Why Get Licensed

Engineering licensure in the United States is an examination process where a state board determines the requirements to be considered minimally competent. This process was historically established to protect the public from poor engineering practices in the turn of the 20th century. 

Most engineers do not need to be licensed, as they work for companies that design or manufacture products that do not risk public safety. This is known as the Industrial Exemption.

To become a licensed engineer, you have to earn a degree from an accredited four year institution, pass the Engineer-in-Training test, attain years of relevant on the job experience, and pass Professional Engineers exam.

Because of the high level of competency demonstrated by meeting these requirements, you'll attain some exclusive legal and professional benefits:

  • Only licensed engineers may prepare, sign, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority or private clients.
  • Licensed engineers shoulder the bulk of responsibility for ensuring the efficacy and safety of their work, in turn, garnering commensurate financial compensation.
  • To practice as a consultant, licensure is required to be the responsible charge of work, regardless if you are a principal or employee.
  • Positions at many levels of government, across federal, state, and municipal agencies, require licensure. These positions carry great weight in influencing public work for societal good.
  • Many states require licensure to teach engineering in academia.

While licensure jurisdiction is by state, engineers seeking a license at another state often qualify through comity. An individual can choose to maintain a record at NCEES which expedites the comity process by centralizing an engineers professional, academic, and testing history. When the requirements from state to state overlap, licensure can be attained without having to take the PE test again.

 

 
 The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed in 1940, violently illustrating the necessity for sound engineering that serves the public good. 

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed in 1940, violently illustrating the necessity for sound engineering that serves the public good. 

Becoming a Licensed Engineer

Each state has its own governing body that grants licenses to individuals, so requirements vary based on location. In general, there are four basic steps:

  1. Graduate with a B.S in Engineering.  Not only do you need to gain a technical foundation to practice as an engineer, but also prove to your employer that you can follow through on graduating. Like many professional domains, a relevant four your degree is an absolute minimum for gainful employment. Your school's degree program must be ABET accredited.
  2. Pass the FE (Fundamentals in Engineering) ExamSuccessful completion will grant you "Engineer-In-Training" status from your state board. This is an eight hour test consisting of 180 multiple-choice questions spanning subjects normally encountered while studying for a B.S. in engineering.
  3. Gain Professional Experience.  All states require four years of relevant engineering work. Depending on your specialty, this work requires supervision from a licensed engineer. The professional relationships you develop will be ascertained when you apply to test for the PE Exam.
  4. Pass the PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering) Exam.  Successful completion will result in you becoming licensed. This is a discipline-specific eight hour test consisting of 80 multiple choice questions.