Consumer Information

What You Should Know About Professional Engineers and Their Services


What is a licensed professional engineer?

A licensed professional engineer (PE) evaluates, plans, designs, supervises, and/or consults on the construction or operation of:

  • utilities
  • houses, office buildings, shopping centers, roads, bridges, etc.
  • machines and equipment

. . . and other projects and processes which require the application of engineering principles and data to safeguard people and property. Individuals, government agencies and private companies employ professional engineers.

What credentials does a New York licensed professional engineer have?

A licensed New York PE has earned a minimum of 12 years of education/experience credit and has passed a 16-hour national licensing examination. Most New York PEs have a four-year bachelor's degree from an accredited engineering program and have earned qualifying experience as an intern engineer. Many engineers also have a master's degree in their field.

When would I use the services of a professional engineer?

You might employ a PE to:

  • evaluate the structural integrity, electrical, and/or mechanical systems of a house prior to purchase or renovation;
  • design a new house or addition;
  • design the water and sewerage systems, storm drainage facilities, and/or road layouts for a housing development or other tract of land.

Professional engineers also design commercial, industrial, and transportation facilities; municipal facilities such as water and wastewater treatment plants; and dams and bridges, among other things.

When must I employ a licensed PE?

Generally, you will need the services of a licensed design professional such as a PE any time you need the approval of a government agency or official for a construction project; these officials can only accept engineering plans signed and stamped with the seal of the PE. Check with that official to determine what you are required to submit. You will also need a PE when the complexity of the design of a project requires the skills of a professional engineer or when the services fall within the legal definition of professional engineering.

What should I expect as a client of a professional engineer?

You should expect to be provided with the following:

  • a description of the engineer's qualifications;
  • names of former clients as references;
  • a clear and complete description of the work that will be done and the products that will be delivered;
  • a project schedule, including terms of payment; and
  • final plans, specifications and reports that contain the signature and seal of the professional engineer.

The PE can provide complete project services, including project planning, design, and construction supervision and inspection. He or she can also provide complete "as built" drawings of the finished project.

What questions should individuals with disabilities ask about accessing services?

Ask such questions as whether the service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities.

How do I locate a professional engineer?

Check under "Engineers" in the yellow pages of your telephone book. The listing may be subdivided by engineering disciplines or specialty areas such as electrical, civil, mechanical, etc. Many listings also include "consulting engineers," companies which practice in several of these specialty areas and offer their services to the public.

You may also call professional organizations for assistance in identifying their members who specialize in your area of need. The State Board for Engineering and Land Surveying cannot refer you to a practitioner.

What can I do to ensure a good professional relationship with my professional engineer?

Make your needs known as clearly as possible; ask questions if you are unsure about any elements of the project. It is also in your best interest to have a written contract that contains the following:

  • description of the work to be done
  • work schedule
  • a description of the completed products including drawings, schedules and data
  • the amount and terms of payment of the engineer's compensation.

What records does my PE maintain? Can anyone else get them?

New York professional engineers must retain for at least six years all preliminary and final plans, documents, computations, records, and professional evaluations related to work upon which the PE placed his or her signature and seal. PEs have an ethical obligation to keep these records secure and to protect client confidentiality.

Verifying a New York License

New York licensed professionals must display a current New York registration certificate; this certificate lists the professional's name, address, and dates of the registration period. Professional engineers must reregister every three years to practice in New York. Some professionals also display their original New York license, diploma, licenses from other states, and membership certificates. You may verify an individual's license and registration on this site.

Last Updated: June 22, 2009