When I was younger, I had interned in a civil/structural engineering firm specializing in bridges that had many PE civil engineers on staff and a couple licensed mechanical engineers.

Now as a soon-to-be licensed mechanical engineer, interested in starting his own business, I'm wondering what is limit of a mechanical PE. Can a mechanical PE subcontract from a civil firm? Can the mechanical PE only work on certain tasks/items of a civil project? Of the little I remember, the mechanical engineers were the experts on moving bridges (bascule, swing). My specialty is finite element analysis.

I'd be curious if anybody knows where exactly this line is, and even better, if they can point to laws/regulations/policy documents that describe this. For specifics, I am located in California, but would be interested in all United States-based answers.


1 Answer 1


I'm a licensed civil engineer in California, and I don't think the answer is a black and white yes or no. My civil license allows me to supervise and/or stamp work that I have taken personal responsibility for. It allows me to stamp only work that I have direct work experience in. I have no specific seismic experience, for example, so I'm not legally allowed to stamp and work with seismic calculations, even though that work rightly falls under civil engineering. Likewise, I'm not aware of any regulation in the Business and Professions Code that might prevent me from stamping work that might be considered mechanical engineering, if I can show relevant and recent experience in that field. In fact, I've done some pump station work in the past, which is just as much a mechanical discipline as a civil one. (Ironically, my engineering degree is mechanical, not civil). Most, if not all public agencies do require a registered civil engineer's stamp for public works type projects, but that is up to the agency, not part of the state regulations. That might also be true for agency contracts for mechanical/structural type work as well. But that would be a separate agency requirement, not a state regulation. FEA is most certainly as much a mechanical discipline as anything else, so I suspect you'd be fine doing that work with a mechanical license.

My advice would be to read the Business and Professions Code for Professional Engineers available at the state's website. This is a good place to start: https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/laws/pe_act.pdf If you need to ask a specific question to someone at the state level, you could start here: https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/ There are also professional engineering associations around the state that might also give you good guidance. All of the above is from my memory so take it with a grain of salt, and good luck!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's good advice that the client will generally know what type of stamp they need, if any. It looks like sections 6731 and 6731.6 from the CA PE Act provide the best guidance for me here. I should offer the mechanical engineering capabilities that I can perform, and make sure that any clients in the civil/structural field are aware that I cannot perform work that requires a civil stamp. $\endgroup$
    – Stershic
    Sep 20, 2018 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ In addition to what was mentioned above, the evaluations, inspections and design of movable bridges should be right in your wheel house! $\endgroup$
    – Forward Ed
    Nov 15, 2018 at 5:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.