- In general, what are the requirements for licensure as a professional engineer?
- Who accredits the engineering progam?
- Who prepares the licensure examination?
- When can I take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination?
- What happens if I pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam?
- When can I take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examination and what does it mean when I pass it?
- Are there other ways of qualifying to take the examination other than through an approved engineering degree?
- Who would pass upon my application to determine if I meet the necessary requirements?
- Why is an examination required if I already have a degree?
- Is licensure good only in the state granting the license, or is it recognized elsewhere?
- What is the attitude of employers toward engineering licensure?
- How and where can I prepare for the examinations?
- How much will licensure cost me?
How do I go about it?
In general, what are the requirements for licensure as a professional engineer?
The language and specific provisions of state engineering licensure laws vary from state to state, but virtually every state law outlines a four-step process under which an applicant who has (1) a four-year engineering degree in a program approved by the state engineering licensure board, (2) four years of qualifying engineering experience, and who successfully completes (3) the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination, and (4) the eight- hour Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examination will be licensed as a professional engineer.
Who accredits the engineering progam?
State licensing boards typically approve engineering programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), and the Canadian Accreditation Board (CAD), but may approve others as having equal standing. State board approval of an engineering educational program is often based on ABET accreditation.
Who prepares the licensure examination?
The two written examinations are prepared by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). All states use the examinations prepared by the NCEES.
When can I take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination?
Almost all states now permit engineering graduates to take the first part of the exam covering the fundamentals of engineering at the time of or several months before graduation from an engineering curriculum approved by the state board. A few states permit individuals without degrees who have four or more years of engineering experience to take the fundamentals of engineering examination. However, the number of states permitting non-degreed individuals to take the FE examination is dwindling.
What happens if I pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam?
Passing this exam legally certifies the candidate as an "engineer in training" (EIT), or an "engineer intern" (EI).
When can I take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examination and what does it mean when I pass it?
Generally four more years of experience are required before the EIT or EI is permitted to sit for the PE exam. Passing the PE exam qualifies the candidate as a licensed professional engineer.
Are there other ways of qualifying to take the examination other than through an approved engineering degree?
Each state has a different method of weighing unapproved engineering study, four-year engineering technology programs, four-year study in a science related to engineering, graduate study in engineering, the teaching of engineering, and engineering experience. In addition, each state has its own rule regarding licensure through long-established practice, licensure by eminence, and licensure without examination. You should consult each state's rules for its individual requirements.
Who would pass upon my application to determine if I meet the necessary requirements?
Each application for licensure is evaluated by the state engineering licensure board. The state statutes set forth the basic requirements for licensure and delegates to the board the authority to determine if the applicant meets the established requirements. In those states having a rule which permits licensure through long-established practice, by eminence, or without examination, the state board also determines from the application and interview whether or not the applicant must take an examination -- either both parts or only the principles and practice portion. Engineering licensure boards are composed of licensed professional engineers with proven ability and experience. Thus, applicants are assured that members of the profession evaluate their qualifications, rather than individuals unfamiliar with engineering activities. Some states also have lay members on their licensure boards, but these public members generally do not participate in evaluation activities.
Why is an examination required if I already have a degree?
It has generally been recognized that a degree in and of itself may not be sufficient to demonstrate the desired level of professional competency. There are fundamental differences between success in a formal education program and the ability to practice a profession involving the public health, safety, and welfare. This distinction has been recognized and accepted by the other professions, such as law and medicine, which also require examinations for a state license to practice. A licensure examination tests more than technical knowledge, although that is a large part of it. It also involves an understanding of ethics, professional concepts, and the application of principles to practice. Finally, an examination prescribes the same standard for all, regardless of educational background, extent of schooling, and experience.
Is licensure good only in the state granting the license, or is it recognized elsewhere?
A professional engineer must meet the engineering licensure requirements in each state in which the professional engineer seeks to practice. Practically all states, however, provide for licensure by comity if a professional engineer is already licensed in another state, with requirements at least equal to the those in the state in which licensure is being sought. As a general rule, a professional engineer who has (1) an approved four-year engineering degree, (2) four years of qualifying engineering experience, and who successfully completes (3) the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination and (4) the eight-hour Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examination will be able to get licensed in virtually every state without difficulty.
What is the attitude of employers toward engineering licensure?
There is probably no employer of engineers today who wouldn't like to have all qualified engineering employees become licensed. Engineering licensure constitutes an integral part of the program of professional development of many companies; so much so, in fact, that many progressive companies have specific policies encouraging licensure and providing concrete assistance to engineers taking their first steps toward licensure. Examples of such assistance being offered by several employers include making available information on licensure requirements and procedures; assistance in the preparing and filing of application forms; payment by the company of the required fees; and sponsorship of review courses.
How and where can I prepare for the examinations?
Many firms, as part of their programs of assistance to engineers seeking licensure, sponsor comprehensive review courses on basic engineering subjects. In addition, many local chapters of the state societies of professional engineers sponsor review courses several times a year, and some engineering schools also provide assistance along these lines. NSPE also sponsors an excellent PE Review Refresher Correspondence Course. Also, ask your employer or local NSPE chapter when and where the next review course will be held.
How much will licensure cost me?
You should check with your state board for the exact fees which vary from state to state. Usually the applicant must pay an initial fee which is submitted with the exam application and an additional fee upon successful completion of the licensure procedure. For EI or EIT certification, the total fee is generally anywhere between $10 and $100, depending upon the state. There is a nominal annual renewal fee which varies according to the state in which you are licensed. The value of licensure can't be computed on a dollar and cents basis. The greatest value of licensure is intrinsic -- that sense of pride, confidence, and achievement which comes with admission into a legally recognized profession.
How do I go about it?
The procedures for obtaining licensure are not complex. If your employer has an assistance program, you can probably get helpful information on requirements, application forms, and preparation for the examination. However, the most accurate and complete source of information regarding licensure is your state engineering licensure board. You should be aware that most states require that applications be submitted well in advance of, the April and October test dates. NSPE publishes a complete list of the state engineering licensure boards, which includes all boards' addresses, telephone numbers, and individuals to contact. Finally, NSPE's state-by-state summary of the requirements for engineering licensure mentioned earlier is an excellent source of information concerning the rules and procedures for obtaining licensure. Remember, it won't ever get easier to become licensed than it is now. State requirements will get more stringent and the time lapse between getting your degree and taking the exam will grow. So don't hesitate; don't delay; pursue licensure now!