In this week’s Pass the PE Exam article (and video above), I answer a question I get often from engineering students and recent graduates that ask: “Should I take the PE or FE exam?”
If you are an engineering student and this is something you have been wondering about, then this video is for you. Remember that right now, at this very point in history, you control the direction of your career more than ever. So it’s important to make the right decisions today, and I hope this video will help you do just that!
Let’s Define the Two Different Exams:
The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam
This exam is designed for recent engineering graduates and students who are close to finishing an undergraduate engineering degree from an EAC (or Engineering Accreditation Commission )/ABET (or Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology)-accredited program. The FE exam is a computer-based exam administered year-round at NCEES-approved Pearson VUE test centers. It includes 110-questions and the exam appointment time is six hours long with about five hours and twenty minutes of that time being actual exam time. If you take and pass the FE exam, you have the choice after roughly four years of progressive experience as an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam (PE exam)
The PE Exam or The Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam
This exam is the examination required for one to become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the United States, and is the second exam required, coming after the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, created and scored by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). As a general rule, a professional engineer who has number one an approved four-year engineering degree, number 2 – four years of qualifying engineering experience, and number 3 who successfully completes (3) the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination can take the PE exam. That being said, you should confirm these items with your local state education board as some states do vary on these experience and timeline requirements. You can register for the exam through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) website at NCEES.org.
Here Are Some of the Advantages of Having an EIT Certificate:
- After graduation, your number one goal is to find a job, and creating a high quality resume may land you a job with a good company. While you may think that excellent grades during school is good enough, this is not the only thing that engineering companies look for. Trust me I used to help the company I worked for hire engineers.
- Having an EIT certificate can differentiate you from other candidates when you apply for a job. The EIT shows your prospective employer that you are serious about pursuing your engineering license and advancing your career.
- One obvious benefit of taking the FE exam is that it is a prerequisite to becoming a Professional Engineer. If you plan on working in the engineering industry, getting your PE license is very important, especially for civil engineers. You may not be interested in getting your PE at this present time, however it is better to take the FE exam as soon as possible, whether you ultimately need it or not. This way, if you decide to proceed then you are already done with the first part of the process.
The best time to take the FE exam is before or immediately after graduation while the technical content is still fresh in your brain. You are eligible to take the exam as soon as you are within 6 months of graduation. The individual decision to prepare for and take the FE will depend on a student’s desire to keep the option open to take the PE exam after gaining the required work experience.
This Is What a PE License Can Do for You:
Many employers might require you to become licensed as a Professional Engineer (PE) to move up in the company. Earning a PE license is similar to passing the bar exam for attorneys after law school or the medical board exams after medical school for physicians.
- Your PE License Will Set You Apart – Obtaining the license shows that you have met all the standards required of the profession.
- A PE License Generally Means a Higher Salary, not always, but usually.
- A PE License Can Be a HUGE Differentiator in the Hiring Process – If a company has to choose between several qualified applicants, one with a PE license (or an EIT working toward his or her license) and one without, which one do you think it will choose?
- Your PE License Gives You the Ability to Sign and Seal Plans and Drawings – Only a licensed engineer can submit plans and drawings.. These requirements lead to more responsibility for the licensed PE, and thus greater career potential. Please note, that prior to signing and sealing plans, you should get approval from your company and look into the proper insurance coverage.
- You Can Officially Call Yourself an Engineer – only if you have a PE license in most geographic locations.
- You Can Work Anywhere in the Country (please note that you may need to transfer a license from one state to another but that is easier than re-taking the exam)
So when deciding whether to take the PE or FE exam, consider what each of these credentials can do for your future career, and what stage in the process you are at. My personal recommendation would be to take the FE/EIT exam as soon as you can. If you end up not going for the PE, then all you lost was some study time. However, if you do go for the PE, then you will be thankful that you already have the FE/EIT exam under your belt.
The key here is that the PE license is tremendously valuable in many areas of engineering. You never know where you will end up, so it is best to take the FE/EIT so you are prepared.
I hope you found this article helpful. In upcoming articles, I will solve some more PE exam practice problems and answer other questions from our subscribers. Pass the PE Exam videos will publish weekly, so be sure to click the subscribe button so you don’t miss something that could make a substantial difference in your exam result.
Lastly, I encourage you to ask questions in the comments of this video, 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… on Pass the PE Exam
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success