The following is my advice about how to seek and be selected for employment as a Consulting Engineer. However, most of this counsel applies to all engineering positions.

The following subjects are covered:


John D. Gaskell, Retired P.E. (Jack)


The following are some links to “Employment Sites” that list openings for engineers. Listings here do not constitute an endorsement.


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


“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.”


“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.” 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.


All states require licensure to practice engineering. The following is an example:

§ 5-8-1 Registration required for practice of engineering. – In order to safeguard life, health, and property, and to promote the public welfare, the practice of engineering in this state is declared to be subject to regulation in the public interest. It is unlawful for any person to practice, or to offer to practice, engineering in this state, as defined in the provisions of this chapter, or to use in connection with his or her name or otherwise assume, or advertise any title or description tending to convey the impression that he or she is an engineer unless that person has been registered or exempted under the provisions of this chapter. The right to engage in the practice of engineering is deemed a personal right, based on the qualifications of the individual as evidenced by his or her certificate of registration, which is not transferable.

You need to investigate the requirements of each state in which you plan to do business. Just because you are registered in one state, don’t assume that you will be able to get registered in all states.

Most states offer “reciprocity,” acceptance of another state’s PEs, without requiring an additional examination. The following is an example:

§ 5-8-11 General requirements for registration or certification. (1) As a professional engineer:(i) Registration by endorsement. (A) A person holding a current certificate of registration to engage in the practice of engineering, on the basis of comparable written examinations, issued to him or her by either a proper authority of a state, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, or of any foreign country, and whose qualifications meets the requirements of this chapter, based on verified evidence may, upon application, be registered without further examination.

Be sure that you research the most current version of the laws, usually available on-line.

Most states require that each entity that practices or offers to practice engineering must hold a current Certificate of Authorization (COA). Make sure that your firm (whether sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, or LLC) has a current COA. For instance. The following is an example:

§ 5-8-24 Sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability partnership, corporate and limited liability company. – (a) The practice or offer to practice engineering as defined by this chapter by a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability partnership, corporation or a limited liability company subsequently referred to as the “firm,” through individuals is permitted; provided, that the individuals: (1) are in direct control of the practice; (2) exercise personal supervision of all personnel who act in behalf of the firm in professional and technical matters; and (3) are registered under the provisions of this chapter; and provided, that the firm has been issued a certificate of authorization by the board of engineers.

(b)(1) Within one year after enactment of this chapter, every firm must obtain a certificate of authorization from the board and those individuals in direct control of the practice and who exercise direct supervision of all personnel who act in behalf of the firm in professional and technical matters must be registered with the board. The certificate of authorization shall be issued by the board upon satisfaction of the provisions of this chapter and the payment of a fee not to exceed one hundred fifty dollars ($150). This fee is waived if the firm consists of only one person who is the person in responsible charge.

(2) Every firm desiring a certificate of authorization must file with the board an application for a certificate of authorization on a form to be provided by the board. A separate form provided by the board shall be filed with each renewal of the certificate of authorization and within thirty (30) days of the time any information previously filed with the board has changed, is no longer true or valid, or has been revised for any reason. If, in its judgment, the information contained on the application and renewal form is satisfactory and complete, the board will issue a certificate of authorization for the firm to practice engineering in this state.

(3) No firm that has been granted a certificate of authorization by the board shall be relieved of responsibility for modification or derivation of the certificate, unless the board has issued for the applicant a certificate of authorization or a letter indicating the eligibility of the applicant to receive the certificate. The firm applying shall supply the certificate or letter from the board with its application for incorporation, organization or registration as a foreign corporation.


Depending on the job market at the time of your graduation, you may not have a wide range of job choices. But if you get a job designing systems for submarines, it is unlikely to lead to your own consulting engineering practice. You may have to consider commuting to a larger city to find work in your field.

First, prepare a “resume,” which, at this point, will only include your education (emphasizing courses relating to consulting engineering) and your summer job, if it involved engineering. But your summer job as a life guard will not impress a prospective employer. Include praiseworthy accomplishments, like being an “Eagle Scout.” Emphasize training in Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM), if you can, because you will be doing drafting as a major part of your job, initially. Mention interests concerning engineering, but certainly don’t state an interest in eventually opening your own firm.

Get a list of consulting engineers in your area. Try to find a website for each to learn a little about them and to eliminate contractors and moon-lighters. Next, print your resume on good paper and deliver it to each engineering office on your list, don’t mail it. Wear a suit and tie and explain that you are a recent (specialty) engineering graduate and would like to speak with their chief (specialty) engineer. If they ask why, reply: “I am seeking advice and will only take a few minutes.” If they say he is busy, reply: “That’s ok, I can wait.” If all else fails, ask the receptionist to give him a copy of your resume and ask for his business card. If it is a good size company, provide a second copy of your resume for the “Personnel Department.” If you don’t hear back within a week, call the engineer to verify that he received your resume and to inquire about job openings

If you don’t quickly get a job, stop back to see the same people. Their needs can change in just a few weeks. Be persistent.


Be Prepared:

  • If you are responding to an employment posting, make a list of the skills desired so that you are prepared to discuss and relate them to your training and education. Don’t be concerned if you don’t have all the qualifications listed. There may be an entry-level position available.
  • Make a list of five skills and qualifications of yours that you can share during the interview.
  • Go to the company’s website to learn more about the company so that you will be better prepared for questions, like “What interests you about our company?”
  • Make a list of likely questions that you may be asked and prepare answers: Why should I hire you? Is there anything about the job or the company that I haven’t told you? What are your career goals in the next 5 years and how will you achieve them? What are your salary requirements?
  • Make a list of questions about the job and the company, and bring up your questions if the interviewer doesn’t offer the information.
  • Ask if you can meet someone in a similar position and the person who will be your immediate supervisor.
  • Ask about the skills that you will be learning and applying in the available position, and access their relevance to your future goals. For example, assume that you are an electrical engineer and wish to open a practice designing electrical systems for buildings. A position as a lighting designer will not teach you the diversity of other skills needed.
  • Try not to look like a “deer-in-the-headlights”; practice in front of a mirror. Listen carefully, and don’t be afraid to take notes during the interview. Bring extra copies of your resume, including a list of references. Also, bring your list of questions, a pad (in a folio), and a pen. Don’t bring a drink or chew gum, and turn your cell phone off.
  • Send the interviewer a “Thank You” note or e-mail.

Jack’s Comment – You may have to widen your job search area, but, with persistence, you will eventually get a job in your chosen field.