A Professional Engineer (PE) license requires a four-year engineering degree, four or more years of progressive experience under a professional engineer (in most states), and a multidisciplinary understanding of physical and engineering principles as proven through a competency exam. Once you’ve earned a license from your state’s licensure board, you must continually maintain and improve your skills to retain the license.
Because a PE license is not a requirement for many engineering jobs, recent engineering graduates often wonder if the amount of work it takes to become a PE is worth it. In certain engineering fields, such as electrical engineering, a PE license might be preferred but is generally not necessary. However, there are several benefits of holding this license, even when it’s not mandatory for employment.
7 Benefits of Earning a Professional Engineer License
- Prestige. When you earn a PE, your status is something that can set you up for success now, and in the future. As licensed professionals, PEs often command greater respect from the public. And in the engineering community that understands PE status the best, those that hold a PE are highly respected.
- Career development. A PE license can serve as a deciding factor during the hiring process. When a company is choosing between two equally qualified applicants where the only difference is one has a PE license and the other does not, the hiring manager is more likely to choose the licensed candidate.Not only does licensure enhance your standing, it also highlights your leadership potential and demonstrates a higher commitment to your profession.
- Higher salary. According to a 2012 salary survey conducted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the median salary for a PE is $100,500, while that of a non-licensed engineer is $95,775. For those with a PE license in an engineering specialty, the median salary jumps to $110,300.
- Authority. For many engineers, having a PE is a requirement to advance and gain greater responsibility. Only a licensed engineer can sign, seal, and submit plans and drawings, oversee work in the private sector, or serve as a fully qualified expert witness. Many government agencies and academic institutions emphasize the importance of a PE license.
- Title. Without a PE license, you cannot officially call yourself a professional engineer. Additionally, if you ever decide to work for yourself as a consultant, you will need to register as a PE. Even as recently as 2017, Oregon had a state law that governed who could call themselves engineers. Mats Järlström, who holds the equivalent of a B.S. in electrical engineering from Sweden, was fined for referring to himself as an engineer without being an Oregon-registered professional engineer. Since then, a judge ruled in Järlström’s favor.
- Flexibility and security. A PE license can provide greater job security during industry downsizing or outsourcing. It can also expand your career options outside the traditional corporate environment by enabling you to start your own business. In order to become an engineering consultant or private practitioner, a PE license is a requirement.
- Work anywhere in the United States. Because the PE and Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exams along with the minimum registration requirements are standardized nationally, professional engineers can work in any state they choose. Although a professional engineer must register with the state’s board of engineering and may need to complete additional requirements, PE licenses generally can be used throughout the country.
Continuing Education Post-Licensing
In order to ensure relevancy as technology advances, continuing education is a requirement of various engineering licenses. Continuing education courses can provide increased confidence in the knowledge from every level— from senior engineers to those just entering the workforce.
We’re excited to announce the launch of the IEEE Learning Network (ILN), an easy-to-use learning management system. It delivers online education on the latest topics in engineering, technology, and more. With content developed by engineering and technology experts from across IEEE, the ILN provides more than 700 hours of training available whenever and wherever you are ready to learn.
What is a PE? National Society of Professional Engineers.
Gonzalez, Carlos. (24 May 2016). The Value of a Continuing Engineering Education. Machine Design.
Kent, PE, Jason. The Power of the PE License. Monster.