The 80% Myth in the Engineering Profession

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of and should not be attributable to the National Society of Professional Engineers.

There are two axioms that are often cited regarding the engineering profession. One is that only about 20% of those who graduate with a B.S. in engineering in the U.S. go on to become licensed professional engineers. This one is true. The second, and a corollary to the first, is that 80% of engineering graduates work in industry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In round numbers (all the numbers in this piece are very “round numbers”—don’t pick apart the numbers, think about the concepts), there are roughly 450,000 licensed professional engineers in the United States. The data aren’t precise, and the estimate varies a little from year to year, but this is in the ballpark. The American Society for Engineering Education indicates that about 74,000 baccalaureate degrees in engineering and computer science were issued in the United States in 2009. If one assumes a career length of 30 years and a constant number of graduates (neither of which are necessarily true, but these are round numbers), that would yield an estimated 2.2 million graduate engineers between licensure age and retirement in the U.S. Dividing the number of PEs by the estimated number of graduate engineers of working age in the U.S. yields a ratio of about 0.20, or 20%. Thus, the 20% axiom is approximately true.

Here’s the deal, though, with the other 80%. They don’t all work in industry; it isn’t even close. Of the 80%, consider the following:
1. Those who fail the FE exam: About 50,000 engineering students take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam each year, and the pass rate is typically in the low 80s as a percentage. This means that 8,000-10,000 examinees per year fail the FE exam (about 12% of total engineering graduates). Some retake the FE exam; many don’t. Do you think that the engineers who fail the FE exam flock to industry? Some probably do wind up working in industry. But the percentage likely isn’t high.
2. Those who fail the PE exam: About 26,000 engineer interns take the PE exam every year, and the pass rate is typically in the low 60s as a percentage. Many who fail the PE exam retake it, but pass rates decline with each subsequent re-examination. This is another 8,000-9,000 examinees per year who fail the PE exam, some of whom subsequently pass upon re-examination. Do you think that engineers who fail the PE exam flock to industry? Probably not a high percentage. The vast majority of those who take the PE exam aren’t working in industry in the first place.
3. Engineers in government: The number of graduate engineers who work in federal, state, county, or local government and are not required to be licensed is significant.
4. Graduate engineers who go into other fields: The number of graduate engineers who go into management consulting, business, teaching, and any manner of other technical and nontechnical fields is very significant. The B.S. in engineering is a common starting point for many different careers other than engineering.
5. Graduate engineers who don’t work: Many graduate engineers take long mid-career or permanent breaks from work to raise families, and for other reasons. At an ABET meeting a few years ago, a professor rose to say the following: “We don’t talk about this often, but I’ve been wondering whether the engineering profession is sufficiently ‘user-friendly’ for female engineers. I have been teaching for a long time, and of all the female engineering students I’ve taught in the past, there are more not working at this moment than are working.” This is a topic for another day, but it is not an insignificant issue. The engineering profession is not user-friendly for women or men with young families. It takes dedication and a whole lot of flexibility by all involved to make it work well in this regard.
6. Graduate engineers who are underemployed or unemployed: This can be for a variety of job-skill-related reasons, or health or personal reasons. This category isn’t insignificant either.

I don’t have enough data to fill in the numbers above, but I would guesstimate that the combined total of the six categories above is greater than the number of graduate engineers working in industry under the industrial exemption. Without question, 80% of graduate engineers DO NOT work in industry.

Read Part II of this post

Published September 13, 2010 by Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE

Filed under: Licensing, PE Exam, FE Exam,


Two comments:

1."Graduate engineers who are underemployed or unemployed: This can be for a variety of job-skill-related reasons, or health or personal reasons..."   Since the term "job-skill-related reasons" used by the author implies poor-job-skill, I find it to be rubbish and irresponsible. There are countless reasons  not 'poor-skill-related' that force an engi-neer to be without work for long time. Here is just one of them: "overqualified".  

2. The entire tone of the article extends undue importance of "licensing" of engineers as attestation of valid qualifications.

Having five decades of engineering practices on my back, I have seen no confirmation of such assumption.  

Friday, October 12, 2012 9:32 AM by Gerald Aksherian

This posting is very misleading. I've worked in non-license exempt areas of engineering for many years. The rank-and-file engineers don't need to be licensed as long as there is a senior engineer above them who is licensed.

Friday, October 12, 2012 11:54 AM by Edward Cankosyan

Almost all engineers I work with in industry (I'm in industry) I ask if they have taken the FE.  I would say about half of them have taken the FE and claim to have passed.  Almost no one claims to have taken the PE in industry.

Friday, December 21, 2012 12:02 PM by Jonn Nebbe, P.E.

I get my degree in my country ,I want to get a PE ,what I need to do and also I took some classes in a comunity college  may I tranfer.

thank you
Nelson A. Henriquez

Sunday, May 26, 2013 7:13 PM by nelson Henriquez

I'm a graduate BSEE and have worked in electrical design and power distribution equipment manufacturing industry for 25+ years without a PE license. I just recently passed my PE exam. Its never too late to get your license.

Thursday, May 30, 2013 1:02 PM by Bob Nimeth

How about all the non engineers working in the industry without certification. My degree is Applied Physics, I work in an engineering position, in which other people who share my same title are electrical engineers, Computer engineers, mechanical engineers, and computer scientists.

FE/PE is not required of me. We are all competent and do our jobs well. Why should people be required to spend more money to certify they know what their diploma says they already learned?

Ridiculous. Either require a certification or require a degree, don't waste peoples time with both.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 4:00 PM by Chris

i so much agree with you and i have passed the F.E but yet to take P.E. Why waste our time for a multi choice test that is curved!

Friday, June 24, 2016 3:04 PM by don

The article doesn't appear to be written by an engineer - there are so many assumptions in the six (6) considerations presented as to be meaningless with regard to proving the "80% in industry myth" as proposed by the author. Surely an engineer wouldn't base an entire commentary on such incomplete and speculative information.

As an example, many in governmental engineering positions ARE required to be licensed (I happen to be one of them and am also in industry).

Another gross assumption is that those who DO pass the PE ARE in industry - I know many PE's who are teaching; and further, many of the PE's I know are in management and are far removed from actual engineering.

I was an engineer who didn't take the PE test until more than 16 years after graduation, and yet performed a significant amount of engineering work during that time. As stated by others, just because a graduate engineer didn't take the EIT/FE/PE, or pass the EIT/FE/PE, doesn't actually mean that they are not involved in engineering and industry.

And just because you passed the EIT/FE/PE doesn't mean that you can functionally practice engineering. A graduate electrical engineer with a PE asked me how a (desktop) radio worked because it only had one (1) wire - and how can there be a complete circuit? I went into antenna theory, ground-planes, etc. - but that wasn't the lack of understanding - the lack of understanding is that there was "only one wire going to the wall". A graduate electrical engineer with a PE (working for an electrical utility) didn't understand that there is more than one (1)conductor under a common jacket - and had never noticed that there were two (2) to three (3) electrical connections on a typical electrical plug/outlet.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013 4:52 PM by Philip Cox, PE

Wow, the electrical engineer with a PE example is startling.  I would have to assume there is a small percentage that fall in that category.  I want to confirm the poster's point that "most" state and federal government do require a PE license.  That's who leads the way in this requirement, not private practice.  This would include contractors of federal and state, which are the exemption here as private sector performing public sector work.  For me particularly I am an electrical engineer.  As many of the other engineering disciplines electrical engineering has a lot of sub-domains and probably the most considering power systems, controls, electronics, and even electrical material composites (just to name a few).  My job as a systems designer with emphasis on integrated circuit design does not require a P.E.  Do I need and electrical engineering degree to perform my job, you betcha.  I have been out of college over 10 years now have worked in industry since day 1 of graduation.  I never took the FE or the PE.  I did some homework early on to understand the industry demand and application of the licensure and it just didn't fit my engineering objective.  It's only now that I have interest in private practice and possibly having a federally recognized RE (Responsible Engineer) role on FAA DO-254 certified projects where RE's look good on paper that have a PE.  Other than that it just appears to be a money racquet at the state level to maintain corporate revenue streams (business taxations inherited by the licensees).

Tuesday, February 03, 2015 11:55 AM by Dwayne Jackson

I sat for the FE in Oct 2012 (passed), then the PE in Apr 2013 (passed).  I took a study course for both tests; it was immensely beneficial!  My advice: get your PE license as fast as you can!  It will only get harder to fit in time to study as your life gets more and more complicated.  Good Luck!

Friday, February 05, 2016 4:50 PM by Ryan Beat

Hi Mr. Beat, I think you are absolutely right in your last comment. Please could you help me understant better the fact that ony year has passed between your FE and you PE exam, is it because you have already accumulated the experience required for Licensure or because PE exam can be taken before completing the experience for Licensure?  Have a great day, Regards.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 3:53 PM by Philippe-Alexandre Berube

I'm 59 years old, and finished my civil engineering degree five years ago.  I've worked for myself for four years and now I'm going to sit for my PE license.  Sure, you don't need a PE, if you have a job and aren't in any threat of losing it.  Is that you?  Please tell me the job in engineering where you work for someone else and have zero chance of losing your job.  The PE license gives you a stamp so you can stamp drawings and certify them.  You can't do that with just a BS in engineering.  If you are an employer, are you going to hire the guy with a BS or the guy with a BS and a PE?  If you are going to have your own business (as I do), the PE moves you to a much higher level, both in practicing engineering and in the money I'll be making.  You are right, just because you have a PE doesn't mean you can functionally practice engineering.  The same can be said of an engineer with 20 years experience with a BS degree.  I think those who don't think a PE is worth much, are the engineers who don't have it.  A PE shows a level of achievement that you don't have with a BS.  

Saturday, October 05, 2013 6:29 PM by Woody Wickliffe

Like you, I am now 59 and thinking what are the advantages of trying to get my PE now. Since I graduated in my mid 20s with a BEng Mechanical Engineering degree, I have worked as a mechanical engineer in the caribbean. I migrated to the US 15 years ago and I was employed as a mechanical engineer in a consulting company. Retirement may be a few years away, my nest egg isn't as big as it should be so I would need to continue working. What has been your experience both as far as studying again after such a long time away from school and the advantages you have observed after acquiring your PE?

Thursday, October 29, 2015 11:48 AM by Hubert

I never took the FE or PE exam and have worked my whole life as a mechanical engineer.  It has never been an issue for me.  I really doubt that those who don't pass are not able to get a job.  The few classmates of mine who never worked in engineering after obtaining their degree ended up doing much better than those who did.  They typically worked in finance, law or medicine and are all making over 250k/yr now without paying $400/yr in licensing fee to an entity that is basically acts as political lobbyists. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014 4:31 PM by Dr Jack

When I got my BSEE in 1981 I took a research job in an electronics company, one of several who courted me because I was a woman.  I soon heard an anecdote about the PE exam in my state.  A man in a powerful position didn't want to see a particular (or any) woman to get licensed so he got the rules changed to require a BSEE to take the test so that her combination of other BS and MSEE would not qualify her.  Add to this a description of the test as heavily covering topics that hadn't been in my undergraduate program and not covering electronics at all and I concluded the test was passé, out of the touch with modern times and run by a bunch of old bastards who wanted me to fail so there was no point in spending my time on it.  I did, however, get an MSEE which was much more valuable to my company.  I was the first woman there to be granted a patent at that company which grew to 150,000 employees and was very much a household name.  I have no idea if it is still legal to sabotage women who want to be PEs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:10 AM by S Phiilips

I am a woman, I have my bsee, msee and I passed the FE, I have failed the PE three times. The testing is terrible. There is no system of checks and balances for the exam. The exam had a 13% pass rate. 13% for degreed educated working engineers. It is a waste of talent. I do everything somebody with the license has. This exam makes it so the can discriminat against my minorty status as a black female engineer. The exam does not represent anything I do at work. There are no licensed electrical engineers anymore because the test has gotten so out of touch and the pass rates are so terrible. You spend money on classes, and the test for what? The test should be structured that 80% passes each time because it is better for industry. Why is the test multiple choice?? Let me design a system in my profession the way it used to be. I work, long hours, to be expected to take time away from family to study to have a 13% pass rate shows that the pe licensure is a self serving entity. It doesn't want to make the industry better.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 9:24 AM by z

I don't know which test you took, but here are the pass rates:
Also, I'm unsure how this exam discriminates against you.  I took the electrical and electronics exam and it is far from what I do at work (construction) and I passed.  All you have to do is study hard and you'll pass. 
I'm not sure why you think the test should let 80% pass.  They have a standard that needs to be met to pass and should not be lowered to cater to people who can't meet it. 
Your entire post is full of misinformation, inflammatory accusations and narcissism. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 3:01 PM by eeT

I know this article is old, but yeah, thought I'd throw my two cents in since people are still commenting in 2014.
I have my engineering degree from a top U.S. private school and had pretty good grades.  I passed the FE right out of college, then never was able to find a job in the field.  Of course, that meant I couldn't sit for the PE.
I see what the poster two above me (Woody Wickliffe) is saying and maybe I'm just feeding the stereotype, but people who hold the PE don't impress me at all.  Mainly because it's something any competent person should be able to do after their B.S. + passing fundamentals + working for a few years in the field.
I went to a good school, passed the FE with no problem (because I had a good education) and would have easily passed the PE had I found a job and eventually been able to sit for the exam.  So in my opinion, the PE is more of a testament to luck finding a job after college and simply not screwing it up than proficiency in an engineering dicipline.
I ended up working a bunch of dead-end minimum wage jobs for a few years after college while looking for any engineering job I could find since it was my dream since early high school to become an engineer.
Eventually, I gave up on that dream since I wasn't able to even get interviews.  I mean, why hire a guy who's been out of school for 4+ years and hasn't worked in industry when I could hire a fresh grad who has also passed their FE and had a recent internship.
Anyway, I started taking actuarial and CFA exams after I gave up on engineering.  I figured it was a way to not let my quantitative skills go to waste since the only time I used math was to calculate that I couldn't even pay the interest on my student loans with how much I was earning as a grocery stock person.
I have loads of friends who are in similar situations as me.  They all went to good schools (MIT, Cornell, Northwestern, U Miami, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, U Texas), all did well in school, and all weren't able to find jobs in engineering.  Granted, I have a few aquaintances who did find engineering gigs, but if I had to put a number on it, that 80% sounds about right, even though some of the authors assumptions are either flawed or falling in the "correlation is not necessarily causation" spectrum.
If I had to do it over again, instead of pursuing one of the more difficult majors and studying all the time to get good grades, I probably would have gone to a cheaper state school school, majored in business, and joined a frat to party + build a solid business network.

Thursday, July 10, 2014 7:59 AM by Brian

I am in a similar situation as you. Had good grades at university and when I graduated I couldn't find any job in the engineering field. After years of trying, I gave up altogether. I haven't worked in this field for a little more than 3 years, I never have worked period, and I can't work on my own either since I don't have that famous PE stamp. I mean as you said it, why hire a guy who hasn't found a job in the field when I can hire a fresh graduate. My first job interview was 1 year after I graduated. You can imagine this whole thing has led me to think that I will never be an engineer even though I have a BS. I am currently working in dead end jobs over the last three years but I have been working in similar jobs since I was a teenager. So, I haven't made much progress. In the end, looking back at the whole thing, I feel I was lied to by universities, teachers and colleagues. I just wished I can go back in time and start all over again and study something with more opportunities. Like you said, I would just get a business major and grow my network. I guess I am that 1% of people with a engineering degree who missed the boat. As for now, my skills are going wasted and returning back to school is a good idea. However I don't have the funds for it. I am still thinking what other field to study in and the only viable one I see is business.

Sunday, September 07, 2014 12:50 PM by Anonymous

I have worked in the electronics industry for roughly 30 years.  In all of that time I have never seen any position in any company I worked in or would likely work in, require a professional License.  All of the Hardware, FPGA, ASIC, Analog, Software, Firmware, Mechanical, Optical, Manufacturing Engineers working in our 'industry' do not need a license in order to have or keep a job, and it is irrellevant to our career potential.  I have a brother who is a Civil Engineer and I can understand the value of a professional license in his 'industry'.
Declaring 'Engineers' as though they are all the same type and 'industry' as though there is only one, seems to me is a narrow perspective.  When I was a Senior in Electrical Engineering, way back when, nobody mentioned the FE or even proposed the idea of becoming a Professional Engineer, with a license.  I did not even hear about it until many years later.  What we learned in school embraced a broad range of issues that only briefly touched on things that would directly relate to work that would require a PE License.
Additional fields of engineering I do not work with, that would normally not need a license to work:  Chemical Engineers, Mechanical engineers of the types that deal with complex moving parts.  Seems to me it is a narrow slice that would need a license.
Would be nice if there were better statistics on all this, broken down by discipline.

Monday, September 01, 2014 2:51 AM by Doug Gilligan

I am a 78 year old retired PE-Civil Engineer.  I had to stop working as a Consulting Engineer 15 years ago for health reasons.  Many of the comments above are interesting and accurate.  Your comment about Civil Engineering being a more logical field to require a PE is right on. Just as EE is a broad field with many sub parts, so is CE.  In fact, it is very broad, which was its major attraction to me.  In the very old long ago there were only two kinds of engineers:  Military Engineers and Civil Engineers.  Today, we have more engineering types than I can think of! Of course, the employment climate for me was very different than it is today.  Jobs were plentiful.
As a Consulting Engineer owning my own business, I hired many engineers.  I have to say that far too many "engineers" with their BS degrees  were woefully  unprepared to actually solve engineering problems.  They somehow slipped through the system undected.  For this reason alone, testing is needed.  I could hardy grasp how so many graduates could not even remember the importance of significant figures!  I had to spend much of my time educating these "engineers" in the fundamentals.  I don't know how it is today, but when I took the FE (Engineer in Training) exam in California, all would-be engineers, irrespective of discipline, took the exact same exam.  This should have leveled the playing field.
Much of Civil Engineering involves issues that could put the public in danger, and this is probably why we have today the requirement that certain work be done under the supervision of a PE.
By the way, I do not have a degree of any kind (which I have always regretted).  I have nevertheless been Chief Engineer for a 50-engineer consulting office and owner of my own consulting engineering business.  I passed the PE exam concentrating on Structural and Hydraulic Engineering.  I have had the pleasure of designing bridges, bleachers, freeways, river relocations, reinforced concrete buildings, and many unique facilities.  I would not trade my experiences for anything I could imagine in business.
Dave Boyle 

Monday, May 11, 2015 6:52 PM by David Boyle

I am in a great dilemma right now... I was a student of civil engineering and passed my FE exam during my studies and could'nt graduate with that school but instead graduated in BS in Physics... I haven't received the FE certificate but the results in NCEES web site show that I passed FE... Is there anyway I can validate my EIT certification...or do i have to do masters in civil...

Sunday, October 26, 2014 1:55 PM by Mohammed Choudary

The NCEES website should have a link that tells you what you should do next to get certified. In my case (California) I just need to submit an application and pay $50 fee to get my certification. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 12:56 PM by Brian


Wednesday, December 10, 2014 9:11 AM by EL SALEM

As for the article, one comment in particular reached out and struck me as being out of touch, and just plain incorrect. That is "The vast majority of those who take the PE exam aren’t working in industry in the first place."
I've met countless engineers who don't need to become licensed because it isn't required in their particular industry. This is fine and good. Licensure doesn't make a person any more competent than a non-licensed person, nor does lack of a license make a person incompetent. 
My particular industry requires a PE license. The company I work for assumes all incoming engineers will become licensed, and the company pays for preperation for the exam. An engineer can't get promoted very far without a license in this company, and that is typical in the power industry (serving utilities, industrial customers, etc).
A PE license is much more of an industry specific kind of thing. If it is a legal requirement in your industry, get it. If not, don't worry about it. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:59 AM by Joel M.

Since a lot of women engineers leave the field within 10 years, I wonder what percentage of them obtain PE registration.

Saturday, January 31, 2015 10:13 PM by Nicole

I am 78 years old, and spent my entire career in one form of engineering or another.  I, however, have no degree.  I did study a great deal on my own, and passed the EIT in California in 1964.  I was working for the DOT as an Engineering Technician.  From the time I began working it was my goal to become a licensed engineer.  In 1973 I passed the PE exam in Washington State, concentrating in structural design and hydraulics.  I was licensed as  a civil Engineer.  In that field, which is very broad, I designed freeway interchanges, bridges, reinforced concrete buildings, retaining walls, river relocations, small dams, and many, many other kinds of engineering projects.  I later became Chief Engineer for a West Coast consulting firm and owner of my own consulting firm.  There is a lot more to successful engineering than a BS Degree or a PE license!  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015 2:38 AM by David H. Boyle, PE

"The vast majority of those who take the PE exam aren’t working in industry in the first place"

I don't understand how this is possible given that you must have a specified amount of work in industry to be eligible to take the exam in the first place.

Thursday, May 28, 2015 11:16 PM by Robert I

For the individual who says he passed the FE with a BS Physics vs ABET Certified BS Civil Engineering, please note that here in Massachusetts those who do successfully pass the FE are NOT CERTIFIED as an EIT until submission of documentation proving at least 4 years of engineering work under the auspices of Registered Professional Engineers (can be work in one type of engineering or a combination of various disciplines by the way). Once reviewed by the Board of Engineering Examiners in the Commonwealth, if the work passes muster, then the State of Massachusetts grants the EIT certification post dated to the date of successful passing of the FE Exam. FTR, the State offers NO GUIDANCE whatsoever (and engineers who went the traditional route - NO help from them either/clueless) as to how to compile your work, what to include, etc. - technical reports, feasibility studies, design drawings, et al are of course some documents to include.
That stated, I possess a BS Urban and Regional Planning, and an AE Architectural Engineering Technology, passed the FE in one shot, and after agonizing for quite awhile on my document submission package for a couple of years, I was finally granted the EIT Civil Engineering Discipline; still, Boston is right now going through a building boom of unprecented proportions, but as for me, CIVIL engineering firms seemingly will not consider me FOR ANY JOBS apparently.  My conjecture is that post GREAT DEPRESSION of 2007/2008 and beyond, the firms that pre depression would have considered me even prior to receiving the EIT Cert, are looking at me as if I have three heads; i.e, NOT qualified for an engineer level position, way overqualified for a tech job (which I think is the case). IN OTHER WORDS to get a pre PE position, you MUST HAVE the BS Engineering AND EIT - otherwise GO AWAY!!
I am not sure - any feedback on my dilemma would be helpful; I DO NOT have the money to get a BS Engineering, and most schools in the Boston area would almost certainly make me repeat close to 4 years of undergrad work - NOT FOR THIS GUY - no longer a spring chicken, yet I want an engineering position, and I want to get that damn PE!!!!!

Friday, July 03, 2015 12:22 AM by Philip Harris

You don't need to be licensed to work as an engineer, but I can attest to the fact that many grads are underemployed or unemployed. (I'm one of them) 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015 11:22 AM by Gloverboy6

I must admit, I am no longer working "in the industry".   And I agree, the revenue stream for PEs getting and maintaining their license puts a damper on things.  On a positive note, as a degreed Mechanical Engineer (FE/EIT) with 10 years as a design engineer, I would like to provide an alternative worthy of consideration...
May I suggest the Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP or “EP” as many in the business say).  The EP, is germane to the cybersecurity world.  Also, the certification is best suited for the US government.
(a) "The [traditional] engineering profession is established by various jurisdictions of the world to protect the safety, well-being and other interests of the general public, and to define the licensure process through which an engineer becomes authorized to provide professional services to the public."  (quote from Wikipedia)
(b) The EP was developed in conjunction with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) for systems security engineering professionals.  ISSEP provides guidance for incorporating security into projects, applications, business processes, and all information systems.  The EP role is heaviest in the acquisition phase (vice sustainment phase) of the system development life cycle.
In the US, the traditional PE must be licensed by one or more states ($$$).  Renewal fees for every state you practice in can get expensive.  In contrast, the EP is certified by ISC2.  The EP is unique b/c it’s endorsed by the NSA.  EP’s are responsible at the National and Federal level for the security and functionality of information systems… concerned with good system design, System Security, and Information Security.  Prerequisites in this case include the CISSP, work experience, and successful completion of the ISSEP exam.  The exam does not involve traditional engineering equations; in the same breath, it requires knowledge of more than 80 references (which makes it challenging).  Cost: $399 exam and the annual renewal fee of $120…and you’re good-to-go anywhere in the world.  Very portable.  Cybersecurity professionals are in demand and growing across the economy.
- Kurt Danis, CISSP-​ISSEP

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 7:32 PM by Kurt Danis

Hey can you provide me with more information about this field I am looking to wanting to switch my career. I am having a difficult time passing the PE exam and it is limited my growth in my career area. I can't move up. I have also grown tired of the industry I am in.

Thursday, May 19, 2016 6:35 PM by Nedra Harris

Female engineers is less preferable than male engineers. A company will accept more male candidates because an engineer is likely to spend more time on the field rather than doing desk jobs. Unless you are a software engineer or an architect, than that could still be possible. Hence most of female engineers are either teach others at the university or at school, or spend more time at home. There is nothing wrong with that of course.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 10:46 AM by Deirdre -

The author is just not right on this, at least in the area of electronics.
I failed the PE-FIT, and have not yet had time to get back to it. I’m too busy designing electronics for the last 20 years, such as for tanks, medical heart defibrillators, commercial and consumer video displays and video cameras and transportation (rail) control of HMI-&-PLCs. And I have 3 patents of electronic designs. I have a BS.

I work with non-PE’s and PE’s. And I hate to tell you this, but there is a pattern, where PE’s are considerably less likely to be able to do quality electronic design. But they are darn good at Laplace equations, of which the need for is as rare a lunar eclipses. This is not to put them down, but just a realistic observation.

Additionally I find that most EE-PE’s don’t know physics of electricity very well, … especially in the area of high-speed logic or high-speed analog signals. Not that the converse is true, where non-PE’s are big time experts in electrical physics to be a rule. In other words, there seems to be no correlation of having an EE-PE, to expect them to excel in electronic design.

To sum up, this phrase sometimes applies;
“somebody got to ‘jane’ or ‘john’ ".

That can be good or bad. Meaning that when that engineer was young, perhaps from 12 to 20 years of age, somebody drilled the economic facts of life into them. “Johnny, you need to make a living, so concentrate or similar ‘licensed’ aka ‘protected’ job classification”. Thus that young person, did exactly that with their choices of where to place their efforts and studies.

Is a PE moniker a waste? Definitely not, in fact PE stamps are very cool. I plan re-take on the PE exam.

And from chatting with PE's, most (yes.. over 50%) planned to go into government work, as early as the 9th grade.

Thursday, September 24, 2015 2:00 PM by Scooter McGooter

A PE license is not required in all fields of engineering (in EE, most jobs don't require it).  Many engineers just go into industry without ever getting licensed because they do not need to.
 An example where a license is required is if we want to work for the city (ie, at a power plant).  A license is not immediately required for entry levels anyway, since entry-level engineers are not given the job that a licensed professional would be given (and they are required a certain number of years of experience working under a licensed PE).
In my EE graduating class, only a handful of students took the FE exam.  Some went into non-tech fields, as mentioned by the author (business, consulting, etc), some went to grad school, some to federal, and the rest (the majority of us) went straight into the tech industry.  Those that failed the FE took a job in industry anyway and are studying in the meantime to prepare to re-test.
I took the FE exam and passed but never accepted the certification.  This is because it is useless for me as a radio-frequency engineer in an aerospace company to pursue a PE license.  In my case, it's the same as not having taken the FE/PE, yet I am still work in in the technical industry.
Interesting discussions and comments here, even continuing on in 2015....I must say I have to disagree with pretty much the whole article (:

Saturday, October 03, 2015 11:16 PM by Anon

What do you mean by "in industry"?? You keep repeating it without using any synonyms or alternate phrasing and you never defined it. WHICH industry? Practically everyone works for an industry. Do you mean "in engineering"? Engineering is not an industry, it is a profession. It is really unclear what point you are trying to make.

Thursday, December 03, 2015 6:50 PM by Anonymous

I am a chemical engineering professtional with 11 years of experience from INDIA, interested in appearing for Professional Engineer. I do have certian query which I have shared below:

1. Is there is possibilities to appear for the examination from INDIA.


2. Do I need to select a particular region in USA for appearing - PE examination.


3. Do I need this PE degree Compulsorily to get a job in USA.


4. How many time shall I appear for PE examination in a year.


Friday, February 12, 2016 12:44 AM by Jai

The PE only says one passed two very easy tests.  By and large it is a meaningless credential.  It says nothing about knowledge, competence or achievement.  And frankly, those engineers that I've worked with that can put PE next to their name have been average engineers at best.  Often they are technically weak and gravitate towards the mundane and administrative.  What really matters is graduating from an institution with ABET accredidation, having relevant experience and pursuing further meaningful education (advanced degrees).  How meaningless the PE is is indicated by the overwhelming majority of products designed and developed by engineers without a PE in sight.  
The only people who hold the PE in any regard are those that are clueless about the engineering professions.    

Monday, February 22, 2016 9:15 PM by Sid Gilmore

It seems as if everyone who did not pass the PE Exam is jealous of all the Engineers that did. Apparently, it is not two (2) easy exams if you DID NOT PASS THEM!!! Instead of turning your anger to others, you should turn it to the person in the mirror you're looking at.

Sunday, April 03, 2016 11:25 PM by TRuth teller

First, I agree with you about anyone who has ever implied or told you that being a PE is a sign of being a superior engineer, technically.  My personal experience working for a military RDT&E command is that there are many engineers who are very expert, skilled, and accomplished in narrow  "swim lanes".  Their employing organizations have the role, and are usually well versed and capable in integrating diverse and narrow scope engineering efforts into a project, or ultimately, a product.  Engineers holding PE licenses offer little benefit for organizations that have that corporate expertise and capability.  One of the major things impressed upon you as a PE who is going to perform as an independent practitioner is your responsibility and obligation to clients to act as the full spectrum expert for any client who has little or no ability to evaluate or even understand the engineering workproduct they are buying.  In those relationships, the client is expecting YOU to have broad, but maybe not intense, knowledge and skill across the whole engineering effort.  As the engineer of record for those clients, YOU are expected to perform the role that your current employer performs, namely having the responsibility to ensure the competence of the overall engineering effort integrated across many swim lanes.  The PE licensing process puts emphasis on broad competence at intensities that might be far below the expertise you apply daily.  One of the most important roles for the PE of record working for third party clients is knowing and abiding by the limits of your own, personal  competence.  There is often a need to draw on people like you for specialized, deep expertise for particular projects but the PE of record has the additional burden of being on the hook, legally, for ensuring the quality and competence of the workproduct nonlicensed engineers contribute for the client's benefit.  Outside of the fairly large sectors that use vertically integrated engineer-design-manufacture processes, having a PE license has significance for clients that goes far beyond being a joke.  Try taking your numerous advanced degrees from ABET accredited schools and an awe inducing resume to an insurance carrier and see what sort of rate quotes you get for claims-made errors and omission coverage without a PE license.  The license has a very different significance in that context related to the understanding of professional responsibility that, as you point out, does not imply technical  brillance on the part of the engineer who holds it. The insurers would be curious as to why you couldn't be bothered to take and pass "two very easy tests".

Thursday, April 07, 2016 9:13 AM by geebee

I totally agree with you. There's a whole industry that revolves around the PE - it is really a business. I noticed that there's a preoccupation with PE in the civil and structural engineering community. In my opinion, the PE adds another layer to impede creativity and innovation in that field. While it is important to have licensure, most civil engineers that I know are just regurgitating code like a mantra, without any depth or understanding. And when they don't understand basic engineering principles, they will simply quote the code as if that is the truth. I think this is one of the reasons why the civil/construction engineering field has no significant technological innovations - just codes and more codes, and every so often, the code changes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016 3:55 AM by JackReacher

  • In most, if not all states an engineer (or a principal of company) must be licensed if what is being deliverered to a client on a contract basis is an engineering workproduct. Much of industry and the manufacturing sector uses engineers for research, development, and design pursuant to creating physical products that are sold as the ultimate deliverable.   In the manufacturing sector, there is generally a robust informed buyer capability to internally evaluate the adequacy and suitability of the workproduct created by the engineers/designers.  After all, the employer will need to shepherd that workproduct through the rigors of manufacturing, marketing, and some degree of warranty and bear significant exposure to legal liability for defects in their product, regardless of root cause, over the entire life cycle.  Excluding manufacturers who are designing in-house or buying engineering, pursuant to manufacturing a product based on that engineering, a significant fraction of the customer base who buy strictly engineering as a deliverable are doing so because they lack their own ability to perform or even evaluate the work product being received. There is seldom any controversy about the lines of legal responsibility for third parties that suffer some sort of injury due to problems with physical products that may have arisen due to faulty design and engineering.  The manufacturer is almost always the starting point for presumptive liability.  I think requiring licensure for engineers has significant value in arrangements where engineering is performed outside vertically integrated engineering-design-manufacturing.  It eliminates murkiness about the paths of legal recourse for injured third parties about liability for defects in the design and engineering effort, i.e., the licensesee of record is presumptively the responsible party.  It also creates a well worn framework for sanctioning and disciplining incompetent or inadequate engineers who are independent practitioners.  Doesn't guarantee engineering of the highest quality but does tend to reduce the instances of performance below minimal acceptable competence where very timely deterring forces, like the fury of an irate management to instantly fire a negligent engineer, don't exist.

Thursday, April 07, 2016 12:58 AM by geebee

I have worked for a top 5 company for decades, hired straight out of school WITHOUT an EIT. I have no incintive to get a PE but the title itself.

My counterpart is a PE that I trained for the position and mentor.

I have looked at other engineering positions and I'd say 90% require a BS in Eng and only prefer EIT, PE, MS. In my experience interviewing, the person with most experience in that area gets the job.

Its not our reality for all my colleagues and customers in Eng that a license is critical. I work with the biggest companies too.

Sunday, April 17, 2016 1:21 PM by james

is a very practical profession. It has a diversity of its application in the real life. It is quite versatile profession for me as an architect, for example. I could design a building as well as the interior.. The interior designer is a different profession than the building design. And I could work for a furniture company, as a visual merchandiser, a landscape designer, urban designer and many more! And the important thing is, after graduating, I am not an architect. I am calling myself an architecture graduate. Until I acquire my certification, I am not an architect yet. It is very essential for those architecture graduates who want to pursue a career as an architect to learn as much as possible through professional job experiences. The real education starts after we graduate. 4 to 6 years in the college is merely an introduction into this industry. I am telling you.


Thursday, May 26, 2016 3:06 AM by Rohit desai

I find it a little silly how so many people play down licensure.  Being a PE is not a qualifier of engineering compentency but a low benchmark.  The exam isn't hard and I would have difficulty beleiving that anyone with BS Eng would have difficulties passing it with proper preperation.  You have to have something to prevent the few people that might do something really dumb from doing something really dumb.  Go to your state's engineering board website and you'll find cases of non-PEs or not even engineers screwing up steel structured building, housing foundation, water embankments, ect.  Yeah, most of the time a non-engineer can do a small job "correctly" because often it is very cookie cutter but throw them a curve ball and the project gets all fouled up because they don't fully understand the design.  That isn't to say that engineers are perfect but something needs to exist to weed out those that don't even have a basic understanding of their field.  
If you want to complain about something, complain about the "Raising the Bar" initiative.  It will mandate that anyone in the future to have near a masters degree in grad credits to just sit for the PE exam.  I have a masters degee in electrical engineering and while I think it has helped me a lot, I don't think that require a masters degree for licensure will do anything other than restrict the number of newly license PEs.  It isn't like there are bridges and buildings falling down or anything that would lead anyone to think that professional engineers are under educated and  doing poor work and putting the public in danger.

Friday, June 10, 2016 5:39 PM by D

As a practicing engineer with 23 years experience working for consulting firms I can attest to the following:
Many engineers who work in refineries, power plants, manufacturing facilities and do not leave said facilities are not registered. Regstration is not necessary unless on provides or offers to provide engineering services to the public.
Consulting engineering firms are a different animal entirely. At every consulting firm where I have been employed the majority of engineers are P.E.'s. Some have only passed the FE, and a very few have not taken either exam. It has been my experience that non P.E.'s are the first ones to get shown out the door when times get hard. As such, every engineer should become registered professionally if one is serious about one's profession.
Some posts have included incidents of registered P.E.'s not understanding basic concepts. That is understandible, given that for some this may have been their only foray out of academia, and therefore have no "hands on" experience. I encourage all engineering students to intern, either summer jobs or co op. Myself, I learned a great deal about my profession (Double E) before college when I worked as an electrician's helper (apprentice) and worked my way up to journeyman. I started out wiring houses, crawling under them, through attics, doing service calls etc., then moved up to bending EMT and RGS, pulling wire, making terminations, assembling MCC's and switchboards (now they are delivered to the job site fabricated and only need to be set in place and wired), energizing, troubleshooting and learing what a good shock feels like. The more hands on experience, the better.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 1:33 PM by Chris Schade, P.E.

Do you have any sources for your figures on pass rates? If so, please be sure to accommodate for this, not as a blogger, but as a sensible human being. I would greatly appreciate more fact-driven journalism in your future pieces of writing (without asking readers to verify your work).

Friday, July 15, 2016 12:46 PM by Billy


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