What to know about professional engineer licenses
Across the nation, states are requiring engineers to be licensed before they can perform work as a professional engineer.
Although there are different professional engineer licensing requirements in each state, most require a certain amount of education and experience in order for applicants to receive their professional engineer (PE) license.
Once they receive their license, professional engineers obtain insurance coverage to help keep their business protected from various liabilities and risks. In some cases, specific insurance policies are required.
In this article, we will examine the required steps you will need to take to become a licensed professional engineer, as well as the types of insurance coverage that you’ll need once you start working.
When do you need a professional engineer license?
A professional engineer license is a legal requirement in all 50 states for engineers before they can practice or solicit business.
License requirements are especially growing in government roles, including in several federal, state, and municipal agencies. In addition, many states are requiring individuals who teach engineering to be licensed, as well.
A professional engineer license demonstrates your credibility and expertise in the field of engineering to both employers and clients alike.
How do you get a professional engineer license?
While licensure requirements vary by state, there are some general requirements that most licensing professional engineer programs follow.
The path to obtaining a professional engineer’s license typically requires:
- A four-year engineering bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- Successful completion of the written or computer-based Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Four years of professional engineering experience, under the supervision of a professional engineer
- Successful completion of the written or computer-based Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam
The FE exam is a 110-question exam that must be completed within six hours. It tests an examinee’s knowledge of basic engineering principles, and is offered in seven different disciplines, such as Chemical, Civil, and Mechanical. Most applicants take this exam during the senior year of their bachelor’s program or shortly after graduation.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES) administers the FE exam and requires a $175 exam fee. Free study guides and resources are available on the NCEES website.
The PE exam is designed to be taken after completing four years of professional engineering experience, under the direction of a professional engineer. This exam is also administered by NCEES and tests an applicant’s knowledge and skills in a specific engineering discipline and engineering ethics.
Continuing education requirements include professional engineer license renewals on an annual or biennial basis.
What kind of professional engineer licensing and certification requirements are there?
The licensing requirements for a professional engineer license vary state by state. However, most states typically require certain levels of educational and professional experience.
Each state has its own unique application process and licensing requirements, such as:
In California, the first step to obtaining your professional engineer degree is to get an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) certification.
EIT certificate applicants must have previously passed the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, as well as have any of the following requirements:
- Three years or more of postsecondary (college-level) engineering education
- Three years or more of engineering-related work experience
- A combination of postsecondary (college-level) engineering education and engineering-related work experience totaling three years
After passing the FE exam, applicants can submit an application for their EIT certificate through BPELSG Connect. A $75.00 application fee and a full set of fingerprints are required with submission of the application.
In order to apply for a PE license in Ohio, applicants must show proof of completion of:
- Educational requirements, including a bachelor’s degree in engineering
- Successful passing of the PE exam
- Four years of progressive experience under a licensed PE in the US
- Successful passing of the FE exam
- Five references (including 3 PE references)
The Ohio state board recently made changes to the PE and FE registration process:
- Applicants for the FE and PE exams should now apply directly to NCEES instead of submitting an exam approval application to the Ohio board. Applicants who intend to get their initial license should select Ohio as their state for their exam
- Applicants for the PE examination will no longer need to have completed the work experience requirement before sitting for the PE exam. The Ohio board still requires four years of work experience to qualify for an Ohio PE license, but applicants make take the PE exam any time after taking and passing the FE exam
In New York, the following are requirements to be licensed as a professional engineer:
- Be of a good moral character
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which requires a total of 6 years of combined experience and education credit
- Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, which requires a total of 12 years of combined experience and education credit
Applicants should submit their license application and other required forms, along with a $377 application fee, to Office of the Professions at the address specified on each form.
To become a professional engineer in Texas, you must meet the requirements for three basic categories: education, examinations and experience.
- Education: Typically includes an accredited Bachelor of Science in engineering. Though, a few other types of degrees or degree combinations are accepted, such as a bachelor’s degree in math with a graduate degree in engineering
- Examinations: All applicants for licensure must take and pass the Texas Ethics of Engineering examination, which tests applicants on the Texas Engineering Practice Act and the Board Rules. You must also take and pass or qualify for waivers for the FE and PE exams
- Experience: With an accredited engineering degree, you must have a minimum of 4 years of active practice in engineering work. With a non-accredited degree, you must have a minimum of 8 years of engineering work
What insurance coverage does a professional engineer need?
Many U.S. locations require professional engineers to have certain levels of insurance.
Even if specific policies are not required, it is a good idea to obtain insurance coverage to protect you and your company from liabilities and risks. Not only will this provide peace of mind, but it will help you save money in the long run.
The recommended insurance options for professional engineers are as follows:
General liability insurance
General liability insurance is typically the first type of business insurance that small business owners purchase. It covers third-party risks, such as someone suing you after a slip and fall accident at your business. It is often required for a commercial lease.
Commercial property insurance
Commercial property insurance covers your engineering physical location and equipment in case it’s damaged or stolen.
Business owner’s policy (BOP)
A business owner’s policy (BOP) bundles your general liability and commercial property insurance into one policy and is usually less expensive than buying these coverages separately.
Professional liability insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance
Workers’ comp is required in almost every state for engineering businesses that have employees. This policy covers medical expenses in case you or your employee experience a work-related injury. It will also provide part of your lost wages while you’re out of work due to on-the-job injuries.
Many sole proprietors also buy this coverage, as it protects against work-related injuries and illnesses that likely wouldn’t be covered by your personal health insurance.
Cyber liability insurance
Cyber liability insurance protects your company from data breaches and cyberattacks. This policy is strongly recommended for engineering firms that handle sensitive information.
Commercial auto insurance
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