In this article (and video above), I explain how you can document and organize your progressive engineering work experience while applying for the PE Exam. You must detail your engineering experience in a very specific way to get accepted to take the PE Exam, and if you do it the right way, it will significantly improve your chances of being accepted to sit for the Engineering Principles and Practice or PE Exam.
Following are 5 tips to help you navigate the preparation of your PE Exam application, specifically how to list your progressive engineering work experience on the application. But you should remember that every state may review experience differently, and the following are general tips from my experience and my conversations with other engineers. Your State may require more or less than 4 years of experience.
Here are The 5 Tips to Organize Your 4 Years of Progressive Engineering Work Experience:
- Provide details for each of your projects, specifically what YOU did on the project. This is the biggest mistake engineers make when applying for the exam. They give the name of the project, XYZ Highway Ramp Design, but then they use verbiage like, “I worked on a team that re-designed the highway ramp. We provided design plans and specifications detailing the roadway design.” Many states won’t accept this as your experience. Instead, you should write about specifically what YOU did. I worked on a team that redesigned an 8 lane highway. My role was to design details and specifications related to the roadway including detailing the depth of aggregate beneath the roadway. I designed the curve length for both, the on and off ramps. This is how specific you need to be, otherwise, you may get denied.
- Clearly define the amount of time you worked on a project, and even the project subtasks, if possible. Again, each State is different in exactly what they require, but in most states you will need to give the number of months that you worked on a project. This is NOT the total number of months that the project design and construction took, it is the exact amount of time that you worked on it. This is another piece of information that many people either get wrong, or leave off their application. Doing so will likely get your chances of getting approved.
- Make sure that for every project you list on your application, you are able to provide a licensed engineer who supervised, or worked with you on that project. Your project is likely to be unaccepted, if you are not able to provide a licensed engineer supervising your project. It is critically important to have a licensed engineer to track your experience as an engineer from day one of your career. Make sure not to pull it together during application time. One question that I get sometimes on this point is, “What if I no longer work for that company?” It doesn’t matter, you still need to list that PE who supervised your experience, and ensure you have their contact information and are on good terms with them. If not, you may have to exclude that project altogether, although you should still list it on your application, even if you don’t count it towards your years of experience.
- In your project experience descriptions, be sure to outline the actual engineering tasks you had, possibly citing the design work you did, maybe even some of the equations or methodologies used. The State boards want to feel comfortable that you have amassed the proper technical engineering experience, NOT project management experience.
- Try to review a colleague’s application, who was previously approved to sit for the exam, or ask them to review yours upon completion. Why reinvent the wheel if you can see a sample of the type of descriptions that your specific state board previously approved. And this may actually be your first step to take, but I am listing last as a reminder to have your application reviewed before submission.
Here’s a Quick Recap:
- Provide details for each of your projects, specifically what YOU did on the project.
- Clearly define the amount of time you worked on a project.
- Make sure that for every project you list on your application, you are able to provide a licensed engineer who supervised, or worked with you on that project.
- In your project experience descriptions, be sure to outline the actual engineering tasks you had, possibly citing the design work you did, maybe even some of the equations or methodologies used.
- Try to review a colleague’s application, who was previously approved to sit for the exam, or ask them to review yours upon completion.
Here is the link to a helpful article on this topic from the National Society of Professional Engineers.
I hope you found this week’s article helpful. Remember the 80/20 Rule in YOUR studying efforts and your reference material selection. In upcoming articles I will walk through some more practice problems, but also talk about tackling qualitative problems.
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Lastly, I encourage you to ask questions in the comments of the videos or on this page and I’ll read and respond to them in future videos. So if there’s a specific topic you want me to cover or answer, we have you covered.
I’ll see you next week.
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success