Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1957 No. 144 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


(1) An engineer or engineers not registered to practice within this state may practice engineering in conducting a feasibility study.  (2) An engineer or engineers not registered may not conduct supervisory engineering during construction, with qualifications.  (3) A partnership in which the partners are engineers is a proper organization through which to practice the profession of engineering.

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                                                               December 20, 1957

Washington Toll Bridge Authority
Transportation Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 144

Attention:  Mr. D. B. Hedges, Executive Secretary


            By letter dated September 11, 1957, you requested our opinion upon the following question.

            May a foreign firm or partnership of engineers, the members of which may or may not be registered to practice within this state, perform certain engineering services in this state?

            It is our understanding that you are contemplating entering into a contract with foreign firms of engineers for services consisting generally of (1) a feasibility study, and (2) supervisory engineering during construction.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The answer to your question is as follows:

            (1) An engineer or engineers not registered to practice within this state may practice engineering in this state in conducting a feasibility study.

            (2) An engineer or engineers who are not registered may not conduct supervisory engineering during construction, except as hereinafter qualified.


            Chapter 18.43 RCW, known as the "Professional Engineers Registration Act," provides for the registration of both engineers and land surveyors.

            RCW 18.43.010 contains a declaration of public policy and provides that:

            ". . . it shall be unlawful for any person to practice or to offer to practice in this state, engineering or land surveying, as defined in the provisions of this chapter, or to use in connection with his name or otherwise assume, use, or advertise any title or description tending to convey the impression that he is a professional engineer or a land surveyor, unless such a person has been duly registered under the provisions of this chapter."

            RCW 18.43.020 defines the terms used in the act and specifically the following pertinent definitions:

            "The term 'engineer' or 'professional engineer' as used in this chapter, means a person who, by reason of his special knowledge of the mathematical and physical sciences and the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design, acquired by professional education and practical experience, is qualified to practice engineering as hereinafter defined, as attested by his legal registration as a professional engineer.

            ". . .

            "The term 'engineering' means the 'practice of engineering' as hereinafter defined.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "The term 'practice of engineering' means any professional service or creative work requiring engineering education, training, and experience and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences to such professional services or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design, and supervision of construction for the purpose of assuring compliance with specifications and design, in connection with any public or private utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, works, or projects."

            The section which excepts certain services from the coverage of the act is RCW 18.43.130, which reads in part as follows:

            "This chapter shall not be construed to prevent or affect:

            "(2) The practice of a person not a resident and having no established place of business in this state, practicing or offering to practice herein the profession of engineering or land surveying, when such practice does not exceed in the aggregate thirty days in any calendar year:  Provided, That such person is legally qualified by registration to practice said profession in his own state or country in which the requirements and qualifications for obtaining a certificate of registration are not lower than those specified in this chapter.

            "(4) The work of an employee or a subordinate of a person holding a certificate of registration under this chapter or an employee of a person practicing lawfully under provisions of this section:  Provided, That such work does not include final design or decisions and is done under the direct responsibility, checking and supervision of a person holding a certificate of registration, or a person practicing lawfully under the provisions of this section.

            "(7) Nonresident engineers employed for the purpose of making engineering examinations."

            One of the cardinal principles of statutory construction is that the language of a statute must be given such construction as will render it purposeful and effective, rather than futile and meaningless.  Denning v. Quist, 172 Wash. 83, 19 P. (2d) 656.  Since residence within the state is not a prerequisite to registration in referring to nonresident engineers, the legislature obviously  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] intended to exclude from coverage of the act engineers qualified elsewhere but not registered in this state, since any other interpretation would render this section meaningless.  (See RCW 18.43.040)

            Under subsection (7) cited above, a nonresident engineer need not be registered to practice within this state if he is employed to conduct an engineering examination.  The word "examination" has been defined as "an investigation, or search," while the word "examine" has been said to mean:

            "To inspect or survey carefully; look into the state of; scrutinize and compare the parts of; view or observe in all aspects and relations, with the purpose of forming a correct opinion or judgment. . . ." 32 C.J.S., page 1147.

            A study to determine the feasibility of a proposed project from an engineering viewpoint falls within subsection (7) as an excepted service by simple comparison of the terms "engineering examination" and "feasibility study."  In construing a statute, its words must be given their plain and ordinary meaning.  Electrical Products Consolidated v. Smyser, 19 Wn. (2d) 509, 143 P. (2d) 452.  "Feasible" is defined in 35 C.J.S., page 758, as meaning:

            "Capable of being done, executed, or effected; capable of being managed, utilized, or dealt with successfully; hence practically possible; capable of being successfully done or accomplished. . . ."

            However, in order to conduct the necessary acts constituting the practice of engineering in supervising construction the engineer or engineers must be registered to practice within this state, or else fall within one of the other categories of excepted services, the appropriate sections of which we have set out above.

            Since RCW 18.43.010 states that it is unlawful to practice engineering within this state unless properly registered, the state should contract only with those foreign engineering firms or partnerships that can legally perform the intended services.

            The conclusions reached herein are not inconsistent with an opinion issued  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] on May 10, 1955, to Senator Nat W. Washington (AGO 55-57 No. 73) inasmuch as that opinion did not cover any of the "excepted services" set out in RCW 18.43.130.

            We trust this opinion will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General