyer years ago for the state of Wisconsin (where I held my license) and that is essentially what he told me.  Never had a problem and I have worked on a lot of projects over the years.  Never represented myself as a PE and I did work for GM  (airplane nav systems), GE (medical x-ray equipment) and several other large companies and scores of small companies.  Perhaps I never got into trouble because all of the places that I worked for would have had industrial exemptions to the law anyways.
Funny, but when I got my license (1974) there was no specialization, so my license had no disipline shown on it, it was simply a general P.E. license.  I was advised by the licensing board that all I had to do was restrict myself the engineering fields where I was competent, and I could determine those areas.  But then I got the license only so I could use the term engineer when soliciting work, so there never was any conflict.

Timelord

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Timelord,
Interesting about the legal opinion you got.  However, I'd worry a bit about lawyers really knowing much about the engineering laws as it is a pretty rare thing when lawyers even get involved in engineering board related stuff.  Usually it's the board jumping on an engineer, or would-be engineer, and negotiating directly with them.

I'm licensed in 20 states and get the state board newsletters of all of them which report all the violations for each quarter - it's amazing to see the number of persons who get nailed by the board for practicing without licenses, etc.

It sounds like you are in a field where engineering and niche design talents probably don't overlap to the extent that an engineering board would get involved.  Most times the boards are focused on building designs vs. industrial products and processes.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

You kind of renforced the point I was trying to make to TXMEEN, That as long as he stayed out of a field that required stamping and sealing drawings and didn't represent himself as a PE, he is probably safe.  I could name a half a dozen design firms here in my town that don't have PE's on staff, they do industrial type design and engineering  and they advertise so without any interference from the state board.

Timelord

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

.

TXMEEN,

The easiest way to clear up your questions is to directly ask for an opinion on the matter from the engineering licensing board in your State. Part of their duties is to answer questions like yours. That way you will have a definite decision before you do anything that might get you into trouble.

Also, attorneys can render opinions, but that is only their opinion and not a board or court ruling - which is what holds and matters in licensure matters. Follow the advice of well qualified attorneys in matters of contracts and other business matters. Follow the direction of the licensing board in matters of professional practice. If you follow the advice of an attorney instead of the direction of the licensing board, you may end up following the direction of a judge and paying the attorney a lot more money.

.

tsgrue: site engineering, stormwater
management, landscape design, ecosystem
rehabilitation, mathematical simulation
http://hhwq.blogspot.com

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

(OP)
Sounds like good advice.  Thanks to all who replie.  I will probably give them a call some time next week to see what they think.

From the sound of it, it looks like I will just have to wait a little while until I can take the exam before venturing out to do engineering related work on my own.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

I would talk to your state board of jurisdiction.

A designer is not an engineer.

I can design a building (meaning the interior layout) without a PE. Actually, a PE probably wouldn't help much here.

I can design a building (meaning the art work) without the PE.

I can not engineer anything, without a PE.

The word design is allowed to be used by anybody, as far as I know.

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."   
Albert Einstein
Have you read FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

"I can not engineer anything, without a PE."

Maybe you can't, but the rest of the us do all the time.

The people who sent a man to the moon were not required to be licensed and I sure consider them engineers.
The people who bring you american automobiles are engineers.
The people who designed the bomb are engineers.
ETC, ETC

Timelord

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Timelord,
NASA, GM, and the mad bomber are not consultants working in mechanical (HVAC) design offering services to the public.  

TXMEEN's original post appeared (at least to me) to be someone looking to start up a business (that's the forum we are in here) as a mechanical engineering consultant to architects, etc.  

Your statements are quite true, that designers "engineer" stuff every day.  I agree 100% with you.  

I just think this thread wasn't really dealing with that type of design/engineering...but I guess TXMEEN can speak for him/herself.  Maybe I'm seeing through my private practice eyes and you are seeing it through your perspective.


RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

TXMEEN,

Side work should be disclosed to your current employer and both parties ahouls agree that there are no conflicts.

Only way I can think of, for your side engineering work, is to work for a licensed engineer in your desired discipline who has overflow work, some of which you can perform under his direct supervision.

I would wait until getting the PE before venturing out.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

(OP)
The initial post was about engineering consulting.  Using my "engineering training" from my schooling to develope solutions to problems.  If someone needs a device to perform a certain task, I can calculate what gears are required, what material is required, how each shold be mounted and where.... design.

Since I have a while before I can take the PE I figured I could advertise my services as design services instead of engineering services so that I could work as a consultant and then have a PE sign off on the drawings.

If I had a PE I would say I can offer Mecnanical Engineering Services....  With no PE I can not say engineering.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

You got it TXMEEN!  I don't see anywhere where you specified civil or architectual type work. Hang out your shingle, but don't use the word engineering in the company name.  You can offer just about any kind of services that doesn't require a stamp/seal.  I've been doing it for over 35 years and never ran afoul of the state board.  It seems that the licensed civil/architectual types would like to ursurp the word engineer for themselves.  Just look over the posts above to see what I mean.  I gotta ask them, how many unlicensed guys do you know that have the title engineer on their business cards and really do complicated engineering?  I personally know about a hundred and I live in a small world.

Timelord

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

TXMEEN,

Offering engineering consulting services, i.e. your "product" is engineering, is illegal in most places if you are not licensed. It does not matter what you call it.

It does happen, but that does not make it legal. I get the CO news letter, and in every one there are cases of unlicensed practitioners running afoul of the law.

The best advice is to consult the state board.

Timelord,

It looks like, just from the definition in WRS, one need NOT use the term engineer to run afoul of the law in WI.

from the WI revised statutes:

443.01
6)"Practice of professional engineering" includes any professional service requiring the application of engineering principles and data, in which the public welfare or the safeguarding of life, health or property is concerned and involved, such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design, or responsible supervision of construction, alteration, or operation, in connection with any public or private utilities, structures, projects, bridges, plants and buildings, machines, equipment, processes and works. A person offers to practice professional engineering if the person by verbal claim, sign, advertisement, letterhead, card or in any other way represents himself or herself to be a professional engineer ; or who through the use of some other title implies that he or she is a professional engineer ; or who holds himself or herself out as able to practice professional engineering.

443.02
3) No person may offer to practice architecture or professional engineering or use in connection with the person's name or otherwise assume, use or advertise any title or description tending to convey the impression that he or she is an architect or professional engineer or advertise to furnish architectural or professional engineering services unless the person has been duly registered or has in effect a permit under s. 443.10 (1) (d).


RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

There seems to be a difference between "Professional Engineering" and just plain engineering in the statute which makes my point.  I didn't say anybodies card said professional engineer, just "engineer".  Are you trying to tell us that NASA engineers (one example) must be licensed to work or call themselves engineers?  Your crazy if you think that.  Go ahead and turn them in to their state board for having engineer on their card and see how far you get.

my final comment,

Timelord

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

This is a very interesting topic, and I appreciate everyone's comments.

Here's my $.02 (as noted above, your state board has the only opinion that matters)

I don't feel that being an engineering consultant automatically requires that you be a licensed PE. I think it is based entirely on the projects that you work on, and whether those projects are required to be reviewed and stamped.

As stated in rday's post. 'Professional Engineering' services are required for projects involving 'public welfare or safety of life, health, or property' (ie Bridges, Buildings, ...) And those projects would require a PE to perform the work.
But if the project doesn't require a PE review and signature, a consultant should be able to perform the engineering services without a PE license.

Example,
I previously worked for a company designing communications equipment. We designed, manufactured, and sold the products. No one in the company was a PE, and none of the products ever needed to be reviewed by a PE.
After leaving, suppose I worked for them as a consultant and designed the exact same products. Why would I now require a PE license?

Think of the millions of small companies that design and manufacture engineered parts/products/goods everyday. If they all required a PE on staff or as a consulatant, the cost of everything would sky-rocket.

So, if they don't need a PE to design it in-house, why would a consultant need a PE license to design it out-of-house?

I think there is a huge difference between advertising 'Engineering Services' and advertising 'Professional Engineering Services'. If the scope of the project requires it to be reviewed and approved by a PE, you cannot work on that project. But, I think you can advertise yourself as an 'engineer' and work on engineering projects that aren't at that next level.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

.

LMonaco wrote: "I think there is a huge difference between advertising 'Engineering Services' and advertising 'Professional Engineering Services'."

At least in the United States, regardless of our personal opinions, what holds in these matters are the State licensure laws and Board regulations/rules. Neither our personal opinions nor the opinions of an attorney supersede these. As with other laws, regulations, and rules, these are decided upon by the legislature and the courts. You can always lobby and vote for modifications!

Every State of which I am familiar with the licensure laws, regulations, and rules (about 12 of them), including the 3 in which I am licensed, don't distinguish between 'Engineering Services' and 'Professional Engineering Services'. If it meets the definition of engineering, then it is engineering no matter what you call it and you must be licensed as an engineer to perform such services with generally two exceptions: 1) other licensed professionals (land surveyors, landscape architects, etc) may have overlap in the definition of their practice and that of engineering; and 2) "in-house" engineering for manufacturing processes and certain utilities may have exemptions as the health, safety, and welfare of the public is addressed through other means (public utilities commissions, public product safety laws, etc).

.

tsgrue: site engineering, stormwater
management, landscape design, ecosystem
rehabilitation, mathematical simulation
http://hhwq.blogspot.com

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

I think the definition is clear. Maybe I should repost the very first sentence: "Practice of professional engineering" includes any professional service requiring the application of engineering principles . The definition also includes machines, equipment and process, not just buildings and bridges. By the definition if I claim I can "design" your building, I have represented myself as able to practice professional engineering.

NASA does not offer engineering services to anyone. Nor do any number of companies that build products we use every day. NASA operates space vehicles and manufacturing companies offer goods (automobiles, toasters & widgets). I have never said people working under an industrial exemption were not or may not call themselves engineers.

I clearly stated ""Offering engineering consulting services, i.e. your "product" is engineering, is illegal in most places if you are not licensed."" Calling it design not engineering is like saying "Officer, I wasn't tailgating, I was drafting."

LMonaco,

I think most state statutes would disagree with you. In all the states I have worked in the law is fairly clear. If you offer engineering services you need to be licensed. Sure exemptions exist, that is why the state board should be contacted.

As I said before:
The best advice is to consult the state board.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

California regulations allow non-PEs to offer consulting engineering services to manufacturing companies, in regard to product design engineering. Probably most other states would allow the same practice, even though not specifically identified in their regulations. But you would be at the mercy of the state board on this issue. Best bet to avoid any potential problems is to get your PE. If you truly have the skills to offer engineering services, then you should be able to get your PE as well. This was the intent of the PE laws when they were originally enacted years ago, that all qualified engineers become licensed.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Here's a situation that I've never seen come up on here.  How does everyone here feel about offering testing services that may include information and procedure that one can only learn through engineering school or years of experience?  These may include strain gaging, vibration analysis, etc, but no design.  Is a PE required then?

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

I think it is still practicing engineering, which is what most states regulate.  Design is one way of practicing.  Most states require reports to be sealed, which is what I would expect your product to be.

Don Phillips
http://worthingtonengineering.com

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Why not work for a small consulting engineer on a partime basis? You do not have to be a pe for that and you have 2 benifits: 1.) you get additional experience. Many think that they need 5 years experience after graduation. What is required is 5years of acceptable experience. Often this equates to an additional 6 months or a year before  the exam. Having additional experience under a PE can prevent that. plus it gives you another PE reference who is familar with your work. 2.) Aside from the designing side there is a whole business side to business. Workig with a small consultant, you can get a good idea about that side of the business.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

I have a question regarding a small company name? I am an EE. I graduated college about 35 years ago. I mostly worked for companies as an employee, but also did some design work for various others on a 1099 basis. In the late 70's I registered a company name in NJ as xxxx Consulting Co.
After reading all this argumentation regarding the use of "engineering" without a PE license, I'm wondering whether I can use my company name? Consulting implies professional advise!  
BTW, I looked into getting a PE license a few times, but I was discouraged by some of the requirements such as having a sponser recommendation and the 16 hours of testing. I'm sure I could have passed easily when I graduated(I understand 95% do), but it would be very difficult 35 years later. I'm also sure most of the existing older PE's would also fail the tests now if they had to take them, despite the update courses they take as a requirement for renewal.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

Jerryls,

You should probably start a new thread with your question.

On a different note, I would not assume just because someone is old and years removed from school that they can't pass the PE technical exams. I know personally just such people who have passed - and with relatively little "studying".

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."   
Albert Einstein
Have you read FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

rday,

I don't think your definition is clear because you left the rest of the sentence out.

"Practice of professional engineering" includes any professional service requiring the application of engineering principles and data, in which the public welfare or the safeguarding of life, health or property is concerned and involved, such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design, or responsible supervision of construction, alteration, or operation, in connection with any public or private utilities, structures, projects, bridges, plants and buildings, machines, equipment, processes and works."

Granted I am not a lawyer, but when I read this my interpretation of this statue is that not all engineering services would fall under the general term "Practice of professional engineering."  Would I be in viloation of the law if I offered "Software Engineering Consulting Services"?  

I am very interested in this subject because this year I started doing consulting work on the side and I am not a PE.  I have always assumed that a PE was only required for Civil Engineering type work where the safety of the general public is concerned.

I got started in consulting when I changed jobs at the beginning of this year and I was retained by my former employer to do some projects for them on a part time basis.  Through word of mouth I have picked up two other clients.  I am a specialist in acoustics and structural dynamics.   My consulting work includes design and analysis as well as some other Mechanical engineering tasks.   My clients are all manufacturing companies and in no way does my work directly effect the safety and welfare of the general public.  Even after reading the law, I am not convinced that I am breaking any laws by doing what I do.

RE: P.E. License Issues in Consulting

"any public or private ... machines, equipment, processes and works."

That sentence looks more like an ambit claim for jurisdiction over everything except natural features rather than something that would stand up in court.





Cheers

Greg Locock

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