Unlicensed Civil Engineers Posing as PEs

Amanda Kolson Hurley, Executive Editor at ARCHITECT Magazine, wrote a great article: Trust Me. I’m An (Unlicensed) Architect. The subheader reads “If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?” This well written article sites enforcement actions taken by states. It got me thinking, who is policing the civil engineering community?

As I Googled “civil engineers license violation” I found myself at the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. They state that while they have some criminal prosecutions…Citations are an alternative to criminal prosecutions which the Board can use to enforce the laws prohibiting unlicensed practice of engineering or land surveying. When a fine is levied with a citation, payment of the fine represents satisfactory resolution of the matter. The State’s criminal and citation listings have not been updated since 2007.

In 2003, NSPE approved their guidelines for NSPE State Chapters in addressing unlicensed practice of engineering. The report, now 6 years old, reported the finding that the most frequent violation cited by State Boards was that of unlicensed practice. Has this been updated? Are their new numbers tracking violations? I hope to have some answers in a future BLOG. In speaking with several officers of state chapters of NSPE, I found that policing has become increasingly difficult for the states. Self-policing by the state chapters, as opposed to relying on the individual state licensing boards is taking on a life of it’s own. Models for programs to give more support to State Licensing Boards are being developed.

With so many civil engineers still looking for work, some licensed and many not, I wonder if desperation will breed fraud? The majority of civil engineering firms now run their own employment background checks including license verification. But, what about the average individual consumer, looking to hire, for example, a structural engineer for inspection? How many check with the local licensing boards? One would hope everyone! Realistically…probably not that many.

What do you think and what do you know?

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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  1. Good article Carol.
    The fact that the worst recession is also upon us does not help the situation either. Lots of engineers are out of work and some might be forced to inflate their experience and consequently lie about their licenses just to get in the door.
    Do we then run the risk of having lots of unqualified engineers in jobs that they cheated to get into?

  2. You might make the same comment about Electrical Engineers, in fact, about any State Licensed Engineering trade. As a (Iicensed) Electrical Engineer active in Code Compliance I see all sorts of dangerous plans and installations. Everybody seems to think that electricity is simple and safe. And just as many, perhaps even more, folks without an electrician’s license do their own DIY. Maybe ask the guy at Home Depot or Loews for a little advice, that is, if they’re even willing to admit that they don’t know something.

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