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Growth after Structural Engineer (SE) License


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Hi All!

Has anyone with their Structural Engineer (SE) License seen a significant increase in pay or earning potential after being approved? If yes, can you tell me which state you're in?

I am planning to take the exam next year, but I worry it's superfluous for work in NYC. My company doesn't give any special promotion to those w/ that license, just more work 😕 with no over time pay.

Thanks!

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I don't have an SE. 

If your company doesn't give any promotion, but does give more work, why would you continue to work there? I can understand if you're in an low population area with few firms. You're in NYC. 

You have an accreditation that not many people have. Maximize it. But do your due diligence to make sure any new company is a good fit. Your definition of good.  

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Firstly, I moved this thread to the Structural forum, where it might get a few more views. Hopefully some people who already have their S.E. licenses will respond.

I don't have my S.E. license yet, but I know I get a $2500 bonus for becoming a licensed S.E. I'm not sure if I will get an automatic promotion, but I know it would put me on the track to get a senior engineer/project manager position. I'm located in the SF Bay Area in California, which I would imagine would be a similar market to NYC. However, I think S.E. licenses here are pretty highly regarded. It may also be worth noting that my company's HQ is in Illinois (and not Chicago), so I'm not sure how that would compare to a company HQed in my area.

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A bad doctor can end up killing one patient at a time. A bad structural engineer can end up killing dozens at a time. An SE license is a stamp of high credentialing and gives enhanced self worth as an engineer. At 52, having been licensed as P.Eng, in 4 Canadian Provinces (QC, AB, NC and ON), I moved to the US. I had to take the FE and PE here again to get my PE which I did in 1 1/2 years. I was licensed here in NY, NH, NC; currently licensed in CA, AZ. At 75 now, I am going for the SE for reasons in the third sentence. I hope all engineers pursue their interests where your heart lies and not whether it will enlarge your wallet. 

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Thanks @leggo PE ! I'll be better at pinning down the right thread.

And also thank you all for your responses. My uncertainty came from my company's lack of interest, which I feared was an industry sentiment. The SE isn't required in NY (yet), so it's been hard finding people who could speak on this. Your responses really help figure out how much of a bubble I have been in.

Happy Labor Day Weekend 🤩

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Guest Jmm7200

I would think that if your firm does work in a state that requires an SE license (IL, HI, etc.) then you should definitely get a raise.  However, if not, and since you are in NY where they do not require an SE, then there is a chance that you will not, like you said. 
 

For me, I am in Illinois (Chicago) where an SE is required, so when I got my SE my company reimbursed my exam fee, I got a bonus, and I got a pretty substantial raise (20%).  I will also say that I am bridge engineer, and there are a lot fewer of us than building engineers so that may have played a role as well. 

If your company doesn’t give you anything, there will be a firm that will.  That SE will make you drastically more marketable. 
 

good luck. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I might be able to provide some insight. I am based out of NYC and obtained the SE license a few years ago. The benefit of this additional license in the NYC market mostly resulted in recognition and celebration of the accomplishment among my engineering peers. Additionally, it increased the frequency of my interactions with co-workers that sought input on conceptual structural approaches and code interpretation due to the newly added “clout.” Therefore, I was viewed as one of the technical leaders, informally, by my colleagues endorsed by the obtaining the SE. However, there were no financial incentives or promotions associated with obtaining the SE license, at least in most NYC firms. Also worth mentioning, most NYC developers and architects that bothered to inquire about the SE designation displayed in my e-mail signature didn’t comprehend its significance, misguided by the belief that all licensed Civil PE professionals employed in structural design firms are equal to a licensed SE. Luckily for me, I was in the process of transitioning to a boutique NYC structural firm seeking to expand it’s engineering services to other states that recognize or require the SE license (e.g. IL, CA, etc.).  So this led to a significant boost in compensation (50% + profit sharing) since my duties and responsibilities increased beyond the conventional technical/managerial roles normally available to most experienced professionals. Having worked for two of the most prominent international structural engineering firms in NYC, I would say that promotions/compensation were by and large influenced by:

• Deliverables Production (aka high multipliers)

• Business Generated

• Cumulative Years of Experience

Technical ability is generally not a trait that will increase promotion potential or compensation beyond a few roles at the very start of a structural engineering career. From my personal experience, the most technical individuals do not ascend beyond low supervisory (i.e. Senior Project Engineer, Project Manager/Associate) positions, unfortunately. However, if you do manage to become a recognized subject matter expert that will trump all my previous commentary regarding the limitations for technically inclined persons.
 

All this to say that in NYC the SE license is indeed superfluous since it will merely server to validate technical ability.  Obviously there’s a lot more nuisances than mentioned above when talking about career development and compensation. Just my $0.02.

 

Personally, I pursued the SE due to my passion for structural engineering and not because of what it could do for me in the job marketplace - not that I’m complaining about it’s benefit in that regard!

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Even if you don't get an instant pay raise, you never know when it could be advantageous. I got a Master's Degree and my SE and I did not necessarily see an instant pay raise, but my "stock" is higher.  If there is an opportunity that I would like to take that requires a Masters or SE, I would meet the qualifications. 

If you have the time, patience, and want to do structural engineering for the next 10+ years, then I think it's worthwhile.

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@Anthr_Engr I work for a firm in California where a SE is expected.  Everyone in the firm above basic staff engineer has a CA SE license. In my firm, while you will not be fired immediately for not taking SE, your career will stagnate (and you may be the first out the door in the next recession) without a SE license.  

Passing the SE does not award a bonus or raise, it simply allows you to keep progressing your career.  Thank goodness I have it behind me.

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