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What are Consulting Engineers?

Consulting Engineering

“Consulting engineers are individuals who, because of training in one or more engineering specialties and 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. 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 “Fundamentals in Engineering” (FE) in the fundamentals of engineering.
  • 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 “Professional Engineer” (PE) 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”.



Architects and facility owners hire engineers to draw system plans and write specifications for their buildings; including, (but not limited to), electrical, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, plumbing), fire protection, structural, and civil. Electrical systems, (for example), include: utilities serving the building (power, telephone, cable TV &  fire alarm); lighting; power distribution; fire alarm systems; telephone distribution; cable TV distribution; and any other electrical system that the particular building might require. The consulting engineer is responsible for designing within the architect’s/owner’s budget limitations; and coordinating with the requirements of utility companies and inspection authorities. At the end of the design phase the consultant prepares a specification document, detailing the material requirements and system functions. During bidding he attends pre-bid meetings, clarifies issues for his trade, and prepares addenda to be issue to inform bidders of changes in the requirements. After a contract is awarded, the consultant reviews/approves shop drawings detailing all equipment that the contractor proposes. During the construction phase he visits the job site to record progress and clarifies the contract documents. At the completion of the construction phase he prepares a “punch-list” detailing corrections to the work, if needed.


Consulting Engineering is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend considering this line of work. Jack’s new book covers this topic in detail.

 “Excerpted from The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING © 2015 John D. Gaskell. Used with permission of Professional Value Books, Inc. All rights reserved. Order from” Use discount code “paperback” and save.