What does a P.E. do?

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wolfman56

Senior Member
I've just read the thread, "Puzzled? ". I always thought that a P.E. is hired to take a blueprint for a structure such as a hospital, and completely design the electric. This, I thought, would require an intricate knowledge of the NEC. I always thought that because of this that a P.E. would be a code GURU. And a mathmatical wizard. However it appears I'm wrong. Of course finding my viewpoint in error now clears up for me, a lot of "odd" engineering I've seen on blueprints.
What sort of projects does a P.E. do that requires zero knowledge of the NEC?
 

bennie

Esteemed Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

Wolfman: In the beginning, electrical technology dictated the rules for applying the technology.

An engineer versed in practical procedures does not need a code book.

I worked many years, under engineers, physicists and scientists. The work quality and performance was far superior to any of the NEC requirements.

We now have the tail wagging the dog, depending on the NEC to dictate the design. This limits the design to borderline performance.
 

pwhite

Senior Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

i do not know if i have the best answer, but here goes.

a company(say Widget company) has a building,plant, structure they want built. they write up the specifications.

an electrical contractor can bid on the job based on those specifications using his experience / get a pe in the firm to help.

if he gets the job, a pe then has to sift through all the building specifications, perform all the required math, and come up with the best and safest solution in order to meet the needs if the widget company. this is required for the electrical,plumbing,mechanical,structural details. once they come up with a plan, they can do all the work themselves, or directly supervise people who also have the knowledge to design the system(lets keep to electrical).
once those individusla have turned in their work to the pe, the pe is then responsible in checking their work, make any corrections/modifications necessary. verify the work, have it detailed, check it again, and put his approval on the design before anything can be bought. when he stamps the drawing, he puts his seal of approval on the design and its now his work that that the work must be built by.


i know there are pe's that visit the site and i hope they can give a better description of their requirements.
 

bwyllie

Senior Member
Location
MA
Re: What does a P.E. do?

I have worked on various construction projects from dorms, condos, renovated office spaces to new buildings out of the ground. Obviously within these projects the NEC was a big factor in our design because by stamping these drawings I am saying there were designed to all current local codes including the NEC. The NEC is not taught as part of an EE program at college so it is basically learn on your own and ask questions. Our job is to design electrical plans for a client based upon their specific programming(and the NEC) so that they can hopefully get a fair and honest price from a contractor and then to make sure that the contractor didn't cut any corners in his installations.
Also, a good knowledge of the NEC is not required for someone to pass the PE exam as the electrical PE stamp covers various aspects of electrical engineering, such as electronics, computer science, etc.
 

scott thompson

Senior Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

Just to add a little more to this thread:

A "P.E." (Professional Engineer) is an individual which has:

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  • <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Obtained education for the discipline of which that person wishes to be practicing in - either through an accepted College, field experience, etc.,</font>
  • <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Passed the EIT - now FE exam,</font>
  • <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Undergone the required internship - working under a Licensed PE in the same discipline,</font>
  • <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Passed the PE exam,</font>
  • <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Has not commited any crimes, or other bad things,</font>
  • <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Most importantly - submitted all the requested fees!</font>
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As mentioned, we will keep the discipline to the Electrical Power (Construction) fields.

As a PE (with a current License), that person may do Electrical Designs for Clients which invite Electrical Contractors to submit Bids and do the actual Installations.
An Electrical Contractor doing Design Builds for a Client may perform the Electrical Engineering Design Planset - as long as this same EC's Company is doing the Installs, and has the ability (read: Compentant to do it correctly) to Design the Electrical Systems.

Most Plansets will be submitted to the Building Department for Plan Check. Some do plan check in house, others contract this task.
If Plan Check finds any Non-Compliant issues within the Planset (per which ever code is used), the Planset is rejected, a list of non-compliant issues is given to be corrected.
Once these issues are fixed, the set is once again submitted.
After acceptance, the Building Department is happy, and a permit may be issued (excluding city License, Contractor's License and Work Comp Carrier proof - all of which are per Contractor).

If one wishes to design Electrical Systems for use by others, they must carry a current PE License.
Signed and Stamped Plansets may be requested by the AHJ.

Electrical Engineering is a very, very, very-very-very vast area, which includes our end of the discipline.
EEs include those who design:
* Software,
* Hardware,
* Traffic Signal Systems,
* Anything which uses or utilizes Electrical Power.
A very small number of EEs are involved with Construction Power System Designs - and are the typical PE License holders.
PE Licensing is through the DCA (Dept. of Consumer Affairs), just like a Contractor's License is.

If a certain PE has obtained a BSEE (Bachelor of Science - Electrical Engineering), this does not mean the person has been introduced to the NEC in any more detail than simple Conductor Calcs and Motor Calcs.
The "NEC Training" comes in during the EIT's Internship.

EIT and PE exams contain almost exclusively complex circuit / component calculations (along with Engineering principles, and other stuff unrelated to the Electrical Practice).

Myself, I have been in the Trade for 21 Years - going on 22 Years. Even been involved longer, but that's another story (for the "How Long Have You Been In The Trade" Thread).
Started doing Design work in late 1980's, then became an almost full time gig from 1997 through 2002.
Now I just remember the good ol times! ;)

Scott
 

wanderer20001us

Senior Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

...depending on the NEC to dictate the design. This limits the design to borderline performance.

This is exactly why there are PE's. NEC does not dictate design. NEC is a minimum design standard intended to protect the public and property. Following NEC helps insure a design that is safe, but it does nothing to insure the system will work properly. It is up to the PE's to have the knowledge and understanding to insure that the design is safe AND works properly.

The universities and colleges are there to teach the theory. The supervised practical work experience is there to provide the working knowledge. Just like you can't be an electrician by just reading the books, you can't be a PE without working in the industry.

I am a PE and a journeyman. I've been in the industry for 15 years and one fact continues to hold true. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. It is up to everyone that works in this industry to 1) make sure your work is safe and functional and 2) make sure you find the right answers if you don't know.
 

charlie b

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Seattle, WA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
Re: What does a P.E. do?

Nah, you?re all wrong. The only thing a PE can do that a non-PE cannot do is to get sued! :D :D

The first nine years of my career were in the US Navy ? no NEC applicability there. For the next sixteen years, I worked for, or as a consultant to, utility companies that owned and operated nuclear generating stations. They have their own design standards and each utility was its own AHJ. The design processes may, or may not, have been based on NEC requirements. But you opened their book, not the NEC, when you started a design job. That is how I spent 25 years without being able to spell ?N . . . E . . . C.?

Back to my first point. It is a true statement! :eek: Many people think (incorrectly) that a PE seal and signature means that the design is good, or that it complies with code, or that it is safe, or that it satisfies the contract. It means none of these things. A PE seal and signature means the following, and nothing else: ?This work was done by me, or under my supervision.? If (heaven forbid) something were to go wrong, the world is going to know ?who done it.? That is why a person has to go through the educational and testing processed described above, before the world will entrust that person with a PE license.
 

tom baker

First Chief Moderator
Staff member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

"I am a PE and a journeyman. I've been in the industry for 15 years and one fact continues to hold true. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. It is up to everyone that works in this industry to 1) make sure your work is safe and functional and 2) make sure you find the right answers if you don't know."

Sam that is one of the best statements I have ever seen posted on how we as electricians should approach our jobs.
 

jschultz

Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

Some PE get there education at schools that offer Architectural Engineering Degrees with emphasis on Electrical, HVAC, Plumbing or structural. IF you take one of these courses, you will learn about the NEC in college.
There are questions about the NEC on the current PE tests if you take the afternoon section on power. Not very many but a few.
But the PE for electrical is very broad, and you don't have to take the power section in the afternoon to practice as a PE in the building power distribution arena. In fact you could take the mechanincal PE in many states and stamp Electrical drawings. You have to be versed in electrical to do that yada yada.
 

steve66

Senior Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

"What does a PE do?"

Do you mean besides surfing the "National Electric Code Internet Connection"?

Steve
 

davehawks

Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

I have a BSEE and a P.E.

I think you guys are missing the main point about the P.E. requirements. As previously stated, yes someone with a BSEE in computer engineering could take the P.E. electrical computer afternoon depth portion and, in theory, stamp electrical construction drawings.

The catch is the code of ethics, as no P.E. should be stamping drawings they do not have the technical aptitude to review. I realize that this is pie-in-the-sky thinking, but if there is no accountability from the State Consumer Affairs board, the P.E. is just a worthless piece of paper.

And yes, the main difference with having the P.E. is the liability to get sued........
 

wanderer20001us

Senior Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

:mad:
...the P.E. is just a worthless piece of paper.
I hope I'm taking this out of context because this is a ridiculous statement. Getting a PE license takes brains, hard-work and persistence regardless of which discipline. The same holds true for an electrician. A PE screwing things up due to lack of knowledge, caring, or stupidity is no different than an electrician doing the same thing. By your definition, all licenses are only as good as the AHJ's inspecting the work. Let's just throw out all of our licenses and have a freeforall.
 

charlie b

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Seattle, WA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
Re: What does a P.E. do?

Originally posted by davehawks:. . . if there is no accountability from the State Consumer Affairs board, the P.E. is just a worthless piece of paper.
If a person who holds any of the following licenses does not honor the commitments that the license demands, they are all worthless pieces of paper: PE, Electrical Administrator, Master Electrician, Journeyman Electrician, Electrical Trainee, Hunting License, Pilot?s License, Drivers License, and Marriage License. Every state has a department with a title of professional regulation (or similar name) that holds every PE accountable.

I disagree that it is ?pie in the sky thinking.? I would call it a way of life. I, for one, would not hesitate to report another PE who appears to be practicing outside the area of his or her expertise. Such a person could cause another person to be injured or killed. What is worse, they might not ever become aware of the event or of their contribution to the event, so they might just keep making the same errors. My first and foremost duty is to safeguard the health and safety of the public, not to protect another member of my profession.
 

bduda

Member
Location
Pennsylvania
Re: What does a P.E. do?

One important item that goes along with having a P.E. license is "Professional Liability Insurance". The true worth of the P.E. seal is the insurance that backs up the engineering plans. If there is a catastrophic failure of an engineered system and it is traced to improper design, it falls back on the P.E.'s insurance, if it is traced to faulty installation, then the contractors liability insurance will likely take the hit. In reality, everybody gets hauled into court when something bad happens, but consider the P.E. stamp as insurance on a design. A P.E. doing a "side job" w/o insurance is as dangerous as an electrician doing the same.

I am a P.E. in the Civil Engineering field, and happened upon this helpful and informative site after my Electrical P.E. on a major pump station project got into a battle with my client over how much power the new pump station would draw and how it would impact their electric bill. After the engineer realized that I had done some research on how the demand metering system was going to to?be impacted when the (3) 400 HP motors were started, she took a more proactive approach in resolving the problem to my satisfaction.

I further learned on the project that 4-20 ma control wiring really blurs the line between where the engineering and the construction meet. The contractor though that the E.E. should tell him how to wire it, and the E.E. thought that the contractor should have known how to wire it. He ended up hiring an electrical engineer to help him wire it.

On start-up, there was no interlock between the 120/208 panel supplying the 4-20 ma system and the 480V MCC that was powering the pumps. When the motor starter timed out due to high amperage draw (pump supplier forgot to trim the pump impellers!!), E.C. re-set it by turning the breaker off-on while the E.E. watched. The 4-20 signal was never interrupted and an automatic control valve stayed open. When the pump restarted, it surged the system 100 psi above operating pressure (owner turned off the surge protection valve!). Gaskets blew, main in the street blew, real mess. E.E. should have spec's an interlock between the two power sources originally. One was quickly installed after words.

Client had already tapped into the G.C.'s bond because he went bankrupt. Everybody kept quiet and the G.C.'s bonding co. ate the cost for some of the repairs, water authority fixed the main. Engineer could have taken a big hit if somebody made an issue of it. Everybody screwed up a little bit, knew what happened and protected each other. Thats the way it goes.
 

lady sparks lover

Senior Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

I agree with Charlie and jshucltz...

I'm an EIT who's taking her PE in October, and will be licensed by the end of the year. I think it's great. The problem I come across is that many PEs need to gain the training that they need, which is the reason I push my company so hard to give it to me. I found out that just having a PE doesn't mean you will know what you are doing

There was man at my job who had a PE and you know what...he didn't know how to calculate a load for a service. Case in point, he just passed the exam, but hey for is ignorance he will be liable.

All this is to say, it just makes you liable. There are ""not so skilled" electricians, and poorly trained contractors too (installation and calculations are two different things). :)

[ March 25, 2004, 04:59 PM: Message edited by: lady sparks lover ]
 

jschultz

Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

Originally posted by lady sparks lover:
I agree with Charlie and jshucltz...

I'm an EIT who's taking her PE in October, and will be licensed by the end of the year.
good luck. If you are taking the test in IL, then bring a pillow to sit on. You get a folding chair and plywood table with chips out of it, to work on. After 6.5 hours I could not see anything past 12" in front of me. I had to sit in my car for a few minutes before I could drive home. I felt so sorry for the guys who would have to come back the next day to take the EIT for another 8 hours. Thank goodness my college required us to take the EIT while still in school.
 

lady sparks lover

Senior Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

Originally posted by jschultz:
Originally posted by lady sparks lover:
I agree with Charlie and jshucltz...

I'm an EIT who's taking her PE in October, and will be licensed by the end of the year.
good luck. If you are taking the test in IL, then bring a pillow to sit on. You get a folding chair and plywood table with chips out of it, to work on. After 6.5 hours I could not see anything past 12" in front of me. I had to sit in my car for a few minutes before I could drive home. I felt so sorry for the guys who would have to come back the next day to take the EIT for another 8 hours. Thank goodness my college required us to take the EIT while still in school.
Well, I'm in New Jersey so they are probably just as bad, however I still can't wait to get the license under my belt. I took my EIT my first year of work so it's intersting to how I passed it. Working 55 hours a week!!! :(

In all good stuff...question, how was the exam?? Was it like the EIT or harder?? :confused:

[ April 01, 2004, 10:42 AM: Message edited by: lady sparks lover ]
 

bwyllie

Senior Member
Location
MA
Re: What does a P.E. do?

found it harder than the EIT. Get a hold of the review/practice exam that is offered and just keep reviewing the example problems in all the books.
 

jschultz

Member
Re: What does a P.E. do?

The morning of the EIT seemed like a breeze to me. The afternoon was more difficult because I had taken an ArchEng degree which covers hvac, plumb, structural, and electrical. So I took the general for the afternoon, which seemed to be one hard question from all of the EIT design specialties. But the PE was almost the exact opposite, the morning was more difficult than the afternoon. The morning is all about general electrical engineering. Whereas the afternoon is more about power design if you take that specialty. In the morning you need to know about radio frequency and stuff you never or seldom deal with if you are designing building power distribution for commercial projects. The afternoon did have quite a bit about utility power distribution, which I have not had to do at any of the places I have worked at. So the degree of difficulty will depend on what type of projects you work on, on a daily basis. If you do power distribution and commercial jobs you will have a breeze in the afternoon.
The way i did it was to go through and only answer the ones i felt comfortable with. Then go back through and do the next most comfortable, then through one last time and make a guestimate. Hopefully the last time through you only have a few questions left. But you can count up how many you get the first round then the second and get a good estimate of how many you will get right. The first round should be over 90%, the second round should be around 50% and the last round is 1 out of 4 or 5. The fact that you have to wait a few months to get the results back for a multiple choice test is kind of annoying. All in all it cost about $500 between test fees, license fees, application fees, and books.
 
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