Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Gaining Design Experience Outside of the Workplace

    Posted 04-02-2019 02:04 PM
    Hello Everyone!

    As I reach my four years of post-graduation work I'll be starting to study for my PE exam. I have had two jobs since I graduated with my bachelors in Civil Engineering and feel that I have had tremendous amounts of exposure and experience into a variety of projects in the water/wastewater sector. The only downside is that I haven't been able to do as many design based projects to make me feel like a confident designer. A lot of the projects that come through our doors are report, high level planning and construction based. Taking and passing the PE exam is one step to my career goals but feeling confident in doing design work and being able to take the lead on projects is another issue/concern that I'm trying to figure out.
    My question to all of you is if there are any recommended outside resources available that can hep someone like me gain more design based knowledge and experience in the water and wastewater field such as pipeline design, pump station design, and water treatment facility design. At the moment I'm reading a pipeline design book but was curious if anything else existed out there that could help me gain confidence and experience in design. Have you attended any course through ASCE or another organization that has provided you with enough knowledge to feel confident in designing your own pipeline system or other infrastructure project? 

    Thank you for your time! Have a great day.

    Heather Pina EIT,A.M.ASCE
    Spokane Valley WA

  • 2.  RE: Gaining Design Experience Outside of the Workplace

    Posted 04-02-2019 02:29 PM
    If you do not foresee design work in your current career path, I would recommend making a change now.  I started my career as a draftsman and continued as an engineer.  With 18 years of design experience, I have gained confidence, but learned that it is always an ongoing process.  Text books are great.  My book cases are filled.  Yet the ideal examples they use never quite fit the actual field design criteria you encounter.  You will gain confidence with professional practice.

    The PE exam is based on text-book like problems.  Using text-books as a study resource is great, but you also need to review the codes and standards that are referenced by the exam.  Get a practice exam and go for it! 

    As you progress in your career you will be asked to justify your design and advise during meetings with clients.  This is where you need your confidence.  Learn to be a follower first.  Help the senior engineers, observe their best practices, and learn from them.  As they watch your growth, they will put you in more leadership type roles. 

    It took a few years after earning my PE to stamp my own work.  A couple more to stamp other's work.  This is normal.  The state gives you an authority to practice within your field of expertise.  It is your responsibility to understand the scope (however big or small) of your expertise.

    Chad Morrison P.E.,M.ASCE
    Greenville RI
    (401)231-4870 EXT 2207

  • 3.  RE: Gaining Design Experience Outside of the Workplace

    Posted 04-03-2019 07:47 AM

    Hey Heather,


    If you're looking for more design experience to be better at the P.E. exam, don't waste your time. A lot of the prep courses for the exam take you through everything you need to know to pass. I recommend School of P.E.'s online portion. I used the self-guided notes portion of the program.


    If you're looking for design experience outside of your organization, this can raise an ethical issue since it may be considered moonlighting. A better approach would be to request shadowing experience within your organization (and billing your time to company overhead).


    I hope this helps and good luck to you gaining design experience and on the P.E. exam!





    Dave Ureña, P.E.

    Banneker, LLC

    1228 E. 7th Ave

    Ybor City, FL 33605




  • 4.  RE: Gaining Design Experience Outside of the Workplace

    Posted 04-03-2019 11:47 AM

    I would recommend talking to your direct supervisor or boss about this first (if you haven't already) before looking elsewhere. Is anyone in your firm doing design projects that you would be able to learn from? The conversation could go something like this to your direct supervisor:

    "Hey [manager], I think you know that one of my career goals is to get my PE license, which will benefit both me and the firm. I want to make sure I'm well-rounded and able to take on whatever challenging projects come our firm's way. For me, that means learning both planning and design technical skills before I sit for the PE, which is coming up in a year or two. I feel like I've been able to learn so much from you and our projects on the planning side, and need to get some similar experience on the design side. Can you tell me about I could get more experience in the design area here?"
    (Then, be absolutely silent - do not be tempted to fill in the silence because it will be awkward but that's OK - until he/she answers, and when you hear the response, continue to ask a variation of "Tell me more about that." or "What can I do to help facilitate me gaining those skills?" based on the responses.)

    Unless you've had an explicit conversation..........there could be a number of reasons why you've only been able to do planning work, and I'd find this out before looking for a new job if you are happy with your employer otherwise (If you're not happy and this is the last straw.......it may not be worth the effort to have the conversation).

    For example,  it could be that the firm has been trying to get into design work, but those proposals are being rejected......in which case being explicit about this with your manager may open a door that you don't currently know exists.  Or, perhaps you're stuck in a planning department, and if you switched managers or split time between managers you'd get more design. 

    You have to be your own advocate when you aren't getting what you need to be successful at work. Managers are often just trying to put out fires on too many projects at once (many of which you may not see), and aren't thinking about your career development unless you tell them, explicitly and professionally, what you need. 

    Stephanie Slocum P.E.
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 5.  RE: Gaining Design Experience Outside of the Workplace

    Posted 04-09-2019 05:26 PM

    Hi Heather,

    As ASCE's staff liaison to Community Engineering Corps (CECorps), I wanted to give you some background on the program since it may be an avenue for gaining more water supply related design experience.

    CECorps, an alliance between ASCE, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA), harnesses the expertise of its volunteers by providing pro bono engineering services that address the infrastructure needs of undeserved communities in the US. Sections, Branches, Younger Member Groups, etc. can form project teams and adopt projects. CECorps only partners with communities that do not have the financial resources to access engineering services in a traditional manner. 

    The most common type of project that communities ask for assistance with are water supply related (drinking water, water resources, compliance). Becoming part of a project team that works on a water project may give you exposure to the design experience you're seeking. You can take a look at the current open projects (scroll down to "Current Opportunities") to get an idea of the type and scope of projects that CECorps assists with.  

    Please feel free to contact me if you'd like more information.

    Best Regards,

    Melissa Prelewicz, P.E., CAE, M.ASCE
    Director, Member Communities
    ASCE Staff Liaison to CECorps