Becoming a professional engineer (PE) is a challenging but rewarding career path that requires a combination of education, work experience, and licensure. Professional engineers design, build, and maintain the infrastructure that surrounds us, from buildings and bridges to transportation systems and water treatment plants. In this article, we will discuss the steps required to become a professional engineer and what you can expect along the way.
The first step in becoming a professional engineer is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an accredited institution. Many universities offer engineering programs that cover a wide range of specialties such as mechanical, electrical, civil, and chemical engineering, among others. It is important to choose a specialty that aligns with your interests and career goals.
During your undergraduate studies, you will take courses in math, physics, and engineering fundamentals, as well as specialized courses in your chosen engineering field. These courses will provide you with a strong foundation in engineering theory and principles that you will use throughout your career.
After completing your undergraduate degree, you will need to gain relevant work experience to become eligible for licensure as a professional engineer. The specific requirements vary depending on the state or province where you plan to work, but typically, you will need to work under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer for four years.
During this time, you will gain practical experience in your chosen engineering field by working on projects that involve the design, construction, maintenance, or repair of infrastructure. You will also have the opportunity to develop skills in project management, team leadership, and communication.
Once you have gained the required work experience, you will need to obtain licensure as a professional engineer to practice independently. Licensure requirements vary by state or province, but generally, you will need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, gain additional work experience, and pass the Professional Engineering (PE) exam.
The FE exam is an eight-hour, computer-based exam that tests your knowledge of engineering fundamentals. The exam is divided into two parts: a morning session that covers general engineering topics and an afternoon session that covers your chosen engineering specialty. Once you pass the FE exam, you will be considered an Engineer in Training (EIT).
After you have gained additional work experience as an EIT, you can apply to take the PE exam. The PE exam is a comprehensive, eight-hour exam that tests your knowledge of engineering principles and your ability to solve practical engineering problems. Passing the PE exam is a major milestone in your career and is required for licensure as a professional engineer.
Even after you have obtained your professional engineer license, your education is not over. Continuing education is essential for staying current with advancements in your field and maintaining your licensure. Many states and provinces require professional engineers to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education courses every year to renew their licenses.
Continuing education courses can be taken online or in person and cover a wide range of topics such as emerging technologies, safety, ethics, and project management. In addition to maintaining your licensure, continuing education can also help you stay competitive in your field and advance your career.
Joining professional organizations can provide you with valuable networking opportunities and access to resources that can help you throughout your career. There are many engineering organizations at the national, regional, and local levels that offer conferences, workshops, and other events that can help you stay up-to-date with industry trends and connect with other professionals in your field.
Professional organizations can also provide you with access to job postings, mentoring opportunities, and other career development resources. Joining a professional organization can be especially beneficial for engineers who are just starting their careers and are looking for guidance and support.