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Career Transition to SE

Career Transition to SE

Career Transition to SE

Hello all,

I am 34. I am a long time lurker and first time poster here. I have bachelor of arts and a masters in construction management. I work at a small family business doing home inspections and astm 2018 PCAs and defense of home inspectors in court cases.

I am considering going back for a BSC so we can one day do structural engineer inspections and design work at the residential/light commercial to add additional revenue to the business.

I guess my question is,

1. What is wrong with this plan generally. Conflict of interest?

2. Will I be able to get hired as an EIT for four years at the age of 37?

Thanks for your time in answering this question.

RE: Career Transition to SE

Answer to 2. yes. But you'll need to make sure people get to meet you and hear your experience. Because experience plays a much more significant role than schooling in my eyes.

RE: Career Transition to SE

Depending on how successful your current business is, it may make more sense to hire a PE and list them on your Certificate of Authority (if your state requires one). At this point, you're a minimum of 8 years away from being able to do the work you want to do, and it's going to cost 10s of thousands of dollars to get the education and you won't be able to do the work you're doing now while doing your time as an EIT. So the compounding loss to the current business could be a few hundred thousand lost. Find a PE (maybe somebody who's already working on their own with a few clients but is sick of "being their own boss") now, and you can start drawing profit from their work a month from now. Of course this can be a dangerous employee to have - if they have to gumption to go it alone once, they may do it again. You'll have to make it worth their while and lock them in with a good contract.

Getting hired at 37 as an EIT - sure. Especially if you're selling your previous experience as jayrod says. But that usually only works if you're going to a) a sweatshop where you'll hate life and everyone around you for 4 years or b) a good place to work that expects you to hang around a while and provide them a return on their investment in training you. If they know you're planning to pick up and go back to the other business as soon as you get your license, they'll never hire you.

RE: Career Transition to SE

Thank you so much for the responses.

I think the 8 year challenge (or whatever)is one thing that attracted me to this option of expansion.

Coming from a field with zero barrier where people enter it in droves it is nice to have moats.

I think when I leave we would hire someone to replace me thus having a small hit to the company's finances. It is fairly easy to find a home inspector.

I considered hiring a PE but was concerned they might leave us at some point.

I also assumed it would be very expensive and hard to find a PE in the structural area that wanted to work at a mom and pop shop. I am ignorant to this though.

I also considered a hybrid where we would hire a retired or near retired PE to help start the biz and then I could EI under him after completing my degree. Again the concern here is finding such an option.

Also we are friends with a SE who will be retiring soon and I think we could buy his business. However, it is hard to put a price on sole practioner client lists and not sure I want to go down that road.

Anyways, thank you again for the insight.

RE: Career Transition to SE

From my experience, a good home inspector makes close to the same "net money" as a registered engineer. When you tally up the costs and time to get into engineering versus home inspections, you may see it is not worth the time and money at 34 becoming 42. I am not sure about your local market but in the areas I have lived it is. Out of curiosity, what fee do you get for a 1300 sf house, on a slab that is about 8 years old? In my area, it is $275 to $300. The inspection takes about 1 hr and 45 minutes. The report takes about 30 minutes.

If you want to have an engineering firm with employees, it is worth it. A single employee operation most likely is not worth it. Engineering costs more per year to operate than home inspections. Consider ways to expand what you already do.

I, personally, would not buy an existing firm. The Clients don't know you as an engineer, so they may go elsewhere.

RE: Career Transition to SE

Thanks for the insight Ron.

As to your question, that inspection would be 300 on the low end (new guy) and probably for us, we could get 375 to 395 for it.

As for time, these days budgeting 4 hours is appropriate.

One hour for travel (30 each way), 2 hours for inspection and one hour for report writing.

That is just an average for your standard house.

What would you suggest the expenses are for a one man eng firm (excluding office cost) if you don't mind me asking.

A solo full time home inspector has expenses (excluding office/staff) of approximately 20,0000 a year.

RE: Career Transition to SE

As a point of reference, many industries bill at 3 to 4 times the basic salary of the engineer, i.e., $300/hr for someone grossing $100/hr. The remainder of the fee goes into overhead, administration, insurance, PTO, benefits, profit, etc. A leaner company might run 2x salary for billing, but you still need to cover insurance, vacation, etc.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Career Transition to SE

I have no idea about overhead for engineering because I am a 1-man show and work out of the house. I do know the home inspection costs are mainly your vehicle and insurance. The tools and equipment needed for a professional inspection business are far less than the tools and equipment for an engineering business. You can run an inspection business out of your house because you go to the work, it does not come to you. Engineering requires constantly updating codes, a lot of software purchases and rental of some software. There is also a constant learning curve that is tougher on a 1-man show. Large companies have a masonry guru, a cold-formed guru, concrete guru etc while a 1-man show requires you to be all of them or don't do that type of work. That constant learning curve pays 0$/hr. That is why I said wanting a company with employees may be profitable while starting a new 1-man show may not be by the time you obligate 8-9 years to education and training. And when you are done in college, you need to learn masonry, cold-formed steel, concrete tanks and silos, steel tanks and silos, aluminum and all the other avenues not covered in college. Buying a $1500 plotter and sharing with 4 engineers is cheaper than buying one for yourself only.

I don't know what the engineering rates are where you are at, but where I live, I don't think the engineer is grossing $100/hr. The company is probably charging an average of $170/hr for the engineer. Your problem will be the fact you are the Owner and Employee. Most companies do have a 3 multiplier. Included in the multiplier is the cost of the head cheese. In many companies, they do not do a lot of billable work. Again, easier to portion out with 4 employees than 1. Call around and get some ideas of their hourly rate for a structural engineer not just an engineer. Some jobs pay better than others. A structural engineer in one company in a given town may make a lot less or more than another. What matters is where you live. Also, just getting your PE may not pay the same as 20 years with a specialty ability that people are willing to pay for.

I noted you do expert testimony. That generally pays better in most fields if you are good at it. I also noted you said you work for the inspectors. I would not limit myself to one side of law suits. I do know of several home inspectors that needed to be sued. They advertised they would "find everything" wrong with a house, got the job and did a really poor inspection. I know, I have read their reports. Just one example, a carbon monoxide pipe discharging into the attic of a house that also had attic bedrooms. "Need to be concerned about it possibly adding moisture in the attic". I reviewed the report for a some structural issues they missed, but instantly noticed the flue pipe picture and comment. They did not advise the discharge be corrected.

RE: Career Transition to SE


work out of the house

It's a push, but some would deduct the portion of your total house expenses as an expense against your business, so depreciation, insurance, property tax, utilities, internet, etc.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Career Transition to SE


I do know of several home inspectors that needed to be sued.

THAT hit a nail winky smile My wife is still livid year after my son bought his condo and it turned out that the heating system was actually fubar and the inspector didn't catch any of the issues.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Career Transition to SE

I deduct a lot of those items too, but I would still live in the same house if I did not work out of the house and deduct them. I have several thousand $$$ worth of engineering books, codes, etc but less than $200 worth of house inspection related ones. And I use to do house inspections. I just paid $125 for an ANSI publication I needed for one engineering job and will probably never need it again.

RE: Career Transition to SE

Thanks again everyone for the input and advise.

Ron that is some scary stuff. What is bizarre is that he mentioned the flue pipe discharging into the attic but did not understand it was dangerous. He would have been a hard one to defend.

It is unfortunately common for an inspector to advetise they will find everything wrong with a house, they can see through walls etc.

Most people get in the HI business because it is very easy to get licensed.

Mamy states require an internet course and sometimes a test.

This combo can work well if the potential licensee has expierence in construction. That is rarely the case though.

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