Do I Need a License to Consult???

Some times yes … sometimes no… sometimes maybe… Here is a quick overview:

–If you are a business consultant, you probably don’t need a license other than possible tax licenses. There are no licensing boards for business consultants.

–If you are a professional consultant, however, you may need a license before offering your services to the public. In certain professions it is mandatory – don’t even think of practicing medicine or law without a license.

In other professions like engineering or accounting, while legally mandated it is not always enforced. But don’t use the title PE (Professional Engineer) or CPA (Certified Public Accountant) unless you are licensed – you will invite the wrath of licensing boards.

Nevertheless, I often encourage my engineering colleagues to pursue a PE license. The following comment expands on why I do so. This was in response to a rather heated discussion on an engineering blog on the necessity of a PE license.

Glad to hear of your success against some clearly overreaching bureaucrats.

I say that as a PE/EE. Did getting my PE license make me a smarter engineer? No, but it did provide credibility when I started a consulting engineering firm 30 years ago, just like a CPA does for an accountant. It also has opened more than a few doors.

The PE license is valuable if you work for a consulting firm. This happened to an electronics design colleague (PE/EE) some years ago. He obtained his PE as a personal goal, not needing it while working for defense contractors.

Laid off in a slump, prospects were grim. That is, until he inquired at an engineering consulting firm, where most of their PEs were in electrical power. The firm was ecstatic to hire a PE/EE with electronics experience, to handle building electronics systems. Thus began a new and satisfying career.

As such, I often recommend the PE license — you never know when it might be useful. (Says the engineer who was laid off twice before he finally wised up and started consulting.)

More details on the engineer above here. Remember, when consulting it is all about credibility and visibility. Licenses and other valid credentials enhance that credibility.

P.S. Will be slowing down for the summer. Have grandkid plans, and hope to get in some RV time too. Best wishes for your summer too!

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2 Responses to Do I Need a License to Consult???

  • I agree there are certain job scopings where a PE is either desired or required. In the 10 years I’ve been practicing, I’ve not needed it, nor the industry-related iNARTE certification. I suspect my hundreds of clients don’t care or are unaware, so long as I can help them through their design issues. I bill myself as a “principal consultant” (sometimes “president”, if my ego needs a boost) and the company is “XYZ Technical Services”, so no “engineering” in the name.

    • Yes, I agree it is not mandatory for electronics engineers. I have needed it as an “Expert Witness”, and found it useful with power utilities as it made me a member of their “PE club.”

      Ditto the NARTE certification for EMC. Both Bill and I debated this, but went ahead since the US Navy wanted it at the time.

      The PE issues often raises hackles with engineers. That is why I commented on the IEEE blog. I see it as a marketing issue for consultants, depending on clients served. I see it as an insurance policy for corporate engineers, which is why I recommend it to young engineers. Thanks for jumping in!

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