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Frequently Asked Questions: Public/Students

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What is Professional Engineer Ontario?
What is the practice of professional engineering?
Who can practice professional engineering?
Do you need to be licensed to work in the field of engineering in Ontario?
Why employ a professional engineer (P.Eng.)?
How do I engage a professional engineer?
How can I be sure that someone is a professional engineer?
What is the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE)?
Does the iron ring make me an engineer?


What is Professional Engineers Ontario?

Professional Engineers Ontario, or PEO, is the regulatory body that licenses professional engineers in Ontario. PEO sets standards for and regulates the practice of professional engineering in the province.

Under the Professional Engineers Act, PEO has the mandate to serve and protect the public interest where the practice of engineering is concerned. PEO enforces compliance with the Act so that only those with a licence may practice engineering or advertise their engineering services. The association also disciplines engineers and companies that fail to maintain the profession’s standards.

Professional Engineers Ontario fulfills the same role the College of Physicians and Surgeons does for physicians and the Law Society of Upper Canada for lawyers.

What is the practice of professional engineering?

The practice of professional engineering is defined in section 1 of the Professional Engineers Act and comprises three tests. Professional engineering is:

  1. any act of designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising, or the managing of any of these acts
  2. wherein the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment is concerned, and
  3. that requires the application of engineering principles.

If what you do meets all three tests, you are practising professional engineering and must be licensed by the association.

The definition applies to all situations where this particular combination of intellectual activity, societal protection and methodology exists regardless of whether the position is in industry, government or consulting.

Who can practice professional engineering?

In most situations only a professional engineer can practice professional engineering in Ontario. According to the Act "professional engineer" means a person who is granted a licence or a temporary licence by Professional Engineers Ontario. PEO can also issue a limited licence to an individual who, as a result of 10 or more years of specialized experience, has developed competence in a clearly defined area of professional engineering. Holders of limited licences are able to practice only within a narrowly defined area of professional engineering. Unlicenced individuals, such as technologists and technicians, are able to do any of the tasks normally reserved for professional engineers only if they are working under the supervision of a P.Eng.

Do you need to be licensed to work in the field of engineering in Ontario?

As with medicine and law, you require a licence to do certain engineering work within the province of Ontario. However, not everyone working in engineering requires a licence. Whether you require a licence depends on the type of engineering work you are doing, and the level of responsibility you have. The ability to practise engineering in Ontario is regulated by the Ontario Professional Engineers Act and its regulations, which outline who requires a licence, how to obtain a licence, and when a licence may be revoked. The Act is administered by Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), a self-governing organization that grants licences to qualified individuals, disciplines licence holders who are found guilty of incompetence or misconduct, and enforces compliance with the licensing requirements of the Act. You require a licence if:

  • Your work requires you to design, compose, evaluate, advise, report, direct or supervise and
  • The work will safeguard life, health, property or the public welfare and
  • The work requires the application of engineering principles.

You are not required to be licensed if, for example:

Your work is strictly related to research, testing, or inspection; or

  • There is no risk to life, health, property or the public welfare if your work is performed incorrectly; or
  • The work is strictly scientific in nature.
  • There are also other exceptions to licensure in the Act:

You do not need to be licensed to do professional engineering if a licensed Ontario professional engineer takes responsibility for your work.

You do not need a licence to design tools and dies.

Any question regarding the need for a licence in a particular situation should be directed to PEO at enforcement@peo.on.ca.

Why employ a professional engineer (P.Eng.)?

Professional engineers are:

  • well educated, especially in applied sciences;
  • tested by their peers before they are licensed;
  • required to have at least five years of experience after graduation (a total of at least nine years of education and experience) before providing services directly to the public;
  • policed by their peers;
  • prepared to apply the best, up-to-date technology in an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective way to benefit society's evolving needs;
  • responsible for safeguarding life, health and public welfare; and
  • qualified to design and supervise the creation of many things today's society needs at work, rest and play.

Certain work must be completed or approved by a professional engineer, for example, engineering drawings, which require sign-off.

Ultimate responsibility for engineering work requires a professional engineer. While research, testing and drawing may be delegated to others, only the professional engineer can take responsibility for engineering work that affects public health and safety.

Professional engineers are qualified practitioners who can help you:

  • turn your ideas and concepts into successful working projects/products/services;
  • reduce your costs and save money;
  • protect the environment and public safety;
  • maximize productivity and opportunities; and
  • overcome or minimize limitations.

They can help you to incorporate your ideas into something of real value in the real world.

How do I engage a professional engineer (P.Eng.)?

Engineers may be engaged as consultants or as employees.

PEO's Guideline for the Selection of Engineering Services offers selection processes that can be used when choosing a professional engineer. The term "Consultant," or "Consulting Engineer," applied in connection with providing professional engineering services, requires that the person using the term be authorized to do so by PEO. 

When hiring an employee engineer, the employer may find the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) Employer Salary Survey helpful. In addition to listing salaries by field of specialization, year of graduation and type of work, the surveys also provide details about other forms of compensation and about benefits.

The March/April 2001 issue of Engineering Dimensions was also devoted to this subject.

How can I be sure that someone is a professional engineer?

You can search for all licence holders, holders of the certificate of authorization and consulting engineers using PEO's directory.

If you have concerns about either the work of an engineer, or suspect that a person or a company is practicing engineering and may not be licensed, you can contact PEO's Enforcement Hotline at: 416-224-9528 ext.1444 or 1-800-339-3716 ext. 1444.

What is the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE)?

The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) is a member-interest advocacy body whose mandate is to advance the professional and economic interests of professional engineers in Ontario, and to look after non-regulatory matters for the profession. OSPE was created as a legal entity in April 2000 with the support of PEO and the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, the arm of government with the responsibility for regulating engineering in this province.

OSPE seeks to:

  • advance the professional and economic interests of professional engineers;
  • raise awareness of the role of professional engineers;
  • enhance the profession’s image;
  • and act as a strong voice on behalf of professional engineers in Ontario.

You can find our more about OSPE on their website.

Does the iron ring make me an engineer?

No. Upon graduation, you may call yourself an engineering graduate, not an engineer.

The iron ring is associated with the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and is administered to engineering students upon graduation at an Obligation Ceremony. PEO does not have any affiliation with the iron ring. You can find out more about the iron ring and how to obtain one by visiting www.ironring.ca.