How to Get a Professional Engineering (P.E.) License

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Professional Engineering License

Why get licensed as a professional engineer

A professional engineering (PE) license assures the public that an engineer has gained competency in the profession by meeting high standards in education, experience and testing. Much as an attorney or a CPA’s license serves as a mark of excellence in their profession, PE licensure restricts the practice to those who have met the stringent requirements. This acts as a safeguard in regard to the public’s safety and health welfare (NCEES).

Compelling reasons exist for the engineer to earn his or her PE license. There are certain tasks only a licensed engineer can perform—for instance, only a PE is authorized to draw up and present plans to a public entity/body for approval. For those engineers in private practice or who work as consultants, professional licensure is legally required for the person overseeing the project (NSPE).

Per the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), licensed PEs are typically afforded more options than nonlicensed engineers in the kinds of duties they can undertake. These tasks include serving as the principle of an engineering firm, offering services as a consultant, performing work for the public, and being allowed to bid on contracts for the government (NCEES).

How to get a professional engineering license

According to the NCEES, professional engineering licensure is regulated by individual states In the United States, so the requirements will vary. Those interested in pursuing their PE license should research their state’s requirements.

While the path to getting a PE license varies according to the legal requirements of each state licensing board, the general steps could include the following steps:

  1. Get a high school diploma or GED
  2. Earn a 4-year degree from an engineering program accredited by the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc)
  3. Successfully complete the FE exam
  4. Obtain qualifying work experience (usually done under a PE’s supervision for a duration of four years)
  5. Pass the PE exam

Most states are allowing graduates from an engineering program approved by the state board to take the first portion of the FE exam at or several months prior to graduation. Those who have at least four years of engineering experience but not their degree are allowed by several states to take the FE exam, but this practice is on the decline as fewer states permit it. Upon successful completion of the exam, the candidate is certified as an EIT (engineer in training) or an EI (engineer intern).

Typically, four years of engineering work experience must be obtained before the EIT or EI can take the PE exam. Once the PE exam is passed, the candidate is qualified as a licensed PE.

State engineering licensing boards are made up of experienced licensed PEs. These boards evaluate each application, so applicants can be confident that their qualifications are being sized up by members of the profession. Each state’s statutes determine the minimum requirements necessary for licensure and therefore establishes whether the applicant meets these requirements.

In those few states that allow licensure based on a candidate’s engineering work experience or without the candidate having taken the exam, the state board is also the deciding factor. It makes its decision on whether or not the applicant must take the examination—all or parts of it—through evaluation of the candidate’s application and interview

Obtaining one’s licensure is not a complicated process. For the most up-to-date and comprehensive licensing information, candidates should check with their state engineering licensure board. Also, many employers will provide assistance and information on the requirements, application forms, and how to prepare for the exam. Fees to obtain one’s licensure vary by state. In addition, there is an annual renewal fee, which varies according to the state granting the license (nspe.org).

Both earnings and employment can vary, depending on qualifications, professional experience, certifications and more. Becoming a licensed PE does not guarantee employment.


National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), http://www.ncees.org/Licensure.php

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), http://www.nspe.org/Licensure/index.html

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), http://main.abet.org/aps/AccreditedProgramSearch.aspx/AccreditationSearch.aspx


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