So if you downloaded the study plan that I used, you would have seen the schedule of events that took place when I was getting my Professional Engineering license. One of those events was getting my application rejected! This, in addition to the board misplacing my application, caused me to postpone my exam date by 6 months. My mistake was not carefully examining the PE application experience requirements.
What exactly did I do wrong? I didn’t take the application as seriously as I should have and didn’t fully explain my responsibilities in a way that the board asked me to. Instead, I just wrote down the first thing that came to mind as if I were explaining my job to a friend. It was almost as if I said: “It’s really not that difficult, I just review the calculations that my supplier performs for us. It’s nothing like school.”
As a further sign of those times, I did not keep a copy of what I actually sent to the board, but it wasn’t that bad. When the board sent me the rejection letter and a copy of the applicable regulations, I got my act together.
How to do Better
Even if you are still in school and haven’t taken your Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, it’s important to look ahead to see what you’re getting into. It’s important because you want to anticipate the requirements of the PE application before you waste your time. There are jobs out there with “engineering” titles that don’t actually require real engineering work. Before accepting a job, you should ask how the job will satisfy the experience requirements of your state’s engineering board. If the hiring manager can’t answer this question well, you may also ask how many other PEs work at your company, especially the department that you will be assigned to.
Each state will have their own requirements, but they are often similar. In my case, Virginia has this site with all the applicable regulations and application forms.
How Many Years Experience Are Required?
When you look at the application form you will see there are actually multiple answers to this question. If you graduated with an “approved engineering curriculum” you are required to have 4 years of “qualifying engineering experience”. An approved engineering technology curriculum requires 6 years of experience. Lastly, a non-approved engineering technology curriculum requires 10 years of experience. So the lesson here, make sure you attend an ABET-accredited school.
What is “Qualifying Engineering Experience”?
The Virginia board has 8 categories, but I will summarize them into 3.
1. Engineering Graduate Degree / Co-Op Program
While these things are beneficial, you may only claim a maximum of one year of credit. Of course, getting an MBA or other non-engineering degree is going to count.
There is no cap on the credit that you may receive for teaching an engineering curriculum. This seems like it would be the easiest path to professional licensing since you are looking at practice problems every day for work.
3. Construction / Sales / Military / Industry
This is the category that most people will fall under, including me. The main takeaway here is that you must take/find problems and then develop solutions. You do this with principles learned in school and practices used throughout industry, e.g., standards & codes. It’s not enough to say that you supervise or review the work of other people.
Depending on where you are, look at your prospective job or current job with these things in mind. If you begin to look at everything in the frame of the PE Application Experience Requirements, you will start to make the connections between your job and the application.