What is Consulting Engineering?

Consulting engineers offer professional engineering services and expertise to both public and private sector organizations. Consulting engineers also act as independent agents and advocates for their clients, and are responsible for finding innovative solutions to technical problems and provide strategic advice to business and management. In Canada, these licenced professionals offer a wide array of services and expertise in areas not only related to engineering and science, but also in economic sectors such as energy, resource development, environmental protection, and manufacturing. Firms that specialize in consulting engineering are responsible for designing and building much of our public infrastructure. The solutions and services that consulting engineers provide include:

  • pre-feasibility and investment studies
  • social-impact and environmental-impact studies
  • preliminary and final designs for construction or engineering work
  • supervision and inspection of construction work, including on-site project management
  • technical assistance and advice
  • asset-management studies.


Consulting Engineering Companies

Consulting engineering services are usually offered by companies, though some are also offered by sole practitioners. Most firms in the industry are privately owned enterprises, operating at the community level and employing only a few dozen people; a smaller number are large integrated firms, with over a thousand employees nationally, that provide a wider range of services.

Engineers in consulting companies come from virtually every discipline and specialty, and they usually work in teams within their firms. Their roles may range from purely scientific or technical, to coordinating or managerial, or any combination-depending on the type and size of the client's project. In many cases, consulting engineers will be responsible for coordinating the efforts and activities of team members: other disciplines and professions that work in the field include natural scientists, technologists, planners, surveyors, architects, ecologists, geoscientists, archaeologists, economists, construction specialists, property negotiators, and a range of other specialties-whatever is needed to deliver the project services most effectively. Others engineers may specialize entirely in their own sphere of expertise.

More than 100,000 Canadians owe their livelihood to the business of consulting engineering. The gross revenues of such firms contribute upwards of $28 billion to the Canadian economy every year. The industry boasts an increasing number of small, medium and large firms that are able to compete successfully at the international level: Canada is now the second-largest exporter of engineering services in the world.


The Regulation of Engineering

Engineering is a regulated profession in Canada, and engineers working in both the public and private sectors require a licence to practice. Professional engineers are held to a high standard of conduct and expertise, and are required to regard the public interest as paramount. For more information on the licensing of engineers and the regulation of the profession, visit the Engineers Canada website.

For further information on the services provided by individual ACEC firms, visit the ACEC Directory


Choosing an Engineering Firm

What is the best way to procure engineering services for an infrastructure project? Leaders in the public sector, such as provincial governments, municipalities and public utilities now have the answer. The National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure (InfraGuide) released a Best Practice for Selecting a Professional Consultant. This Best Practice promotes the principles of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) rather than price-based selection as the best method for selecting professional engineers and other consultants.

Visit the ACEC Directory

For more information on QBS, visit the Advocacy section of our website.