In the United States, the regulation of licensed professional engineers is handled at the state level. Thus, requirements for licensure can and do vary by state. The basis for most of the state legislation however is the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Model Law.
There are four main components of obtaining professional engineering licensure:
2) Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam
2) Work Experience
3) Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam
In most cases it is required that an engineering program of 4 years or more be successfully completed (i.e. a bachelor’s degree is required). Usually the program needs to be accredited by the EAC/ABET, or the equivalent. Certified proof of graduation is generally required. Education received outside of the US can be evaluated and approved in some cases (NCEES Credentials Evaluations). Note that there is an effort underway to increase the amount of education required to include an additional 30 credits of acceptable upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level coursework from approved course providers or a master’s degree (Bachelor+30).
Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam
This test is an 8-hour written examination in the fundamentals of engineering. Some jurisdictions allow this test to be taken prior to graduation, however one is not an “engineer intern” or “engineer in training” until graduating and passing the exam. The FE exam covers a comprehensive range of subjects in engineering; subject matter that is typically taught in a EAC/ABET-accredited baccalaureate engineering program. The FE exam consists of 180 multiple-choice questions. During the morning session, all examinees take a general exam common to all disciplines. During the afternoon session, examinees can choose to take a general exam or a discipline-specific (chemical, civil, electrical, environmental, industrial, or mechanical) exam.
In most cases it is required that the applicant has 4 years or more of progressive work experience. This usually would need to be on engineering projects of a grade and a character which would indicate to the board that the applicant may be competent to practice engineering. In some states, the work experience must be under the direction of an active professional engineer. Also, the work experience requirement is often dependent on education level (i.e. a person with an appropriate doctorate degree may need less work experience). To confirm and validate the work experience, written references from associates and/or supervisors is often required, although the number of references and type of documentation varies by state.
Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam
The PE test is an 8-hour written examination in the principles and practice of engineering. The Principles and Practice exams test academic knowledge and knowledge gained in engineering. Discipline specific PE exams cover a comprehensive range of subjects in that field of engineering. The engineering disciplines include Agricultural, Architectural, Chemical, Civil, Control Systems, Electrical and Computer, Environmental, Fire Protection, Industrial, Mechanical, Metallurgical and Materials, Mining and Mineral, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Nuclear, Petroleum, and Structural.
It is vital to carefully review your state’s specific requirements and carefully follow their directions. Completing the application form accurately and completely while providing the documentation requested is an important part of obtaining a professional engineering license in a timely fashion.
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