Iowa's Engineering Law

The laws governing the practice of engineering and land surveying can be found in Iowa Code, Section 542B. The following information is provided merely as an overview of some of the more often referred to areas of the Code.

Following are a few of the terms referenced in 542B that practicing engineers and land surveyors, as well as others, should be knowledgeable of.

Engineering documents: The term engineering documents as used in 542B includes all plans, specifications, drawings and reports, if the preparation of such documents constitutes or requires the practice of engineering.

Engineer intern: The term engineer intern as used in 542B means a person who passes an examination in the fundamental engineering subjects, but does not entitle the person to claim to be a professional engineer.

In responsible charge: The term in responsible charge means having direct control of and personal supervision over any land surveying work or work involving the practice of engineering. One or more persons, jointly or severally, may be in responsible charge.

Practice of engineering: Practice of engineering as used in the Iowa Code means any service or creative work, the adequate performance of which requires:

•Engineering education
•Experience in the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, and physical and engineering sciences such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design and coordination of engineering works and systems
•Planning the use of land and water
•Performing engineering surveys and studies
•Review of construction for the purpose of monitoring compliance with drawings and specifications, any of which embraces such services and creative work, either public or private, in connection with:
   •Work systems
   •Industrial or consumer products or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or thermal nature insofar as they involve     safeguarding life, health, or property, and including such other professional services as may be necessary to the planning, progress, and completion of the services further identified in this Code section.

•Design coordination includes the review and coordination of technical submissions prepared by others, including as appropriate and without limitation, consulting engineers, architects, landscape architects, land surveyors, and other professionals working under the direction of the engineer.
•Engineering surveys include all survey activities required to support the sound conception, planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operation of engineered projects, but excludes the surveying of real property for the establishment of land boundaries, rights of way, easements, and the dependent or independent surveys or re-surveys of the public land survey system.

A person is determined to be engaged in the practice of engineering if the person does any of the following:

A. Practices any branch of the profession of engineering.
B. Makes a representation by verbal claim, sign, advertisement, letterhead, card, or other manner that the person is a professional engineer.
C. Uses any title which implies that the person is a professional engineer, or that the person is certified under this Chapter.
D. The person holds the persons self out as able to perform, or who does perform, any service or work included in the practice of engineering.
     A. 1. Engages in or offers to engage in the practice of professional engineering or land surveying
    B.  2. Uses or employs the words Professional Engineer or Land Surveyor, or implies authorization to provide or offer professional engineering or land surveying services, or otherwise uses or advertises any title, word, figure, sign, card, advertisement, or other symbol or description intending to convey that the person is a professional engineer or land surveyor, or is engaged in the practice of engineering or land surveying.
The Board has the power to assess civil penalties in a number of other areas such as falsely impersonating any Licensed Professional Engineer, and aiding or abetting an unlicensed person who engages in any activity identified in the Code.

So, in other words, not only might the civil penalty be assessed against the individual found to practicing without a license, but it could also be assessed against that individuals client if they hired an person to do engineering or land surveying services knowing that that individual was not an Engineer or Land Surveyor (for additional information see 542B.27).

Professional engineer: The term professional engineer as used in the Code means a person, who by reason of the persons knowledge of mathematics, the physical sciences, and the principles of engineering, acquired by professional education or practical experience, is qualified to engage in the practice of engineering.

So am I a Licensed Professional Engineer, or a Registered Professional Engineer?

Prior to 1996 engineers in Iowa were referred to as Registered Professional Engineers. In 1996 the law was changed to refer to Professional Engineers as Licensed Professional Engineers.

Likewise, the term Engineer in Training was changed to Engineer Intern at that same time.

What if someone is practicing engineering but they are not a licensed professional engineer?

In 1996 the engineering law was expanded to give the State Licensing Board to assess civil penalties against unlicensed individuals found to be practicing or offering to practice professional engineer or land surveying services (see the definition of the practice of engineering).