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RE: SE Tests

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I have a letter from the Washington State Board that states that in
Washington, an engineer may use the title "Structural Engineer" if they feel
they are competent.
I wonder why Washington even issues an SE if it you may use the title
without having an SE license.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Allen [mailto:T.W.Allen(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2003 6:34 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: SE Tests



You've either misunderstood me or we seriously disagree.


Yes, I'm aware that once one passes a civil exam, s/he is legally allowed to
design anything within the realm of civil engineering.


I totally disagree that, just because one passes an exam, one is deemed
competent. There's evidence of that all over the place. I'm a good example.
In my civil exam, I solved the surveying question using math, not surveying
principles. I have NO CLUE of which end of a transit to look into. Yet, I'm
legally allowed to sign grading and drainage plans. So, if I take on a
project, is it legal? Yes. Is it ethical? In my opinion, no.


You're wrong about someone who spends their apprenticeship in hydrology
practicing structural engineering. They CAN here in CA. THAT'S the scary


I have no problem with someone acquiring the necessary competency to engage
in a particular field of practice. I support that approach totally. Using
the example above, suppose I decided that (gasp) I wanted to do grading and
drainage plans or just plain old surveying. So I decide to take a refresher
course in surveying principles, agree to take on a position as an apprentice
for a surveying firm, etc. until I (as well as others( think that I have the
necessary background to do it on my own, then I think it would be not only
legal but ethical to take on such projects.


With regards to legislating competency, I agree that's similar to
legislating morality. Can't be done. But that doesn't mean negligence can't
be prosecuted after the fact. Consider this example. Suppose I went to a
fine university, got good grades, then went immediately to work for a large
firm designing steel structures. I pass the P.E. exam the first time, and
the S.E. exam the first time. Suppose I'm approached by an architect who
needs some plans of a residence stamped and signed. The architect says he is
going to do the structural drafting, but he needs beam sizes, foundation
sizes, shear walls and hold downs. Timber seems simple enough to me. After
all, I've read Breyer's book. Pretty straight forward. Much simpler than the
complicated projects I do during the day. No problem. Fifteen hundred bucks
for some simple wood design? You've got to be kidding. Cha-Ching! I'll do
that on my kitchen table. Of course, I don't realize the most important part
of wood design is the connections and I fail to provide a load path from
roof to foundation (straps, etc.). If something goes wrong with this
structure and I end up in court, you probably don't think I'm negligent but
I do!


So we agree or disagree, I don't really care at this point.




T. William (Bill) Allen, S.E. (CA #2607)

V/F (949) 248-8588

San Juan Capistrano, CA <> 


-----Original Message-----
From: Keith De Lapp [mailto:keith(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2003 12:58 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: SE Tests


Bill, you're really scaring me here!  Engineering is a marketplace.  The
client is not a guinea pig.  Haven't you ever had a client who didn't fully
appreciate the value of the service you provide and decided to hire another
professional for less money.  Hell yes you have!  For the purposes of
keeping your fees up, you can't limit competition by claiming an ipso facto
threshold for competence.


You're wrong about competence and licensing.  When you pass the test and the
state issues you a license, you are deemed competent at least to the extent
demonstrated by having successfully solved the test questions you responded
to.  This doesn't mean of course the engineer who spent their apprenticeship
in hydrology can practice in the structural discipline or vice versa.  But
it also doesn't preclude an engineer from acquiring the necessary competency
to protect life and safety when left to their own devices.


As for civil engineering being to broad.  I believe that civil is no
different from mechanical, electrical, electronic, chemical, nuclear,
petroleum, and yes structural engineering.  I'll bet you lunch at your
favorite restaurant that there are as many subsets of expertise in
structural as there are in civil.  When we take into consideration the many
material factors that influence even the simplest design, it can very
quickly extend us beyond our base of practical experience and competence.
Our ability to adapt and respond to these competency situations varies from
engineer to engineer.


I know licensed engineers who have never done a rigid diaphragm analysis, a
grade beam on an elastic foundation analysis, a perforated shear wall design
or even know what a masonry boundary member is.  I recognize the competition
for what it is, and explain to the client that engineering is a market place
just like buying tires for your vehicle.  I ask the client "when shopping
for tires, do you buy the tires that cost the least amount of money?"  And
then C

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