California Structural Engineering Title Authority

Per the Building Design Authority, Licensed Civil Professional Engineers in the state of California have the authority to design all buildings except public schools and hospitals.  California grants the authority for licensed Civil Professional Engineers who’ve had additional work experience, and passed additional tests, to use the title “Structural Engineer”.  Only Civil Professional Engineers with the authority to use the title “Structural Engineer” may design public schools and hospitals in California.

Requirements for Licensure

To be granted the authority to use the title “Structural Engineer”, the applicant must

  1. hold a current and valid license as a civil engineer in the state of California.
  2. Provide evidence showing 3 years of full-time experience in “responsible charge” of structural engineering work.  This experience must be gained after the date of the examination which was taken to gain initial licensure.
  3. Passed the 16 hour Structural Engineering exam provided and administered by NCEES.
  4. Paid the appropriate fee.

It is acceptable for the “initial licensure,” listed in item 2 above, to be from a jurisdiction other than California.  If you hold a Civil PE license in another jurisdiction, meet the experience requirements listed in item 2 above, and wish to be granted authority to use the title “Structural Engineer” in California, you’ll have to first obtain the Civil Professional Engineering license by comity, and second, pass the 16 hour Structural Engineering exam.

Refer to the Board for more detailed information on the requirements to be granted the authority to use the title “Structural Engineer,” and a detailed application checklist.

Application Process

The application process involves 2 steps:

  1. Submit the Califonia Structural Engineering application to the board with the appropriate fee.
  2. Once the application is accepted, register for the national 16 hour SE exam through NCEES and pay the appropriate fee. Instructions on registering for the exam will be provided once the initial application to the board is accepted.

The application is the most time consuming, and it’s important to keep filing dates in mind when applying. Explicitly follow these steps to ensure your application to the board is complete and processed in a timely manner.

  1. Select 3 references and contact them immediately to verify they’re comfortable serving as your reference. These references must be licensed Civil Professional Engineers in the state of California with the authority to use the title “structural engineer”. Refer to the application instructions for help in obtaining appropriate references if you reside outside of California.
  2. Complete the 2 page application for license as a Structural Enginner.
  3. Review the Professional Engineer Engagement Record and Reference Form Instructions, complete part A of the Engagement Record and Reference Form for EACH of your references.
  4. Mail the Engagement Record and Reference Form, with Part A completed, to each of your references. Include a self addressed stamped envelope, a copy of the information collection disclosure, and instructions to have the reference stamp and sign over the envelope seal once the reference form is complete (reference forms will not be accepted without this stamp and signature). The references must return these completed and sealed forms to you for inclusion in the application.
  5. If you’re applying by comity submit the verification of registration form to the jurisdictions for which you’re already licensed. If the jurisdiction will only submit the verification form directly to the California Board, make sure to include that in writing with your application.
  6. Submit the application, along with the 3 sealed engagement record and reference forms, 2 self-addressed, stamped post cards the board will use for notification of the application status, and the verification of registrations (if required) to the board with a check made payable to the “Department of Consumer Affairs” for 125.00. This application fee is non-refundable.

Now you get to wait until the application is processed by the state of California. For questions concerning your application, contact the evaluator assigned to you on the California board contact information page. Once accepted, follow the provided instructions to register for the SE exam administered by NCEES. The fees required to register for the NCEES SE exam are $510 for the vertical forces component, and $510 for the lateral forces component, for a total of $1020.

Your total fee for applying for your California Structural Engineering license amounts to $1145.  On a positive note, much like the California Professional Engineering license, if you obtain the California Structural Engineering license, you’ll be able to obtain your Structural Engineering license in all other jurisdictions by comity!

Exam Exemptions

No exemptions are listed in the state of California.

License by Comity

If the applicant has passed the NCEES 16 hour SE exam, and is a licensed structural engineer in another state, he or she may apply for a California structural engineering license by comity, following the same process outlined in the Application Process. Be aware that you’ll have to obtain the California Professional Engineering license before you can gain authority to use the title “structural engineer”.

NCEES 16 Hour Structural Engineering Exam Details

The Structural Engineering exam is typically the last step in become a fully licensed structural engineer. Refer to the NCEES exam schedule for upcoming exam dates. This exam is targeted for an engineer with 4 or more years of structural engineering experience after college graduation.  Exam specifications and references will be posted on the NCEES website 6 months prior to exam administration.

The exam consists of two 8 hour breadth and depth exams. On day one, the examinee will take the 8 hour Vertical Forces Component which focuses on gravity loads and incidental lateral loads (lateral earth pressures). Day 2 will consist of the 8 hour Lateral Forces Component. Each component consists of a 4 hour, multiple choice, breadth exam in the morning, and a 4 hour, essay style, depth exam in the afternoon. Examinees must choose either buildings or bridges for the afternoon portion of each component, and must make the same choice for both components.

This exam is open book, and the examinee is allowed to bring any reference to the exam provided it is bound, and stays bound throughout the test. Loose papers bound by a 3 ring binder, or other device, are acceptable.

Refer to the calculator policy for a list of approved calculators for this exam.

Continuing Education Requirements

Continuing education is not required for professional and structural engineers licensed in California.

License Renewal

The license renewal period is 2 years in the state of California. A notice will be sent to your address approximately 60 days prior to the expiration date. The fee to renew is 115.00. This fee increases to 172.50 for those who fail to renew within 60 days after the expiration date. Refer to the board for detailed renewal information.

Note: this renewal fee is in addition to the Professional Engineering license renewal fee.  The Civil Professional Engineering license must be renewed and in good standing before the Structural Engineering license can be renewed

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