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“Learn how to get forensic engineering experience in your discipline by first becoming a consulting engineer”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.”


Learn how to get forensic engineering experience in your discipline by first becoming a consulting engineer. answers as follows:

“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.”

Those who offer their services to the public as an engineer are required to be licensed as a “Registered Professional Engineer.”


“A 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.”

In each state, registration is governed by a “Board of Registration of Professional Engineers” who review/approve qualifications, administer tests, and oversee practices. In Rhode Island, the board is called “The Board of Design Professionals” and is made up of multi-professionals (engineers, architects, and land surveyors). Each state’s board has its own governing rules, but the same national tests are administered in each state. Basically, the requirements are as follows:

Be a graduate of an ABET-EAC accredited engineering program of four (4) years or more.

Pass an eight (8) hour written examination called the “Fundamentals in Engineering” (FE) examination.

A minimum of four (4) years of experience in engineering work working under the supervision of a Professional Engineer.

Pass an eight (8) hour written examination called the “Professional Engineer” (PE) examination in the principles and practice of engineering.

Some boards modify these requirements, usually based on experience. Most allow candidates to take the “fundamentals” exam in their senior year of college while the calculus, chemistry, etc. are still relatively fresh in their memory.

To qualify to take the PE exam, it is important that there is a professional engineer at your place of employment who is willing to “certify” that your experience in engineering work was “of a grade and character which indicates that you may be competent to practice engineering.”

At least 6 months before you take the PE exam, you should start studying. One option is to go to the website of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and refer to practice exams ( Both the FE and PE exams are “open-book.” Refer to the website for details. An additional option is to purchase a study guide, which can be found advertised in engineering magazines and now on the internet. They usually include examples of previous exam questions. Many colleges of engineering offer continuing education courses to prepare you for either the FE or the PE exam.

Your daily work is typically restricted to a very small segment of your specialty. The PE exam, however, is very broad. Therefore, you must prepare yourself for a range of questions beyond your actual work experience. Electrical engineering, for example, includes (but is not limited to) electrical design for buildings, power transmission and distribution, electronic circuit design, and many other specialized areas. Sometimes, it is possible (for an added fee) to have a special exam prepared for you in your narrow specialty, but your registration will be restricted to that narrow area.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend getting forensic engineering experience and adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit to find out more.

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