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What do you know about consulting engineering?


An engineer is: “a person who has scientific training and who designs and builds complicated products, machines, systems, or structures.”


“A licensed Professional Engineer: (PE in the U.S.) is one who has attained a credential that permits him to provide engineering services to the general public.”



“Consulting engineers are individuals who, because of training in one or more engineering specialties, are licensed professional engineers in private practice. They serve private and public clients in ways ranging from brief consultations to complete design and coordination of projects. They are often the technical liaison between architects, process specialists, contractors, suppliers and the client. A consulting engineer can provide general consultation, feasibility reports, design, cost estimates, rate studies, project development, patent assistance, and preparation of environmental impact statements.


Drawing & Specifications Phase

Architects (and building owners i.e. hospitals) hire engineers to draw system plans and write specifications for their buildings, including electrical, mechanical (heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and plumbing), fire protection (sprinklers), structural, and civil. Sometimes, very narrow specialties are required, such as acoustical engineers.

The consulting engineer is responsible for designing within the architect’s budget limitations and coordinating with utility companies and inspection authorities.

Specifications Phase

At the end of the design phase, the consultant prepares a specification document detailing the material requirements for his specialty and system functions.

Bidding Phase

During bidding, he attends pre-bid meetings, clarifies issues, and prepares addenda for the architect to issue to inform bidders of changes in the requirements.

Shop Drawing Phase

After a contract is awarded, the consultant reviews/approves shop drawings, detailing all equipment that his trade contractor proposes.

Construction Phase

During the construction phase, he visits the job site to record progress and clarify the contract documents. At the completion of the construction phase, he prepares a punch list detailing corrections to the work, if needed.



Interesting Work – Each project is unique with specific requirements, existing conditions, options, and cost constraints.

Participation in all aspects – You create (your engineering specialty of) a project from the study through design, approvals, bidding, shop drawings, clarifications, construction observations, and the final “punch list.” You actually see the project go from a blank sheet of paper to a constructed, one of a kind project that you can see and touch.

Not stuck behind a desk – Some of your day will be made up of meetings with clients, vendors, colleagues, utility companies, contractors, and others, field investigations, and job site observations.


You are in an adversarial position – Your oversight of a project is to make sure that the owner gets the equivalent of what you specified. The contractor typically wants you to accept an inferior product, your client expects you to protect the building owner’s interest, and the owner often wants better than what you specified.

The Construction Industry is “cyclical” – If you’re good at your job, you will usually be working. But if a recession is too deep or lasts too long, you may find yourself unemployed.

Deadline Pressure – Deadlines are constantly changing and often there are multiple projects pressing you for attention. Overtime and sorting out the top priorities can be stressful.

Profitably Pressure – Everyone in business is driven by a profit motive, even consulting engineering firms. No matter how good that you are at your job, if you can’t make a profit for the company, you will not last.

Too Much Work – Consulting engineering firms are reluctant to turn down projects because they can never tell when current projects will be delayed and they may have spent a year or more waiting for a project that suddenly gets the go-ahead. That creates more stress for you.

Too Little Work – Conversely, too little work is even more stressful; it almost never seems like the work load is steady.

You’re the “bad guy” – During construction, the owner sees you occasionally but usually sees the contractor every day, and friendships are formed. Before you know it, in protecting the owner’s interest, you are being too hard on his friend.


Being a consulting engineer was the best career choice for me. I started my own consulting engineering practice on my 29th birthday and eventually grew my firm to a staff of eleven and was the largest electrical engineering firm in Rhode Island.

I have written three consulting engineering books to share my knowledge with the next generation of engineers:

My first book is: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING. In essence, his readers discover “step-by-step” how to start & manage an “outstanding” Engineering Practice and exactly how to gain a reputation as an expert in their specialty. This is both a handbook for new engineers and a constant reference manual for seasoned professionals.

My second book is: The “Outline Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING. It is a condensed and abridged summery of the detailed advice provided in the “Complete Guide”. It is intended for engineers looking for just the facts; without the stories and background. It is intended to be like the “Cliff’s Notes” version of the Complete Guide.

My third book is The CONSULTING ENGINEER’S “Guidebook” and is an excerpted and extended version of the “Complete Guide”. It is the result of requests from many readers to narrow the focus to the goals of:

  • Becoming an “outstanding” consulting engineer.
  • Gaining a reputation as an “expert” in their specialty; and
  • Obtaining the engineering “management skills” needed to advance their career and make the firm stand out from their competitors.

All books are available at AMAZON.COM

Go to my website:, use coupon code “paperback” and save.

If you chose the “Engineers Gift Package” you can get all three books at a discount.


To see my YouTube video: YOUR OWN ENGINEERING PRACTICE Go to:

To see my YouTube video: GIFTS FOR ENGINEERS go to:

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Excerpted from ‘The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING’  © by John D. Gaskell, Retired Professional Engineer. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute this “Consulting Engineering” tip, upon condition that this message remains.

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