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. Still, virtually every state law outlines a four-step process to be licensed as a professional engineer.
- A four-year engineering degree in a program approved by the state engineering licensure board.
- A four years of qualifying engineering experience, and
- Successfully completes the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination.
- Successfully completes the eight-hour Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examination.
Who accredits the engineering program?
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 National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) prepares the two written examinations. 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 or several months before graduation from an engineering curriculum approved by the state board. A few states permit individuals without degrees with 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.
Who would pass upon my application to determine if I meet the requirements?
The state engineering licensure board evaluates each application for licensure. The state statutes set forth the basic licensure requirements and delegate the authority to the board 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?
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 public health, safety, and welfare. This distinction has been recognized and accepted by other professions, such as law and medicine, requiring 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 understanding ethics, professional concepts, and applying principles to practice. Finally, an examination prescribes the same standard for all, regardless of educational background, the extent of schooling, and experience.
How and where can I prepare for the examinations?
Many firms sponsor comprehensive review courses on basic engineering subjects as part of their programs of assistance to engineers seeking licensure. In addition, many local chapters of the state societies of professional engineers sponsor review courses several times a year, and some engineering schools also assist these lines. NSPE also sponsors an excellent PE Review Refresher Correspondence Course. Ask your employer or local NSPE chapter when and where the next review course will be held. Click here to learn more about NSPE’s review and prep courses.
For questions on your professional license, contact the Pennsylvania State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists directly at:
P.O. Box 2649, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649
Phone: (717) 783-7049
Click here to be redirected to the State Registration Board website.