Skip to content

A Professional Engineer (PE) is an engineer who is licensed by a state board of registration to practice engineering. A PE license is the engineering profession's highest standard of competence. It is also an assurance of quality as well as a symbol of achievement.

How do you get a PE license?

According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, “To become licensed, engineers must complete a four-year college degree, work under a Professional Engineer for at least four years, pass two intensive competency exams and earn a license from their state's licensure board. Then to retain their licenses, PE's must continually maintain and improve their skills throughout their careers.”

The two exams are the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) and PE (Professional Engineer). There are different exams for each engineering discipline. The FE exam is often taken during the last year of college. An engineer can stamp and sign engineering drawings and calculations as a PE once the PE exam is passed and the other requirements of the state have been met and they have registered with the state.

Do you need to have attended an ABET-accredited college to get a PE?

Some states require that you have a BS degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program to take the FE exam. Other states allow you to take the exam providing you meet other degree and experience requirements. These requirements are nearly always greater for applicants without an ABET-accredited degree.

Why become a PE?

If you are a PE or on your way to become one, it will make you stand out from the competition when job hunting. You may also get to work on more interesting projects. Only a licensed engineer can submit plans and drawings and be in charge of work in the private sector. A PE license will lead to a higher salary, more respect in your field and greater career potential. 

Is a PE required?

In some engineering disciplines, such as Structural Engineering, it is necessary to obtain a PE. If you do not become a PE you can not sign off on engineering drawings and calculations. In some other engineering disciplines such as Chemical Engineering, it is not as necessary to have a PE to work in the field. Overall, obtaining a PE is a valuable designation to achieve as any engineer.

According to Oxford Dictionary an engineer is, “A person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or structures.” In today's world the field of engineering encompasses so much more. Engineers are problem solvers, designers, organizers and calculators. The modern engineer is also computer savvy. They will utilize software programs to assist in design and forecasting or developing new software to make things run better. Engineering touches every aspect of life. For example, phones, bridges, appliances, machines, buildings, computers, airplanes, and the list goes on.

An engineer uses science, math and ingenuity to develop solutions to commercial, technical and societal problems. They design structures, materials, systems and processes, while taking into account regulations, safety, cost and practical limitations. Being an engineer is challenging and rewarding. An engineer can be involved in finding answers to problems that confront society.

There are 4 main disciplines that the engineering field is broken down into. They are Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical and Civil Engineering. There are numerous sub disciplines under each of those. Computer Engineering, Construction Engineering, Aerospace Engineering and Biomedical Engineering are just a few of those sub disciplines.

Getting an engineering degree can open the door to other professions as well. The thinking process and skills developed as an engineer are very valuable and highly sought after. There are many engineering graduates who are currently in careers in business, law and medicine. In addition, there are a significant number of CEO's and people in other key management positions in large companies who come from engineering backgrounds. There will always be a demand for the skills of an engineer.

Overall, engineers are designers, calculators, designers, planners, tech savvy and problem solvers. If you are curious about how things work and like to apply what you learn to solve real world problems, engineering may be the right field for you.

What Is ABET?

ABET stands for Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. As stated on their website, ABET is “a not for profit, non-governmental accrediting agency for programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology and we are recognized as an accreditor by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation... ABET accreditation provides assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates.”

Why Is This Important?

Companies looking to hire new graduates in engineering fields may look to see if the school the applicant is graduating from has the ABET accreditation. The accreditation gives them a better understanding of the curriculum of the applicant's program. This will help gauge whether the applicant has the skills required to do the job they are looking to fill and will be able to meet current and future needs. ABET has high standards in place that the institution must meet and maintain for their program to have ABET accreditation.

From the student's perspective, ABET accreditation ensures that the curriculum at that school meets the current standards of the industry. The student can be reassured that they will be taught the background and skills necessary to compete in that profession today and in the future. ABET accreditation is recognized world wide. ABET also states that licensing, certification and registration in a technical profession often requires graduation from an ABET accredited program as a minimum qualification. In addition, choosing an ABET accredited program helps to establish your eligibility for many federal grants, loans or scholarships.

Do All Engineering Schools Have ABET Accreditation for all their programs?

No. The accreditation is voluntary. Schools are not required to do this. In addition, the agency accredits programs, not institutions. It is possible for a school to be accredited in one program of study, but not all of their engineering programs.

Should ABET Accreditation Determine Your College Choice?

ABET accreditation should not be the only criteria used to decide which colleges to look at. Many schools have quality programs, but not the official designation, and may be a better fit overall for you. The process to get licensed in a technical field is not hinged on whether you graduate from an ABET accredited program. There are other requirements that can be used instead of it. The accreditation can just speed up the process. In addition, there are many educational programs currently undergoing the process for ABET certification, but haven't reached it yet. One would expect the programs working toward ABET certification to be structured to follow ABET requirements as they are going through the process. A degree from that program will have the benefits of ABET accreditation once it is attained, in some cases even if it is after the fact. In short, ABET accreditation is just one of the things to consider when choosing a college for a degree in engineering.

To find out if a school you are considering is ABET accredited, check out this link for the ABET website. https://amspub.abet.org/aps/name-search?searchType=institution

After deciding which engineering field you are interested in, it is a good idea to visit schools that have that program. Every college has its own personality and all schools do not follow the same programs of instruction. This is something every student needs to consider when deciding if that school is the one for them. When you go on some college tours, you will start to see what aspects of schools you like, or do not like. This is the best way to start narrowing down choices of schools. By going on different campuses you will get a feel of what each school is like. The size and look of the campus, what the facilities and classrooms are like, and what the class sizes are will give you an indication of what is best for you. Try to take the engineering school tour at each school, if possible. An engineering tour will give more insight into what the curriculum is like and what life as a student in their program will be like. In addition, talking to current students and speaking to administrators about the specifics of the program you are interested in will give you more information. The administrators can also provide more specifics on the requirements for admittance to their program.

If you are not sure where to begin, first start exploring colleges that may be a short distance from where you live. This is a great way to start narrowing down what type of schools you are interested in without spending a lot of time and money.