Steps to a Professional Engineering License
As an engineer, regardless of whether you specialize in designing power plants, consumer goods, buildings, or aerospace vehicles, and regardless of whether you work in the private industry, for the U.S. government, or for the public sector, your role carries a substantial responsibility, encompassing both theoretical and practical contributions.
Engineers of all types perform exciting and rewarding work, often stretching new technologies to their limits. But those limits are often incomprehensible to non-engineers. As the ambient level of technological sophistication increases, the public depends increasingly and unhesitatingly on engineers. That is where professional licensing and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) become important.
NSPE, the leading organization for licensed engineering professionals, is dedicated to serving the engineering profession by supporting continuing educational programs, lobbying for legislative efforts on the local and national levels, and promoting guidelines for ethical service. From local, community-based projects that encourage top-scoring high school students to choose engineering as a career, to hard-hitting lobbying efforts in the nation’s capital to satisfy the needs of all engineers, NSPE is committed to you and your profession.
Engineering licensing is a two-way street: it benefits you personally while it also benefits the public and the profession. For you, licensing offers a variety of advantages, ranging from peer recognition to greater advancement and career opportunities. If you wish to become an independent engineering consultant, it is required by law that you are registered. Some states require registration as a Professional Engineer if you wish to use the title “engineer”. A court of law generally will not recognize an individual as an engineer unless they are registered. For the profession, licensing establishes a common credential by which engineers can be compared. For the public, a professional engineering license is an assurance of a recognizable standard of competence.
The requirements for professional engineering registration in most states include a combination of education, exam(s), and engineering experience. The process for individuals residing in California is documented by the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists. This helpful flowchart also provides guidance.
The national exams are administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The first exam is the NCEES “Fundamentals of Engineering” (FE) exam, and the second exam is the “Principles and Practices of Engineering” (PE) exam. The FE exam is a computer-based exam offered year-round. In California, prior approval from the Board is not required to register for the FE exam, and students are encouraged to sit for the exam close to graduating with their undergraduate engineering degree from an ABET-accredited program. After passing the exam, examinees may apply directly to the California board to obtain certification as an engineer-in-training (EIT). Individuals who have passed the FE exam in California are eligible to register for the PE exam, and an application to the California Board is not required to register. Students may register for the NCEES exams by creating an NCEES account.
In addition to successfully passing the national engineering exams, students must meet the licensing requirements of the individual state before using the title “Professional Engineer”. In California, these requirements include demonstrating qualifying work experience and passing any applicable state exams.
The Department of Structural Engineering is not affiliated with administering the exam.
To review more information about becoming a PE, please visit the National Society of Professional Engineers. Students may also go to the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors website to find further information regarding the California PE exam.