California grants the authority to use the title "Structural Engineer" to licensed Civil Engineers who meet all licensure requirements including passing the required exam.
The following instructions summarize the requirements for licensure as a Structural Engineer, but they are not intended to apply to every situation. The applicant is responsible for complying with the current requirements of the Professional Engineers Act and the Board Rules and Regulations. If conflicts arise, the Professional Engineers Act will take precedence.
NOTE: Neither U.S. Citizenship nor California residency is required; however, disclosure of your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is mandatory. Your application will not be processed without it. Additional information is located on the Information Collection, Access and Disclosure page.
APPLICATION FILING PROCESS
Structural Engineer Application Filing Process
Each applicant for authority to use the title "Structural Engineer" must:
- Hold a valid and current license as a Civil Engineer in California.
- Provide evidence showing three (3) years of qualifying, full-time experience "in responsible charge" of structural engineering work. The three (3) years must have been gained after the date of issuance of the Civil Engineer license. Experience must be documented on Structural Engineer Engagement Record and Reference Forms. Review the information on What Constitutes a Satisfactory Reference.
- Pass the required exam before application submittal. For additional information, refer to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Regarding the Structural Engineer (SE) Exam.
- Supply the Board with proof of completing the fingerprinting requirement upon submittal of application for licensure. Review the Fingerprinting FAQs for information and instructions on how to meet the requirement.
- Pay the required fees.
It is the applicant's responsibility to submit a complete application package. A partial application packet will not be considered for evaluation.
Review the application checklist included with the Application for License as a Structural Engineer to ensure that you are submitting all required documentation along with your application. Put the application, all supporting documentation, and payment in one envelope. Do not submit the documents separately. Submitting the documents separately will significantly delay the processing of your application.
NOTE: The Board has the authority to seek additional information pertinent to the education and experience of the applicant as may be required to verify the applicant’s qualifications. Applicants should keep a copy of all materials sent to the Board for their records. If applicants fail to provide additional information or references within 90 days following the mailing of a request by Board staff, the application may be considered abandoned, and the application fee forfeited (Title 16, California Code of Regulations section 428).
Qualifying experience is counted three (3) years from the date of licensure as a Civil Engineer in California.
This consists of professional level employment "in responsible charge" of major projects. It does not include overtime, trainee, or orientation programs, any work done before initial licensure as a Civil Engineer, or work done on exempt structures as defined in Business and Professions Code section 6737.1.
Qualifying experience shall include structural design experience in all areas as follows:
- Use of three of the four common construction materials – Steel, Concrete, Wood, and Masonry
- Determination of lateral forces – seismic or wind
- Selection of framing systems
- Selection of foundation systems
- Application of code requirements
- Multi-story buildings or equivalent multi-level structures
Checking of structural engineering plans and calculations is also considered qualifying experience provided that the work is performed under the immediate supervision of, and certified to, by a licensed Structural Engineer and demonstrates structural engineering experience in all areas listed above.
For work experience to be accepted as satisfactory each engagement must be separate and distinct; dual credit will not be allowed for overlapping engagements.
DEFINITION OF “RESPONSIBLE CHARGE”
The term "responsible charge" means the process of exercising control and direction of professional engineering work and making engineering decisions which can only be made by a Professional Engineer. Responsible charge directly relates to the span or degree of control over projects that a Professional Engineer is required to maintain.
The span of control necessary to be "in responsible charge" is such that the engineer:
(1) Personally makes engineering decisions concerning a project, including consideration of alternatives, or reviews and approves proposed decisions prior to their implementation, whenever such decisions affect the health, safety, or welfare of the public; and
(2) Judges the qualifications of technical specialists and the validity and applicability of their recommendations before such recommendations are incorporated into the work. When making critical engineering decisions, the engineer must be physically present or be available by telephone or other communication devices within a reasonable period of time. The engineer must be a licensed Civil Engineer in the state where the work experience took place in order for that engagement to qualify as "responsible charge."
EXPERIENCE GAINED OUT OF STATE
Applicants that have been licensed and practicing in another state may apply prior to three (3) years after obtaining their license as a Civil Engineer in California under certain circumstances. The Board will consider an application submitted sooner than three (3) years after licensure as a Civil Engineer in California by a person who meets any of the following requirements:
- Has practiced under the exemption for officers and employees of the government of the United States of America; or
- Has practiced in responsible charge in another state (licensure in another state does not allow for responsible charge experience in California); or
- Has practiced in responsible charge in another country.
The Board will accept an applicant under any one of the above conditions provided that the applicant has at least three (3) additional years of experience in structural engineering work in excess of those six (6) years required for the civil engineering license.
PERSONAL REFERENCE ALTERNATIVES FOR STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING APPLICANTS
Structural Engineer applicants must submit a minimum of three (3) references. If licensed in a state that issues a Structural Engineer license, the references must be licensed as a Structural Engineer. If licensed in a state that does not issue a Structural Engineer license, references are not required to be a Structural Engineer but must be legally authorized to practice structural engineering.
It has come to the Board's attention that applicants for authority to use the title "Structural Engineer" in California may have trouble obtaining appropriate references to meet the Board's requirements. It is the Board’s desire to assist such applicants by providing information on how to obtain references from individuals who hold current, valid California licenses as Civil Engineers and who are authorized by the Board to use the title “Structural Engineer”, or individuals who are legally authorized to practice structural engineering in the jurisdiction where the work is located.
In order to assist applicants in securing the required references, here are some suggestions, which are offered for consideration. Specifically, the following cases represent situations which may have yielded contacts with appropriately licensed Structural Engineers who could be used as possible references:
- A Structural Engineer associated with or employed by a client firm for which the applicant's firm has performed structural engineering work.
- A Structural Engineer associated with or employed by another engineering firm with which the applicant's firm has engaged in a joint venture on a structural engineering project.
- A Structural Engineer associated with or employed by a building department to which the applicant has submitted plans and/or calculations for a plan check review.
- One or more California licensed Structural Engineers who are willing to review an adequate sample of the applicant's work in order to evaluate their qualifying experience. (The Board’s website contains a License Lookup feature that can list the structural engineers that live in your area).
Visit the NCEES website for specific information regarding the exam.
View the Exam Schedule for exam dates.