Importance of Licensure
The decision to become a Licensed Engineer is a one that you should make early in your career.
Becoming a Licensed Engineer is something that will set you apart from other engineers. This engineering license represents professionalism. The licensing boards have set high standards, and your employer will know that they have selected an individual who has met these rigorous requirements and has proven the competence, integrity, and dedication to this discipline. Other important factors include:
- Only a licensed engineer can prepare, sign and seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority.
- Individual licensure is a demonstration of professional responsibility that benefits the entire engineering discipline.
- Licensure for individuals who wish to pursue a career as a consulting engineer or a private practitioner is not something that is merely desirable; it is a legal requirement for those who are in positions of responsibility, be they principals or employees.
- Many states are requiring individuals teaching engineering to be licensed.
- Engineers in the military must have the right credentials to stay with the service, especially during turbulent times. Licensed engineers may be placed on the priority list when downsizing.
- State boards are increasingly seeking the authority to impose civil penalties against unlicensed individuals who unlawfully practice engineering.
- Licensed engineers hold a great deal of prestige in the eye of the public and their employer.
- For those pursuing careers in industry, licensure has recently taken on increased meaning with heightened public attention concerning product safety, environmental issues, and design defects. Employers have found it advantageous to identify to the courts and the public those employees who have met at least a minimum level of competence.
- The scope of engineering practice is constantly changing, and engineering activities that may be exempt today may eventually shift into a practice area that one day requires a license (for example, research and development may find practical application in the facilities design/construction process, requiring the practitioner to be licensed).
You have chosen this career path, and it will bring you many opportunities in your many years of employment. Take the extra step.
Steps to Get Licensed
Each state varies slightly, but generally, there is a four-step process required to obtain engineering licensure. It is advisable to contact the state board for details.
- Step 1: Graduating from an accredited engineering program
Graduating from an ABET-accredited engineering program at a college or university is essential. ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) is the nationally recognized accrediting organization for engineering and technology curricula.
- Step 2: Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
The first exam in the licensure process is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE). Beginning in January 2014, this exam will no longer be offered only twice a year. The FE exam will now be offered year-round, except for March, June, September, and December. Once you pass the exam, you are classified as an intern, also known as Engineering Intern (EI) or Engineer-in-Training (EIT).
- Step 3: Work experience
After passing the FE exam, you will continue your path toward professional licensure by gaining engineering experience. Many states and counties have specific requirements about the type of experience you will need to acquire. For example, some states prefer you to be supervised by a licensed engineer. Contact your state’s licensing board for this requirement. Also, talk with professional engineers in your company to find out how you can gain this experience.
- Step 4: Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam
Once you have successfully completed the first three steps of this process, you may take the second exam in the licensure process, the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE). This exam is given in a variety of engineering disciplines. Most disciplines are offered in both April and October, but some are offered only in October.
Upon successful completion of the PE exam, you are deemed eligible for licensure by your state’s licensing board. You may use the distinguished designation "professional engineer," or PE. If you retain this license, it is required that you continue to take refresher courses. Again, each state and licensing boards sets its standards and requirements. Please check with the local licensing boards.