Thinking of Turning Pro? Why Engineers Get Professional Licenses

Is a professional engineering license worth your while?

When you think about your long-term career path as an engineer or surveyor, what do you see?

Does it include a progressive approach to becoming a principal at your firm, leading a team of engineers, or even offering your own professional services to the public?

Whatever your goal, a professional engineering (PE) or surveying license (PS) should be in your immediate crosshairs.

A professional license opens many doors for engineering and surveying professionals.

For one, it sets you apart from other engineers by distinguishing your qualifications. It provides increased job security as the demand for qualified, licensed engineers continues to grow. And, the license provides more opportunities for job growth, leadership, and income potential as employers place high value on professionals who are licensed.

P.E. Matthew Collins passed the HVAC and Refrigeration discipline test and comments, “I decided to pursue my professional engineering license for a number of reasons. One, it makes you look more marketable in the engineering field when it comes to employment. Second, the license represents the ultimate goal in the engineering field. Finally, adding P.E. after your name accords you a measure of respect from managers, customers, and suppliers.”

Many recent grads are stopped by the licensing examination requirements, so they don’t fully investigate the upside of licensure. That is a bit shortsighted. For example, how quickly you are able to become a licensed professional engineer is determined by the state in which you practice, your degree of education, and work experience. In New York State you may apply to sit for your Professional Engineering licensing exam in as little as 4 years if you graduate from an ABET/EAC accredited engineering program with at least a Bachelor’s degree and have passed the FE exam. In California, however, an engineer with the same qualifications may register for their PE license after only 2 years of work experience.

While licensure for Professional Engineers and Structural Engineers requires years of experience, college engineering graduates can obtain their Engineer-In-Training (EIT) certificate after passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE exam) or the Fundamentals of Surveying exam (FS exam). These represent a major milestone that is respected by engineering professionals in itself.

If you haven’t yet thought about obtaining a professional engineering license in your field, here is some food for thought. According to The Engineering Income and Salary Survey published in 2012, the median salary for a full-time salaried, licensed Professional Engineer was $100,000. The highest full-time salaried median income by major branch of engineering goes to those respondents working in ocean ($169,000), minerals and metals ($121,000), fire protection ($116,000), and electrical ($115,200) engineering.

Engineers play a vital role in providing innovative solutions to everyday problems. As a result, the market for qualified engineers continues to grow. An engineering job market report by showed that there is substantial projected growth in the engineering market.

Figure 1


Different Types of Licensure
Your field of expertise will determine the type of license however, there are four main certificates and licenses that can be obtained, depending on your field of study:

  • Engineer-In-Training (FE exam)
    • Chemical Engineering
    • Civil Engineering
    • Electrical and Computer Engineering
    • Environmental Engineering
    • Industrial Engineering
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Other Disciplines
  • Professional Engineer (PE exam)
  • Professional Surveyor (PS exam)
  • Structural Engineer (SE exam)
    • Lateral Component
    • Vertical Component

(Note: the SE exam is one exam given over a two day period).  The PE and SE license requires that you pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam plus obtain a certain number of years of experience, depending on the state, and pass the PE exam.

The PS license is similar in that you must pass the Fundamentals of Surveying Exam plus obtain a number of years of experience as well.


The FAQs on the site is an excellent resource for guiding engineers through the licensure process.

PPI, publisher of quality professional licensing exam review material since 1975, has sponsored promotion of their professional training on They have no editorial input to this post.  All opinions are mine. – Joel Erway.