WES Advisor Blog

Engineering Licensure

by Luke Smith,

WES Education Services

September 12, 2022

To use the title Professional Engineer (PE), you must have a PE license; but you do not need to be licensed as a PE to practice engineering in the U.S.

  • You must have a PE license if your work will require you to do specific tasks, such as stamp and seal designs or testify as an expert witness in court, or if you wish to be self-employed or start your own engineering firm.
  • However, many engineers work in the U.S. without a PE license if their position does not require it.

Licensing as a professional engineer (PE) in the US is complex and can take many years. Although requirements vary by state, a PE license typically requires:

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering from a program accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET, or from a jurisdiction that has signed an engineering Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with ABET. These include the Seoul Accord for computing programs and the Washington Accord for other engineering programs. See “Mutual Recognition Agreements” below for more information.
    • In the past, ABET recognized a number of international engineering programs as substantially equivalent to ABET-accredited programs. Most of these programs are now accredited. If you graduated with an engineering degree from one of these programs, either during the time that it was recognized by ABET as substantially equivalent or once it obtained ABET accreditation, then your licensing board may accept your degree as equivalent to a U.S. degree.
  • A credential evaluation of your degree, if you have graduated from an engineering program in another country that is not ABET-accredited or recognized under a Mutual Recognition Agreement. The results of your credential evaluation will determine your next steps: either you will be found eligible to proceed with the licensure process, or you may have to take some additional courses first.
    • For licensing purposes, the engineering industry prefers that credential evaluations be performed by NCEES Credentials Evaluations, offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). This is the only evaluation service accepted by all state licensing boards.
    • After passing the FE exam, some states give you Engineer in Training (EIT) or Engineer Intern (EI) status. In other states it is called Intern Engineer (IE), but all three terms mean the same thing. Some states do not give you any special status after passing the FE exam, but it does not matter, because passing the FE exam is the only thing you need to be able to proceed with your licensure process.
  • Four years of acceptable work experience in your engineering discipline.

To learn about the licensure requirements in your state, contact your local licensing board.

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