Licensure FAQs

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, but virtually every state law outlines a four-step process under which an applicant who has (1) a four-year engineering degree in a program approved by the state engineering licensure board, (2) four years of qualifying engineering experience, and who successfully completes (3) the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination, and (4) the eight- hour Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examination will be licensed as a professional engineer.

Who accredits the engineering progam?

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 two written examinations are prepared by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). 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 of or several months before graduation from an engineering curriculum approved by the state board. A few states permit individuals without degrees who have 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 necessary requirements?

Each application for licensure is evaluated by the state engineering licensure board. The state statutes set forth the basic requirements for licensure and delegates to the board the authority 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?

It has generally been recognized that 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 the public health, safety, and welfare. This distinction has been recognized and accepted by the other professions, such as law and medicine, which also require 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 an understanding of ethics, professional concepts, and the application of principles to practice. Finally, an examination prescribes the same standard for all, regardless of educational background, extent of schooling, and experience.

How and where can I prepare for the examinations?

Many firms, as part of their programs of assistance to engineers seeking licensure, sponsor comprehensive review courses on basic engineering subjects. In addition, many local chapters of the state societies of professional engineers sponsor review courses several times a year, and some engineering schools also provide assistance along these lines. NSPE also sponsors an excellent PE Review Refresher Correspondence Course. Also, ask your employer or local NSPE chapter when and where the next review course will be held.

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