To: "'seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org'" <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Subject: Re: PE/SE distinction
From: Scott Maxwell <smaxwell(--nospam--at)engin.umich.edu>
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 13:35:15 -0500 (EST)
More than likely you are a PE.
A Professional Engineer (PE) license (or registration in some states) or a
Structural Engineer (SE) license (or registration in some states) is
"something" (how about that for fuzzy) that allows an individual to
practice engineering or to call themselves an engineer as permitted by an
Act passed by a state's government.
Most states (actually all) have a PE Act in place. This will be a
practice act. This means that having a PE license allows you to practice
engineering. This license is essentially saying that you have passed some
minimum requirements to ensure that your are competent and can "protect
the health and welfare of the public". These acts also usually have some
provisions in them for restricting the use of the title engineer or
<blank> engineer, where <blank> is something like "professional",
"mechical", etc. This will vary from state to state. In some states, you
can call yourself a sanitation engineer (or as it is formily know...a
janitor) without a PE and not be in violation of the law. In other
states, you would be in violation of the law for using engineer in the
title with a PE. Just depends on how the PE Act in that state is written.
For example, in Michigan, the only "protected" title (at least as I read
the Act) is "professional engineer". This means that someone could call
themselves a structural engineer in Michigan without a PE, but could not
actually be practicing structural engineering in Michigan since they do
not have PE.
An SE license is essentially a more specialized license. Originally, in
most states, having a PE meant that you could practice ANY type of
engineering. This still exists in some states from a technical (but not
necessarily from an enforcement/liability) point of view. In Michigan,
for example, under the letter of the law, I can practice (i.e. seal
drawings) mechanical or electrical engineering even though about the most
that I know about electrical engineering is to not lick my fingers and
stick them in the electrical socket (it is OK to do that if I haven't
licked my fingers, right??? <grin>). This is not quite true from an
ethical or enforcement point of view anymore. In some states, however,
you are still a PE but have an "official" speciality on record with the
state. This would mean that if you practice outsite of that "offical"
specialty, then you could be in trouble with your state's PE board. It
sounds like that is the case for you. Some will indicate this by showing
their name like "Fred Flintstone, PE (structural)". You may notice that
Roger Turk does this. I am assuming (and Roger feel free to correct me)
that Arizona (where Roger is located) has a PE act and DOES also keep on
record an "official" engineering specialty. This "official" engineer
specialty is usually dictated by which NCEES PE exam you took. Some
states do not offer the Structural I exam forcing you to take the Civil
exam (this is true in Michigan). Other states do offer the Structural I
exam as the exam you can take to get your PE license. Thus, in those
states that have an "official" specialty, if you can take an pass the
Structural I exam, then your specialty would be structural (as opposed to
civil, mechanical, electrical, etc).
In a few states, they go one step further...they have a SE license. A SE
license can either be by way of a title act or a practice act. A SE
practice act will allow an individual to practice structural engineer only
if they have an SE license. A SE title act will only allow an individual
with an SE license to call themself of "structural engineer".
Some states have SE title acts. The best example of this is California.
Their SE license is a result of a title act. This means that from the
point of view of the SE Act itself, only a person working in
California that has a California SE can call themself a structural
engineer, but someone who is working in California that has a California
PE can practice structural engineering. It so happens that anyone in
California who has a SE will also have a PE license since you must pass
the PE first, then work for several more years under an SE and then pass
the exam for the SE. Plus, things get a ittle more fuzzy in California
because other laws/jurisdictions make the waters more murky. For example,
the agency (or is it agencies) that regulate hospitals and schools have
requirements that all schools and hospitals in California be designed by
Other states have SE practice acts. The best example of this is Illinois
(the first state to have an SE license). The SE Act in Illinois means
that you can not practice structural engineering in Illinois until you get
your SE license (and you cannot call yourself a structural engineer).
The end result is that the PE license in Illinois is completely useless to
an individual working in Illinois that wants to practice structural
engineering. As an Illinois PE, you CANNOT stamp/seal structural drawings
or calculations...you must have an Illinois SE license to do so.
Similarly, if you only have an Illinois SE, I believe that you are not
able to practice other specialties of civil engineering. You must also
obtain your PE license to do so.
To further muddy the waters, states with SE licenses do some variations on
the tests that you take to get an SE license. In California, you first
must get two years of experience (after taking a passing the EIT), then
take and pass the civil PE exam (I believe they use the NCEES civil exam),
a short seismic exam and a surveying exam. Then, you must get an
additional three years of experience under an SE, which then allows you to
take the SE exam. California currently uses what has traditionally been
called the "western states" SE exam, which is a 16 hour exam that only
covers structural engineering questions.
Illinois requires that you pass the EIT, have a certain amount of
structural classes under your belt, get four years of experience, and then
take the SE exam in order to obtain an SE license. In Illinois, the SE
exam consists of the NCEES Structural I (which you took) and the
Structural II exam. Each exam is 8 hours long (thus, a total of 16
hours). The Structural II exam has two questions on it...one in the
moring for four hours and one in the afternoon for four hours. In
Illinois, you do not need to take the NCEES civil PE exam to get your SE
license, unless you also want to have a PE license (so that you can also
practice civil engineering in Illinois).
You get an SE license in the state of Washington by doing almost the same
thing as in Illinois. The one additional requirement of Structural III
exam is required. This is a four hour (I believe) exam that concentrates
on seismic/structural design. It is made by the State of Washington.
There are several other states that have basically identical requirements
as Illinois to get the SE license.
FYI, the NCEES PE level exams (this includes the Structural I exam) just
under went a "redesign". In their current form, there are eighty multiple
guess question on the exam. For the civil PE exam, the mornging 40
questions covers all of civil engineering, but the afternoon's 40
questions have a slant to a specialty that you as the test taker picks.
[note: I believe this is the new format] The old format was 8 questions
on the exam (for both the civil and structural I exams). There were 4
short answer questions in the morning and 4 multiple guess questions in
the afternoon that each had 10 sub-questions (i.e. really 40 multiple
Scott Maxwell, PE, SE (PE in Michigan and SE in Illinois)
On Mon, 18 Mar 2002, Charpentier Joe wrote:
> With all these questions about the California SE exam, I have a couple of
> questions. I recently passed my PE for Rhode Island (yay!), having taken
> the NCEES "Structural I" exam. My stamp has the word "Structural" on it.
> Massachusetts works similarly, with regular "Civil" stamps, and the newer
> stamps issued to those passing the Structural I having word "Structural".
> I also notice that some peoples signatures on this group use the letters
> "SE" instead of "PE".
> So what am I? a PE or an SE?
> BTW, I when I took the NCEES "Structural I" exam in October of 2001, there
> were *way* more than eight questions. Is the Structural I and SE I listed
> below not the same thing? It is my understanding that currently the NCEES
> "Structural II" exam is like what is described below as "Structural I".
> <begin Quote>
> Is California SE exam different than the NCEES exam?
> For SE I, NCEES exam, there are eight questions- four in the morning and =
> four in the afternoon.
> For SE II NCEES exam, there are two questions- one in the morning and one =
> in the afternoon.
> If you have a right materials i.e. books/handbooks, you could do well in =
> the SE exam.
> In SEII exam, you may have to concentrate the area/disciplinerelated to =
> either bridges or buildings. If you concentrate on the bridge examples on =
> both sessions, you need books on bridges such as AISC Highway Handbooks =
> (f.k.a. USS STEEL Highway Handbooks), Caltran Bridge Design Manual, C.P =
> Heins books, Professor Priestley's book, and some other books related to =
> the Bridge Design. For the afternoon session FHWA Seismic Publications =
> would certainly help. FHWA publications come in eight parts. You can =
> borrow the FHWA publications from the EERC library.
> If you concentrate in the buildings you need some of the IBC publications, =
> Professors Paulay and Priestley book, PCA Books,some handbooks especially =
> Rger L. Brockenbrough, Books related to steel design and wood Engineering =
> Hand book.
> Depending upon the literature allows in the exam, please sort out the =
> material you need.
> When I took my SE II exam, I concenntrate on the Bridge design discipline =
> and took limited books on the bridge design and the FHWA Seismic Publicatio=
> ns in eight parts.=20
> For safety, I took PCA book, Professor Paulay book and Bowles book on the =
> foundation in case I couldn,t able to solve the bridge problem.
> I hope this will help you. Of course the other readers will provide you =
> some more information.
> Himat Solanki
> <End Quote>
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