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When is your work considered engineering?

When is your work considered engineering?

When is your work considered engineering?

There are a number of product development companies out there that do “design” work however they do not have PEs and their firm’s are not registered with the board.

In looking at the laws and rules for my state, it sounds like you are practicing engineering if you make decisions on how to make a product work (component geometry, material selection, etc.).

Many of the products that I have seen these companies generate are typically consumer products like appliances, hand tools, automotive accessories, etc. They are not working on higher risk items like pressure vessels, bridges and buildings but according to the laws and rules as they have been interpreted to me, they are practicing engineering.

I thought I would throw the question out there. Are these companies offering engineering services by designing cell phone cases, kitchen gadgets, flashlights, etc? If so, how are they able to operate without a license or having a licensed engineer on board?
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RE: When is your work considered engineering?

I can't speak a universal truth here, but in my community if you have the word "Engineer" in the name of your company you have to show a P.E. card to get a business license. If I'd called my company MuleShoe Services in stead of MuleShoe Engineering that check would not have happened.

As to the bigger issue, "what is Engineering", things get a lot fuzzier. A friend of mine (in a different community) provides operations and reservoir Engineering services to small Oil & Gas companies. His company had the word "Engineer" in its name and no P.E. owners. He got a cease and desist order from the state board. He changed the name of the company (it was an LLC so changing the name was a formal process) and kept doing exactly the same tasks that he was doing under the old name. No one cared since what the industry called "Engineering" did not seem to touch any of the important buttons like a retaining wall, a bridge, or a foundation would so he's fine now.

Stuff like designing "safe" consumer products (like, say, handguns) doesn't seem to push the same buttons as bridges, dams, and foundations. I guess the primary definition becomes "Engineering is the stuff that the Civil guys doe, the rest is just pretend".

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

You need to read the laws in your state or country. In California, all the companies you've described are industrial companies and therefore exempt from the PE laws.


6746. Exemption for communications companies under the Public Utilities Commission
Plans, specifications, reports and documents relating to communication lines and equipment prepared by employees of communications companies which come under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission, and by employees of contractors while engaged in work on communication equipment for communications companies which come under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission, are not subject to the provisions of this chapter.
6746.1. Exemption for employees of communications industry
The provisions of this act pertaining to licensure of professional engineers other than civil engineers, do not apply to employees in the communication industry, nor to the employees of contractors while engaged in work on communication equipment. However, those employees may not use any of the titles listed in Section 6732, 6736, and 6736.1, unless licensed.
2011 Professional Engineers Act 19
6747. Exemption for industries
(a) This chapter, except for those provisions that apply to civil engineers and civil engineering, shall not apply to the performance of engineering work by a manufacturing, mining, public utility, research and development, or other industrial corporation, or by employees of that corporation, provided that work is in connection with, or incidental to, the products, systems, or services of that corporation or its affiliates.
(b) For purposes of this section, “employees” also includes consultants, temporary employees, contract employees, and those persons hired pursuant to third-party contracts.

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

Basically, if you design stuff that comes under the general classification of 'targets', you are bound up by your state's engineering closed shop agreement, whereas if you design weapons and toys then generally you are not. If your state doesn't engineer weapons and toys then it probably doesn't recognise a difference. In the rest of the world except Canadia engineers never got the whole closed shop thing set up, so far as I am aware.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

I could be interpreting the rules wrong but in Texas it appears that creating anything at all is considered the practice of engineering. See (C)(10) below. But this seems to conflict with the exemption statement 1001.051 that appears to provide an exemption if performing work for a private entity.

§ 1001.003. Practice of Engineering
(b) In this chapter, “practice of engineering” means the performance of or an offer or attempt to perform any public or private service or creative work, the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training, and experience in applying special knowledge or judgment of the mathematical, physical, or engineering sciences to that service or creative work.

(c) The practice of engineering includes:
(2) design, conceptual design, or conceptual design coordination of engineering works or systems;
(3) development or optimization of plans and specifications for engineering works or systems;
(8) engineering for preparation of an operating or maintenance manual;
(10) a service, design, analysis, or other work performed for a public or private entity in connection with a utility, structure, building, machine, equipment, process, system, work, project, or industrial or consumer product or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, electronic, chemical, hydraulic, pneumatic, geotechnical, or thermal nature; or
(12) any other professional service necessary for the planning, progress, or completion of an engineering service.

§ 1001.051. Limitation on Exemption
An exemption under this subchapter applies only to a person who does not offer to the public to perform engineering services.

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

The Texas law is a bit broader and more definitive than many other states. Call the board and get a ruling.

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

And Texas isn't afraid to bring the hammer down on companies with engineer in their name or advertising or offering engineering services. If you look a their enforcement actions, a good portion of them are for violating that portion of the act.

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

Greg...not likely. Federal government can exempt its facilities from local licensing requirements.

JC...good for Texas. I wish other states would enforce their engineering laws. I see more of the enforcement targeting the engineers for not hand-writing a date on the plans or some other nonsense (yes, it is part of the law to do so and should be done) than the non-engineers in pseudo-practice or having "engineer" in their name (which usurps our profession and misleads the public...where one of the primary premises for having the law is the protection of the public). My local pet peeve is two AC service companies that have no engineers on staff and are not licensed as engineering companies, yet they still have "engineers" in their company name. That clearly violates my state's engineering law, yet they are allowed to continue.

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

How does it go with the MCSE / RHCE (Microsoft / Red Hat certification) where the last letter stands for engineer?

Theres no real issue with it in Australia, but thats because the title is largely not protected in such a manner. Has there been cases of cease and desist for software professionals who use such a qualifier?

I don't possess either qualification though, so my interest is largely academic.

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

The key is


applies only to a person who does not offer to the public to perform engineering services.

The point is that if you offer to design a widget for anyone, then you need a license. If you design it, and sell the widget, then in most states with an exemption, you don't need the license. While the same might seem to apply to structures, you are required to comply with building codes in the case of structures, and that requires stamped drawings, and stamping requires a license. So if you design a structure, build it, and try to sell it, you still need to be licensed.

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

Ron, it's not just federal facilities. Few in Aerospace, Defense or Automotive amongst others have PE's and no requirement to do so as I generally understand it. In fact last time I checked there wasn't even a PE afternoon test for Aero.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: When is your work considered engineering?

Many states have a "manufacturing" exemption or something like that??

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