Home President's Corner President’s Corner – February 2016 – Tan Tran

President’s Corner – February 2016 – Tan Tran


“SE Licensure in Texas?”

For the last three years or so, I have heard about the effort to bring SE Licensure to the state of Texas. And repeatedly, I have heard about the effort being thwarted. I have decided to dig a little deeper to understand the whats and whys of this issue.

As with any good “researcher” would do nowadays, I “googled” it. The trick was knowing what to “google” else you would get results that you don’t dare to look further into. “SE License” entry resulted in 494 million results in 0.70 seconds on the search engine. One result appeared to be interesting was from website “Engineering.com”, “Structural Engineer (SE) Licensure Explained.” According to this article,

There are currently 10 states requiring SE license for structural engineers to practice. These are: California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington, although, the site also noted that Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico do not “specifically require SE license to practice engineering.” Huh? A ‘head-scratcher” there. Of the remaining 7 states that requiring SE license, the requirements vary on what type and size of structures on which SE licensee can work. The Licensing requirements vary a little from state to state, but all requires that the licensee passing NCEES PE & and SEI and SE2 exams, which is now combined into one 16-hour SE exam, with some states (California, Oregon and Washington) requiring Seismic Exams as well.

The states requiring SE license are mostly the western states of the continental US, with the exception of Illinois and Hawaii. These states are generally in the high seismic zones.

With NCEES SE exam stated to “tests your ability to safely design buildings and bridges, particularly in areas of high seismicity and high wind.” I am surprised see not many more states along the eastern coast line and the gulf coast requiring SE licenses.

There appears to be a national effort to push for SE licensing as evident by the website for “Structural Engineering Licensure Coalition”, which is a unified front of this effort from the Structural Engineering Institute, the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, the Structural Engineering Certification Board, and the Council of Structural Engineers. Then there is also a Structural Engineering Certification Board whose website stated that “only 19 states recognize some form of Structural Engineering practice.”

There are arguments abound on both sides of the fence, for and against the requirement of the separate SE license from the PE license. The main argument that advocates for SE licensure use is that the increasing complexity of structural engineering, in general, and the increasing complexity of building codes, in particular. The “against” side usually cited reasons such as more government controls, additional cost of licensing, even longer exams, and generally the idea of “what-make-you-so-special?”.

Personally, I recognize that structural engineering is one of the more complex engineering disciplines. We carry a heavier burden of caring for health, safety and welfare of the public than other disciplines. Thus it makes sense to me, perhaps, for us to have a separate license requirements and designation. On the other hand, without that, do we do anything less than what we have been doing? Would we take any less responsibility than what we have been taking? Probably not. So in the end, it is still a question for me. What about you? Interestingly, in California’s Professional Engineers Act, out of 20 engineer branches, only 5 were specifically mentioned, “Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Structural and Soil or Geotechnical. Texas Board of Professional Engineers recognizes 26 specific engineering branches and one “Other” engineer branch.

This is meant only as teaser(?) to tickle your curiosity to further the search into this question. Once you have come to a conclusion yourself, do not forget to act. That is, to let your state legislators know where you stand and asked them to vote on your behalf accordingly.

See you at our monthly meeting!