Is a Professional Engineer License Worth It? – ThomasNet News

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In today’s Industry 4.0 workforce, engineering has taken center stage with many considering a career in engineering and looking into obtaining a Professional Engineer license. In order to get the most out of a career in engineering, those who are interested in the field need to thoroughly look into all education and certification options such as whether to obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) certification.
Many of the young engineering professionals who will enter the future workforce — especially engineering students about to graduate — face this decision. Both choices present pros and cons; on one hand, a PE license enables engineering professionals to reach a more advanced career level, but on the other hand, it’s a difficult and time-consuming process.
A Professional Engineering license is a certification that demonstrates an engineer’s adherence to a higher level of standards. Prior to 1907, proof of skill and proficiency was not required for individuals to work as engineers, thus putting public welfare, health, and safety at risk.
The first engineering licensure law was passed in Wyoming at this time, ushering in a new era of engineering standards. Today, Professional Engineer certifications are highly respected, and sometimes a necessity.
There are many benefits of becoming a licensed professional engineer. Considered the highest standard of competence for the engineering profession, Professional Engineering certification not only raises one’s stature in the field, but also shows that the individual has higher levels of authority and responsibility.
Furthermore, because the requirements for earning PE status are stringent, and companies often don’t require a PE license for employment, not all engineers become licensed or feel a need to. But in addition to earning more respect among peers and potential clients while bringing about a personal sense of achievement, there are a number of practical career options that are not always available to non-licensed engineers.
Having a Professional Engineering license shows that a candidate has met all the standards of the profession and, especially for fields where the PE is preferred but not required, sets the individual apart from others.
For example, only a licensed engineer may prepare, sign, seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval. With these responsibilities come more authority and greater earning potential.
Earning a Professional Engineer license also allows a professional engineer to become an independent consultant, government engineer, or educator. For some career ventures, such as consulting, owning an engineering firm, or managing a public works project, it is a legal requirement to work with an engineer with PE designation.
Moreover, many federal, state, and municipal agencies now require that higher-level engineering positions be filled only by licensed professional engineers. Similarly, in the education world, many states are now requiring that engineering teachers be licensed.
In addition to enhanced career benefits options, data indicates that, on average, PEs tend to earn more than their non-licensed counterparts. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) indicated in a 2020 report that civil engineers who possessed a Professional Engineer license received a median salary that was $121,000; in contrast, civil engineers without a professional license or certifications earned $31,000 less.
Although there are many benefits of a PE license, many of which can greatly advance an engineer’s career, pursuing licensure requires a lot of additional time and effort, which can be overwhelming considering the investment involved in earning an engineering degree in the first place.
While requirements for Professional Engineer licenses differ on a statewide basis, with a state board determining requirements and procedures, the process for how to become a professional engineer generally boils down to the completion of four steps:
For dedicated PEs, earning a license is only the beginning, as many states require these professionals to maintain and improve upon their skills with continuing education and professional development opportunities.
Although the road to obtaining a PE license is long, intense, and difficult, and the maintenance of it is a lifelong commitment, this certification offers engineers a slew of valuable opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.
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