Contributions to this chapter were made by David Siegel, National Society of Professional Engineers.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a consultant is defined as “one who gives expert advice.” Historically, engineers have been sought as consultants for projects ranging from the ancient pyramids in Egypt to the Panama Canal, from the space shuttle to everyday consumer products such as cell phones and laptop computers and software that runs major corporations. Today, business, industry, and government all seek engineering consultants to solve problems related to competitiveness, efficiency, environmental life cycles and high-rise construction. As in the past, the expertise of engineers is needed to address and solve today’s human and technological challenges. Engineering consultants are often the most efficient and economical professionals to address myriad issues including the reclamation of the environment, the design or redesign of various products and processes, the restoration and improvement of transportation systems, and manufacturing competitiveness.
Consulting engineers work in a wide range of areas, and their success is usually very dependent on both the technical and the entrepreneurial skills of the individual engineer. In the past, many engineers did not consider a career in consulting until they had several years of experience in some relevant type of work. Today, however, consulting engineering companies are frequent recruiters in college career services offices. Because of the long hours and heavy travel demands, these organizations find that entry-level engineers can perform the basic support functions that senior consultants need in today’s complex economy. Consulting offers the opportunity to work with highly intelligent colleagues and to experience a number of different challenges for a wide variety of clients.