Napkin Diagrams

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Tag Archives: P.E.

The Professional Engineer License: What is it and why would you want one?

Engineering, like many other professions, has a registration and licensing system in place. This is to ensure that certain standards and regulations are met. Safety and quality would be difficult to maintain if under-qualified people were engineering all willy-nilly, except in the case of a British dystopia, when rogue heating engineers are needed to fight the oppression.

Not all engineers need to obtain a professional engineer’s (P.E.) licence, and in fact, many aren’t. One can get by without it, working under a P.E, however career growth and abilities will be limited. A P.E. is required for such things as signing off on designs, dealing with government contracts, and running a firm or freelancing. In addition to the direct benefits, the licence will open up career opportunities, allow for further progress up the business ladder, garner a higher salary, and further set one apart from one’s peers. Therefore, in industry, it is a very good thing to have.

The process to achieve this status is long and difficult. The generall path is:

  1. Graduate from an ABET accredited college or university and obtain a B.S. in engineering.
  2. Pass the Fundamentals Exam, sometimes known as the Engineer-In-Training exam
  3. Work for several years under the supervision of a P.E.
  4. Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam of the desired field

The first time pass rates for the F.E. and P.E. are around 75% (source), but it is not uncommon for a hopeful to take either multiple times to succeed. Exams are held twice a year — mid-April and mid October.

In the United States, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) oversees all of this. Each state, however, handles their own certification, which brings up two issues. The first is that, while some states will except licences obtained in others, a licence is generally valid only in one particular state. If a P.E. moves, he will need to get re-licensed in the new state. The other problem is that some states have more confusing websites and applications than others. The New Jersey F.E. application in particular will be discussed in a later post.

Do you have your P.E. licence? What were the deciding factors in getting it (or not)? Tell us in the comments!