Professional Licensing

Steps to a Professional Engineering License

Whether you design power plants, consumer goods, buildings, or aerospace vehicles, whether you work in private industry, for the U.S. government, or for the public and whether your efforts are theoretical or practical, you (as an engineer) have a significant responsibility.

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 such activities as continuing educational programs for its members, lobbying and legislative efforts on 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 one is 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 prevailing in most of the states include a combination of education, exam(s), and engineering experience. 

The first exam is generally known as the “Fundamental Examination” (FE) (sometimes referred to as the “Engineering-in-Training” exam or the EIT) and the second exam, as the “Professional Examination,” (sometimes referred to as the PE exam or the “Principles and Practices” exam).  Persons who successfully pass these examinations are entitled to use the title “Professional Engineer” and to place the initials “P.E.” after their names.  It is illegal for unregistered persons to use the title.  Nearly all states have made provisions for an FE/EIT status and will allow persons to take the first (EIT or “Fundamentals”) portion of the written examination as early as the end of your junior (third) year of an ABET accredited program.  EIT status conveys no legal privileges and is offered primarily as a convenience to new graduates so that they can take the examination in fundamentals at a time when the material is still fresh in their minds.  Almost all of the states use a uniform national EIT examination, administrated through the National Council Engineering Examination (NCEE) and a great majority uses a uniform national examination for the “Professional” portion.

The EIT exam is offered multiple times per  year.  The Structural Engineering department is not affiliated with administering the exam.

For EIT registration and exam information visit the National Society of Professional Engineers.  Students may also go online to the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors website to find further information regarding the California PE exam.