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. Your status as a PE is an advantage that can open doors for the rest of your life. As licensed professionals, PEs often command greater respect from the public. They are also held in high esteem by their peers within the engineering community.
- 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 shows commitment to the profession and demonstrates heightened leadership and management skills.
- 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. Licensure is a necessity for rising to increased levels of authority and 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. For these reasons, many government agencies and educational institutions are emphasizing the importance of licensure.
- 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 become a specialist or establish your own business. For consulting engineers and private practitioners, licensure is a virtual necessity.
- 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 60+ member societies, the ILN provides more than 400 hours of training from industry experts.
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.