Getting Licensed in Québec

I wasn’t sure whether I should write about this, since I’m concerned it may be seen unfavorably by the powers that be, but I’m simply stating the facts and my thoughts.

I began the process of becoming a licensed engineer here in Quebec about six years ago. I had recently gotten my license in the state of Illinois and figured through reciprocity it would not be that difficult. At the time I learned that even if my application were accepted, that I would need to have been a permanent resident in order to get my license. Since my permanent residency was in the works and it might take a while, there was no urgency.

A few months after I sent in my application, I received a response from the Order of Engineers that they require additional information and a test to measure my proficiency in French. The additional information included letters of recommendation, certified copies of my degrees, and course descriptions. Admittedly I took my time assembling these, especially the course descriptions since I almost didn’t believe they would be available since I graduated ten years earlier. Eventually I found most of the descriptions online and I sent in the required info. I also took the free French exam.

I passed the oral and interview parts of the French exam, but did not pass the written. It was my weak point at the time, but has made significant improvement since. A few months after I sent in the additional information, I received a letter requesting that the course descriptions come directly from the university. Over several months I called at least four times with my contact at the licensing board leaving messages requesting clarification, but was never called back. But at this point I was also starting to get worried that my education would not be accepted and that I would need to go back to school for many years of night classes. One thing that is tricky about my situation is that I do not have a degree in engineering. I took structural engineering classes in the Master of Architecture program at Illinois. The licensing board of Illinois recognizes that the program prepares applicants sufficiently to take the structural engineers exam, but the program is not well known outside the state. I worried again that not having a degree in engineering would be a problem. Finally I called up the university and they provided me with the transcripts. They did not have all my classes, but I still have my class notes (believe it or not) and some of the missing classes had class summaries that were given out on the first day of class. The letter also asked to enter each class into a table of areas of study for which they apply. I again was concerned about my chances at getting a license since the tables were slanted toward civil engineering (as opposed to structural engineering) with topics like fluid mechanics and circuitry. There were quite a few blanks in that table, but my office was pressing to get my license, so I sent it in.

A couple months ago, I received the final letter. They had rejected my application. When I called to get more information they told me that my education was missing in too many areas of study. They require that a maximum of 9 areas of study are questionable and I have 11. In order for my application to be accepted, I would need to fill two of those 11 areas of study by taking classes. If my application is accepted after that I would need to take exams in the remaining topics to determine my proficiency. If proficiency is not proven on those tests, I would need to take classes in each not passed. While I tend to be good at tests and could probably study enough for some of the tests, these are mostly topics that I have not encountered either at school or work since they apply to civil engineering and not structural or building engineering. It could potentially be a very very long haul with years of night classes. It has been difficult to accept since I have already gone through the route of becoming an engineer and have practiced as one. It could potentially be starting over almost from scratch. That has been tough to accept.

When I first called to ask about the letter and what would need to be done for my application to be accepted, I learned more difficult news. First I was told that there is regulation currently underway to outright deny any application with a degree not approved by the licensing board. I was told that this regulation will likely be passed shortly and could basically shut the door on my chances before I could complete a couple classes. I would then have to start from scratch and get a Bachelors of Engineering in Quebec. The other difficult news was that the fees for application have tripled to over a grand. Though that paled in comparison to starting over. Despite all this bad news, I had finally gotten a hold of someone at the licensing board who answered the phone and explained what was needed. In fact they have been very patient and helpful in discussing some other options.

I called a second time to get some more information about the areas of study required and I was told of more options. I found out that the regulation to disallow certain degrees was not imminent and has been in limbo for quite some time. It was also suggested to check on getting licensed in Ontario. They do have an option to be licensed in building engineering (more similar to structural engineering than civil engineering) and some of the credits gained while pursuing the license in Ontario could transfer for my application in Quebec. There is also talk of building engineering being adopted in Quebec. So there is still a long road ahead, but it did not seem as bleak as it did.

That said, I understand that there are education requirements, but I keep coming back to one thing. I have a license in one of the more difficult jurisdictions in North America. Why is no consideration given to that? I have been working in structural engineering for 12 years and have worked on skyscrapers, stadiums, and structures in steel, concrete, wood, masonry, aluminum, and even glass. Why is this overlooked? I have been highly regarded where I work both in Chicago and Montreal because I have proficiency in so many materials and experience in projects large and small. In regards to my education, one of my students when I was a teaching assistant was the project manager on the worlds tallest building, the Burj Khalif. Others with my exact education have designed other notable large (and small) buildings all over the world. Again I understand the education requirements and I don’t feel I am entitled to a license without any proof of proficiency. I’m just surprised that I’m not even given the chance to take the tests to prove my proficiency.

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~ by Frank on May 9, 2010.

11 Responses to “Getting Licensed in Québec”

  1. Frank, best of luck! I hope this long road to licensure brings you finally to a happy resolution! I enjoy your postings, ventings, and hope that you do not become too discouraged! The best things come to those who wait…

  2. Frank, that’s got to be frustrating, best of luck. So difficult to wade through bureaucratic red tape in the best of circumstances, especially when the “answer” keeps changing.

  3. Professional Engineers Ontario is much friendlier. I’m licensed as an engineer in Ontario despite having a science degree (from McGill, actually). There’s also supposed to be something for transferring to Quebec once you are licensed by PEO (although it might take a few years before you can do it). If you want more info about PEO, mail me.

  4. Best of luck, Frank. It sounds like you’ve been dealing with Bureaucratic Hell. Ugh. Hang in there.

  5. I faced the same kind of BS for teaching. They want me to start from scratch and get a Bachelor’s here in order to teach in the public school system. I think it’s protectionist. But I’ve found a way to practice the craft nonetheless.

  6. Thanks everyone for the well wishes. It has been tough news and I know the road ahead will be tough.

    plam: Yes, actually my current plan is to try in Ontario. The available literature they provide goes to great lengths to explain the process and all the possible roads toward gaining licensure. Quebec told me just to send in the application and they would advise me what they need at a later date. That method has drawn out the process and left me unsure of what the path would be and how long it would take. I find it ridiculous that you were not able to gain licensure with a degree from McGill. In much the same way that a couple of my core math classes from the University of Illinois were rejected.

    tornwordo: Yes, there are some aspects that seemed geared toward protectionism. This is quite a major roadblock so I’ve been weighing all of my options.

  7. First of all, I’m sorry for the trouble you’re having. But, second, from one American living in Montreal to another, hasn’t this been your experience in virtually every area of Quebec? I had to fight to get a stupid driver’s license, for the love of God.

  8. As a Swede who moved to Quebec about a year ago I am astonished at the bureaucracy that I encounter in almost all areas of society, not only in contacts with authorities but also in the private sector, like banking. Almost Kafka-esque at times. Good luck to you!

  9. I found your post via my boyfriend who read it in his google reader suggested stories feed. As a licensed Engineer in Quebec with a degree in Building Engineering (from Concordia), I find it ridiculous that they are telling you that Building Engineering may soon be accepted. I understand that they want to check all your studies, etc, but to tell you that Building Engineering is not recognized is very strange.

    Best of luck with the Ontario certification. You are not the first person I have heard of to go that route, usually because of the language requirement, but in your case it sounds like they will be much more understanding as to your degree.

  10. Dave: I actually haven’t had that much trouble in other areas. That may be why I find this difficult.

    Aretruntparadiset: I’ve noticed how the government seems to have a hand in everything. Though as long as there is now corruption, I have less of a problem with it. I’m more concerned about corruption by independant businesses.

    Thanks, Amanda. The process has been disheartening since I’ve done it once already. We’ll see what Ontario says.

  11. […] at work. It all came to a head when I received the letter from the licensing board that my application to become a licensed engineer was rejected. For a few months after that I did some soul searching. While it was possible to complete a couple […]

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