The four U.S. groups representing the interests of about 40,000 structural engineers have formed a coalition to promote structural-engineer licensing—a somewhat controversial subject among professional engineers. To date, 11 states have some form of SE licensing, which the structural groups maintain is critical for public safety.

"It is very important for us to really speak with one unified voice on the issue," said Sam A. Rihani, the 2013 president of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Structural Engineering Institute (SEI), at the group's 2013 Structures Congress, held on May 2-4 in Pittsburgh and attended by more than 1,000 structural engineers. "There is a lot of work for us to do, but we have set a foundation," added Rihani, principal of the Reston, Va., firm that bears his name.

SEI initiated the idea of the Structural Engineers Licensure Coalition (SELC) and invited three groups to join the cause: the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA), the American Council of Engineering Companies' Council of American Structural Engineers (CASE) and the Structural Engineering Certification Board (SECB).

The coalition represents a first for the groups. Until recently, the two main structural groups—SEI and NCSEA—did not agree on many issues. But as the leadership of the groups has changed, many turf battles have disappeared.

"One stitch at a time, we are bringing things back together, while the four structural organizations maintain their integrity," said Stan R. Caldwell, a structural consultant in Plano, Texas, who is a member of the SEI and SECB boards.

SE licensure is against the policy of the National Society of Professional Engineers, which has long maintained there should be only one professional engineering license. NSPE's position is that it is the responsibility of each engineer to practice within his or her area of competence and expertise, says Craig Musselman, president of Portsmouth, N.H.-based CMA Engineers and chairman of NSPE's licensure and qualifications-for-practice committee.

"Hopefully, the coalition will help stop the fighting between NSPE and SEs," said Gregg E. Brandow, professor of engineering practice at University of Southern California, a principal of consulting engineer Brandow & Nastar, Los Angeles, and the coalition organizer as chairman of SEI's professional activities committee.

Brandow hopes to convince the national council of state licensing boards to convene a task force on SE licensure. But Patty Mamola, president-elect of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, says that is not likely this year due to lack of NCEES member support. "We've begun the dialogue, which is important," she says.