Becoming an engineer is a monumental step in anyone’s career. It’s a monumental career step because not everyone has the patience and determination to accomplish such a feat.
Engineering takes years of school and requires you to get an engineering license. If you think you have what it takes to be an engineer, read on to discover how to get started on your professional engineer license today.
What Is a PE?
You may ask yourself, why do I need a license to prove I’m an engineer after I finish my schooling? A professional engineer license shows to your clients you not only passed a four-year program at a University, but you also put your engineering knowledge to use in the field.
PEs also validate you to your colleagues and bring a deeper appreciation for your position. It’s about the skills and experience you gather from working under a Professional Engineer for four years. It’s about the two extensive tests you passed to prove your mastery of the profession.
Even after you obtain your license, a professional engineering license shows your dedication to the field through the continuing education you complete.
If you find yourself saying, “that’s too much,” or “that’s too hard,” consider what you learn from your training. Not only are you in high demand wherever you go, but you also enjoy generous salary packages. To top it off, people hold the engineering profession in high regard because you’re committed to helping people with everyday problems.
Because of the ethical issues that engineers face, it’s understandable why there are regulations in place. More than 100 years ago, anyone could call themselves an engineer. But in 1907, Wyoming enacted the first engineering law. And thank God for Wyoming. They catalyzed nationwide engineering legislation. Now, every state requires Professional Engineering licensure.
Steps to Become a Professional Engineer
To qualify for a professional engineering license, the candidate must:
- Earn a four-year engineering degree from an accredited institution
- Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam
- Complete four years of progressive engineering experience under a PE
- Pass the Principles and Practice Engineering exam
Step 1: Earning Your Degree
Most professional engineering boards require candidates to have a four-year EAC/ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree in an engineering-related subject. If you are not a US citizen or you obtained a non-accredited degree, you must provide your transcript to the licensing board.
Some institutions may charge a fee to submit your transcript to the engineering board, and the process can take a long time. Even though all licensing boards have the same general requirements, some have a few different needs than others.
Because boards have different requirements, it’s essential to check the state or territory you plan on working in for their needs.
Step 2: Fundamentals of Engineering Exam
Recent graduates are often the ones who take The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. It’s smart to take the test right after college so you can become a professional engineer more quickly. To be eligible to work for a professional engineer, you must pass the FE exam.
The FE is a six-hour, on-site computer exam given by the National Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). It covers the following topics:
- NDA (nondisclosure agreement)
- Scheduled break
There are seven options for FE certification. You can pass the test to become a chemical engineer, civil engineer, electrical and computer engineer, environmental engineer, industrial and systems engineer, mechanical engineer, or other disciplines.
The Fe has different types of questions, including multiple-choice and ALternative Item Type questions such as fill-in-the-blank, multiple correct answers, and point and click questions.
No reference material is allowed for the FE exam. In preparation, there is an electronic version of the NCEES FE Reference handbook for the computer-based exam. Only NCEES approved calculators are allowed.
The NCEES handbook is available in both hard copy and digital form, and you can access it for free by creating a free NCEES account. When you sign up for the free account, you will not have access to reference materials for all of the engineering disciplines.
After you pass the FE exam, you become an Engineer in Training or Engineering Intern. Earning this status shows you have a thorough understanding of the concepts and practices required for engineering.
Step 3: Working Under a PE
Most state boards require applicants to complete at least four years of experience before moving on to the PE exam. Often, the required work must be completed after graduation, but some state boards make an exception to this rule.
Most states also acknowledge post-graduate course study as work experience but usually limit the allowed experience to one year. To meet the qualifications, the experience must:
- Be relevant experience to the discipline the candidate plans on becoming certified
- Be high quality and accredited so the candidate can develop the appropriate knowledge and skill required for their discipline
- Be supervised by a licensed PE
- Be well-rounded enough to expose the candidate to a broad scope of relevant topics
Step 4: Professional Engineer Examination
The PE examination stands for Principles and Practice of Engineering. It tests the candidate’s knowledge and skills about their specific engineering discipline.
The PE examination is only for candidates who have succeeded in the previous three steps. These candidates have chosen the discipline of engineering they most desire to practice.
The only field that requires further licensing in some states is structural engineering. Not all states need to pass another examination for structural engineers. But if they do, candidates need to pass the Structural Exam.
Some fields of engineering have extensive sub-groups that need specific testing. For example, if you are a civil engineer, you may have to take the Civil Construction test. Most of these sub-group tests are 8 hours long and open book. Some of these tests are paper and pencil, and some are computer-based.
The PE test is not a walk in the park. To pass, you have to show proficient knowledge and practical application. There are also several codes you need to memorize.
The best resource at your disposal is the NCEES because it has a reservoir of practice exams.
Get Your Professional Engineer License Today
Obtaining a professional engineer license is a vital step in career success as an engineer. If you’ve dreamed of becoming an engineer your whole life, but never knew how to take the first step, look for 4-year programs today.
After you become an engineer, you’ll want to beef up on your entrepreneurial skills. Check out our entrepreneurial facts today to start your education journey!