Update for SE Licensure in Texas

by Dennis Paul PE \ Originally appeared in the Spring 2011 Structural Engineers Association of Texas Newsletter

I wanted to make sure you all got an update of where we are in the process to get SE licensure in Texas. To be complete, here is a recap of how we got to the point of asking the Texas Legislature to modify the licensing procedure in Texas. In October 2009, the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE) approached the State Board of SEAoT and asked for help on determining what they should do about the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) replacing the current eight-hour exam know as the Structures I test and combining it with the current eight-hour Structures II exam to form one 16-hour Structures test. This would require a person interested in registering as a structural engineer to have to take a 16-hour two-day test as opposed to all other disciplines taking a single eight-hour exam.

The TBPE created a task force to evaluate the situation and make recommendations to the board on how to modify its rules or existing laws to accommodate this new testing procedure. The task force included a representative from Structural Engineers Association of Texas (SEAoT) which chaired the task force, the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI), the Texas Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE), and Texas Council of Engineering Companies (TCEC). The task force split two to two on whether to institute a new SE licensure to accommodate the new exams, with SEAoT and SEI in favor and TSPE and TCEC against it. Without a majority in favor of one way or another TBPE decided to not change anything. However, it will start administering the new 16-hour exam in April.

The SEAoT state board decided to pursue separate licensure regardless and we created our own Structural Engineering (SE) Task Force within SEAoT. The board asked me to serve on this committee since I am the State Community Impact Committee (CIC) Chairman and State Committee Professional Association and Legislative Liaison (PALL) Chair. We decided to move toward enacting a modification to our existing practice act which would allow the board to have an additional SE designation for those engineers who practice structural engineering.

This change will not in any way prevent any one who is currently working as a structural engineer from continuing to work as a structural engineer. It will also not diminish the existing PE in any way. We simply want to make sure that structural engineers have met minimal standards above those a normal PE will meet in order to practice structural engineer, and with the new 16-hour exam there will be a more stringent requirement to get registered as a structural engineer.

Eleven states currently have a SE licensure practice act in place of some type. Some have a separate board and laws and some do not. We will not have a separate board and all of our processes will still be similar to the process we currently follow. Three other states are trying to get a revised practice act in place now and nine others are setting things in motion to start the process in their states. That will make a total of 33 of the 50 states either having or working on a revised practice act in the future.