To P.E. or Not P.E. 

We frequently receive inquiries from members, and sometimes we publish them. This is one of those times.

Hello, GBA! We are in the midst of a discussion that we can’t seem to resolve among ourselves.  Our discussion revolves around e-mail signatures and professional licensing. At what point does having the P.E. in a signature line become an offer of providing professional engineering services? Does having the P.E. designation after your name indicate that you are registered to practice in the state where the e-mail recipient is located?  Does the physical address with the signature indicate that the person is registered in that location and the absence of other state listings limit the representation to that state?  Should the states in which the person is registered be listed after the designation as they would in a resumé or proposal for services?

GBA’s John Bachner replied: P.E. refers to a license awarded by a state after an individual passes an exam that is more or less the same as what is offered in all other states. I do not see (personally) how indicating one has passed an exam can be used to indicate that one is illegally offering services. My own attitude is that people who have earned a P.E. should use the designation wherever and whenever they can and not worry about someone claiming a P.E. should not be allowed to call himself or herself a P.E. if the letter or e-mail may be read in a state where the person isn’t licensed.

Nonetheless, given that some firms on their e-mails include a notice about confidentiality, possible errors, etc., that is many lines long, I see no problem in adding to it, maybe as a separate item, something like:

Mr. Smith is licensed to practice in Maryland and Virginia.

OR one could add,

The P.E. and P.G. designations indicate an individual is licensed in one or more states. Because engineers and geologists lack a common honorific (e.g., Esq.), common degree (such as M.D.), or common certification (like C.P.A.) to indicate their professional status, many do so by using their P.E. or P.G. designation even in states where they are not licensed. This is done solely to indicate the fact that they are professional engineers or professional geologists; it is not an offer to perform engineering or geology in states or other jurisdictions where they are not licensed.

One could also put after one’s name, John Jones, P.E. (VA, NM), or maybe even John Jones, P.E./MD, P.E./VA

I’m a John Jones, P.E. (no matter where) kind of guy, and somewhat recklessly advise others to live dangerously in that manner. (Why do the world’s most important professionals have these problems?)