Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Obtaining a P.E. without working directly under one

    Posted 04-03-2020 06:19 PM

    I am in the process of obtaining my E.I.T. as well as graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering this summer. I currently have offers from two companies (one General Contractor and another engineering firm) and I am trying to make a decision on what company to work for based on my ability to obtain my P.E. after completing the necessary work experience.

    I have questions regarding the capability of obtaining a P.E. without working directly under a licensed engineer, is this feasible? One company that is trying to recruit me is a general contractor who I have interned for and built relationships with the people there, I personally love the company, but I will feel unaccomplished if I can not get my P.E. They have said that it is possible to use construction experience for the 2 required years, make connections with an engineer on the projects I will be working on, and to use them as references to provide to the board. Has anyone seen this before? Or even better, been successful at receiving an approval from the board using this method? I have only heard of this from them and was under the impression you must obtain the work experience by working directly under a licensed engineer.

    Can anyone provide me guidance on this? I have done a lot of research and even reached out to the California Board but have not heard back, and have gotten a lot of mixed responses from the searches I have done. I am running out of time to make my decision and this will be the deciding factor for me. I apologize for the long winded post but I figured more information was better than less. I would appreciate any help you can provide.

    Thanks in advance.


  • 2.  RE: Obtaining a P.E. without working directly under one

    Posted 04-04-2020 08:31 AM
    I have not worked in California, but the other states I have worked in nearby (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) are all very specific about having to work directly under a PE for the license. Most states have experience exceptions, but it is much longer than the usual 4 years (I think 10-15 years). Perhaps ask the GC for the PE they know so you can reach out to them to confirm.

    Philip Doll P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Engineer
    Katy TX

  • 3.  RE: Obtaining a P.E. without working directly under one

    Posted 04-05-2020 08:01 AM

    Hi Austin! I help run LA YMF's P.E. Review Course, so I get these kinds of questions often. Also, I'm personally getting ready to send in my application. 

    First is to check the application form: https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/pubs/forms/ceapp.pdf
    And then the engagement form:
    It seems like you have to work under at least one California P.E. Have you considered asking your employer to do this at least on a temporary basis? There are several "engineering" capacities you can partake in construction, whether it's running calcs or making schedules. I think the bottom of the page says it best, "making sound judgment in engineering decisions." If there is a P.E. at your firm, maybe this is a conversation you can have with them on how they have concurred with or helped critique your sound judgments. You might even have to jump a level or too. I would try to make sure that this primary reference is within the same company as you, or who you receive direct work from (if it be a client).
    While evaluating job offers, you should ask how your company will help your professional development. A job should be a mutually beneficial situation: they use you to make money, so you should be able to use them to help build skills and advance your career.
    The other references can be people who you interact with (I.e. other companies/organizations). 

    Personally, what I am going to do is put together a "resume" of projects I have worked on and how I have used "sound judgment" in making decisions that is based on the engagement form. I'm going to give it to all those who I will be listing as references (that aren't my supervisor) so I can make sure that their responses can align.

    Another note for construction: make sure that your experience is civil engineering. I know traffic engineering and utility engineering sometimes have trouble pushing through applications, so make sure your listed experience covers the 'civil' portion and the 'engineering' portion.

    Last resource I have is to reach out to your local YMF'ers; someone will know someone who knows someone. 

    Hope I was of some help!

    Sam Potts EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Assistant Engineer
    Woodland Hills CA

  • 4.  RE: Obtaining a P.E. without working directly under one

    Posted 04-05-2020 08:02 AM
    California has very specific licensing requirements.  You can find information related to licensing here: [California BPELSG: https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/index.shtml].  It can be different from other states.

    Often, a licensed civil engineer will want to have worked very closely on a project with you before they will be a reference for you; usually in a supervisory role of some sort where they can see your ability to make judgement calls and perform design work.  In general it is a lot harder to get licensed as a PE if no one in your entire firm is a PE because your firm will not be able to do the type of work you need to do to get qualifying experience (certain types of work by law require a PE to perform professionally).  This can mean it takes longer (or is impossible) to get the right type of experience.

    You should reach out to the board for information if you are unsure - they have the final say on what qualifies as 'experience' (not all work counts) and what qualifies as a satisfactory reference.  You don't want to end up in a situation where your experience and/or references don't count and they are serious about it being the right type and quantity.  The contact info for the board is online, and they will be more than happy to answer your questions and help you understand the licensing process (https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/about_us/contact.shtml).

    A final note, if you enjoy the work you do and are not concerned about doing design work then stay with what you love.  A license doesn't make a career, and having a stable job working with people you like to be around can be important.  Contractors and Engineers both have important roles to play in the design process - and if you want to do both look for a quality design-build firm that does both.

    Good luck!

    Alexander D. Wright (Civil Engineer, California)

    Alexander Wright P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Professional
    Rancho Cordova CA

  • 5.  RE: Obtaining a P.E. without working directly under one

    Posted 04-24-2020 04:26 PM
    Becoming a PE without working for one can be done.  I did it.  During my senior year in college 36 years ago, I did not take the EIT (FE).  At that time, the last thing I wanted to do was sit behind a desk in an office, so I passed on the exam (pun intended).  I went to work for a construction firm and enjoyed the action where rubber meets the immensely.  Fast forward 27 years in the construction/contracting business, 6 years working for 2 firms and 21 years working for my own firm.   At 52 years old,I decided to go for my license.  It is a long story, but the shorter version is that I submitted my work experience to New York State to be eligible to sit for the PE exam (not the FE).  I figured if the State was not going to accept my work experience and not let me sit for the PE, there was no sense studying for the FE.  The word on the street was that they frowned on accepting construction experience.  Fortuneately I kept great records, worked on some complicated projects, and was able to prove to the State that I had enough bona fide engineering experience to sit for the exam.  My application and description of work experience was over 100 pages long.  They accepted it.

    It was now time to study, so I studied like hell and took my PE exam on Friday and my FE on Saturday.  I failed them both.  I studied like hell again and passed them both.  It can be done, but like one of my construction mentors said (a tough old marine, gentleman and overall helluva guy), there is no easy road to victory.

    Darren Tracy P.E., M.ASCE
    Saratoga Springs NY

  • 6.  RE: Obtaining a P.E. without working directly under one

    Posted 09-29-2020 09:13 AM
    This is indeed an important thread. It is one of the many reasons where Civil Engineers in construction are trapped by the universities and engineering boards and societies. My concern is that the construction industry needs Civil Engineers, as we are allowing that roll to be taken over by graduates with degrees such as Construction Management or Construction Technology. I don't see where working under a PE makes one more professional, so I believe that a separate standard should be in place for those who choose construction- one that is based on quality experience.

    My education was a modified version of the earlier traditional thought that Civil Engineers should be somewhat knowledgeable and capable in all areas of engineering- including both design and construction. For example, I had to take 13 credit hours of surveying as well  as several lab courses in addition to the standard design courses. My  P.E was given after a reasonable amount of experience  and working under Civil Engineers- with and without a PE.

    Jim Worrell] Retired
    PE retired, RLS (retired)
    Raleigh, NC

  • 7.  RE: Obtaining a P.E. without working directly under one

    Posted 09-30-2020 12:11 PM

    The response to your question is clearly state (jurisdiction) specific.

    424. Experience Requirements – Professional Engineers.
    (c) Qualifying experience is that experience satisfactory to the Board which has been gained while performing engineering tasks under the responsible charge of a person legally qualified to practice in an applicant's branch of engineering.
    source:  https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/laws/boardrules_unannotated.pdf

    Note that the text does NOT state under responsible charge of a PE as the reg. continues on noting "employee of the Federal Government". ... or "except for civil engineers"  but the best basically means under a PE.

    You are well advised to get in contact with someone who has been through this which I imagine has occurred many times before.  Other responses to you indicate this is the case.  In CA there are both practice act and also title act for the PE.  Presumably you have interest in a PE civil engineer or Professional Civil Engineer.  This flowchart is intended to help persons like you:  https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/flowchart_for_pe.pdf

    It is my experience that a licensure board will not respond or will not respond in detail much due to not wanting to make any statement other than what the state law or board rules & regulations say.  Indiana where I have my primary PE is like this.  Indiana does not have a Professional Civil Engineer or PE Civil Engineer, just one PE for all of engineering, much different from California.  A few boards do post interpretations and determinations from the past such as Ohio, where I also have a PE.  In Indiana's case, it is not any board members or staff not wanting to be clear as much as they can not make statements or determinations outside of the board rules/regulations.  I have been to several PE Board meetings in Indiana where questions have been asked in open, public meetings, no response was offered by board members or when board members attempted to respond a representative of the Attorney General's Office advised to not respond.  Nevertheless, I have also talked in person, on the phone, through e-mail, and through the mail (snail mail I am that old) with people on both the IN PE Board and also the IN PS Board who could not respond to me in their capacity as a board member but were very happy & willing to speak with me and provide advice not as a board member, i.e. not in an official manner.  You could search to find the PE Board members in CA through linked in or their regular employment and try to contact them there or even better if you could find someone who has retired from/rotated off the PE Board in CA who may be much more willing to speak.  Again, ASCE may be a great way to find & connect with such folks as may be the case with other engineering or construction professional groups.

    Side note and soap box:  Engineering design under a PE makes sense but constructing such structures or facilities not under responsible charge of a PE has never made sense to me ... an issue the engineering profession bowed out of long before I was born and it seems when PE licensure began, about 100 years ago this year, defining what was professional engineering just did not include direction/supervision/responsible charge of construction.  It is quite odd that we (engineers/PEs) celebrate many Master Engineers such as Roebling, Ellis, Eiffel, who not only conceived engineering (works of art!), did design and directed design, but are most noted for the construction of their art



    David Devine P.E.,L.S.,M.ASCE
    Fort Wayne IN