There’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is that some engineers don’t need to take the tests — the bad news is that the rest do. The majority of FE and PE exam takers are civil engineers, who regularly work with public systems and construction documents. Electrical engineers who design power systems and mechanical engineers who design HVAC systems are some of the other engineers will also most likely need a P.E. license. Generally speaking, engineers whose work will in some way affect public safety need to concern themselves with the exams; civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers are the primary takers of the FE and PE exams. An example of an engineer who may not need certification would be an electrical engineer who design computer chips or low-power embedded systems.
Surprise! Those who pursue a legal career of any discipline are already being treated to a veritable banquet of exam cuisine. But those special few who want to practice in the lucrative, in-demand field of patent law without a technical degree might find themselves with an additional serving on their plates. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has certain technical requirements for anyone who wants to take the registration exam for patent law. Those without a technical degree have a couple options:
- Accumulate a certain number of university credit hours in an appropriate technical discipline, or
- Pass the FE exam
Those who have already graduated and don’t have the time or money to go back to school really have no choice but to pass the FE exam (or else tragically abandon their childhood dreams of an adventure-filled life in patent law).
Of course, even if you don’t need to be certified, you can certainly still become a Professional Engineer for the fun of it. And by fun I mean usefulness. Even if a P.E. is not required, those who receive a license can enjoy a couple other benefits.
Engineers who choose to pursue a consulting career and aren’t necessarily represented by a professional engineering company will have stronger credentials and appear more knowledgeable and professional. In addition, engineers who leave the industry to do independent consulting will have to take the FE/PE in order to advertise themselves as “professional” or “licensed” engineers.
In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, the boogeyman of job instability could leap out of the closet at any time. Those who wield a P.E. will have something with which to fight it off. Even if you don’t need a P.E. for your current job, if something happens (knock on wood), and you find yourself looking for a new job, having a P.E. could open certain doors that might be closed otherwise. Already having a license also means one less thing to think about when transitioning between jobs — convenient!
Expert Witnessing and Investigating
Licensed P.E.s can be called upon to provide professional opinions on various engineering problems, such as causes of structural failure or electrical fires. Solve crimes; save the world!
To register for the exams, or for more information about the tests, visit the NCEES website.