Engineering is an excellent career option for students in the United States. To become a licensed engineer, you need to complete a set of mandatory requirements and sit for a set of examinations.
Here we will provide a comprehensive guide to the type of licenses you need to become an engineer in the US.
A two-step process to obtain the license
In the United States, obtaining an engineering license is a two-step process. First, the student must become an Engineer in Training (EIT), and then he/she must obtain the engineering license to be a Professional Engineer.
An Engineer in Training (also called engineer intern) is a professional who has acquired the requisite academic degrees, but who doesn’t have enough experience to run his/her own engineering projects. As an engineer intern, you cannot take any task-related decisions or take up projects independently and can only assist another professional engineer with his/her work.
A Professional Engineer is a fully qualified and experienced professional who has the expertise needed to manage the entire project himself/herself. As a professional engineer, you will be licensed to draw up plans, seal and approve designs, submit projects/plans to public institutions, and pitch proposals to private companies.
Students wanting to become engineers will need to complete the Engineer in Training certification first and then sit for the Professional Engineer licensing exam.
How to obtain a Professional Engineer license in the United States?
- Complete your collegiate education in engineering
Upcoming engineers in the US must complete an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-accredited engineering program. This program includes different engineering courses like the Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Bachelor of Arts in Mechanical Engineering, and so on)
You can also choose to pursue a Master of Engineering or a Master of Science in Engineering, which are two-year courses.
If you have completed your undergraduate or graduate degree in engineering in an overseas university, you will be required to submit your transcripts to the ABET for evaluation. Any deficiencies in your learning will be identified, and you may be asked to pursue a course before you are eligible to proceed to the next step.
- Sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying has implemented the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam to certify engineering graduates as Engineers in Training. After you get the temporary FE certification, you are eligible to sit for the final licensure examination.
The FE exam is a six-hour exam that is completely computer-based. There are 110 multiple choice questions that need to be answered, and you need to get a scaled score of 70% to pass the exam. The exam can be taken up in seven different engineering specializations.
- Get the required practical experience
Once you complete the FE certification, you are required to obtain work experience. Typically, students need to gain four years of work experience. In some states, they allow students to claim their 2-year master course equivalent to 1-year of work experience. You’ll need to check with your state engineering board for more information.
For the work experience to count, you must:
- Work under a licensed professional engineer.
- Must gain practical experience in the discipline you gave your FE exam.
- Must have exposure to all facets of the field of your choice.
- Must have worked on projects of varying degrees of complexity.
Before you sit for the PE exam, you must submit two written records encapsulating your work experience. One will be your statement of experience, and the other will be an evaluation of your work by the PE you worked for.
- Take up the Principles and Practice in Engineering (PE) exam
The Principles and Practice in Engineering (PE) exam is the licensing examination for aspiring engineers in the US. The exam tests your competency and expertise in your chosen engineering domain. It is an 8-hours exam, comprising of 80 questions, and it is a combination of written and computer multiple-choice based questions.
Just as with the FE exam, you will need to get a 70% scaled score to pass the PE exam. Once you pass, you are a fully-licensed engineer in the United States. Your PE license is valid only in the state you took your exam in (or in the state you’ve transferred your records to). To get a multi-state PE license, you must apply to the NCEES Records program. As a record holder, you will be able to fast-track your applications for multiple licensures. Here, the authorizing body will evaluate your academic and work-related experiences and your PE score, while also getting references for your performance from the professionals you’ve worked with.
Once your NCEES record is created, you can transfer it to the engineering boards of the states you want licensing in. Complete the other required steps as stated, and you will receive your multi-state license soon.
A Professional Liability Insurance will be helpful as you start your journey as a licensed engineer
Once you are a licensed PE, you are legally allowed to participate in projects or take up work. It’s best that you first protect yourself with Engineer Liability Insurance.
Sometimes, there is a mismatch between client expectations and the practical possibilities of a build. There may be times when the client may be dissatisfied with the service or advice you’ve offered, and they may sue you for poor performance or non-performance of service.
Engineer Insurance could protect you and your business from such risks.
Similarly, there’s also the General Liability Insurance, which protects you in the event you or your team make any mistakes on the job that results in any financial loss or physical damage to any third party. Both policies are important for a licensed professional engineer.