Individual Engineer Licensing

All 50 states and Washington, D.C. require engineers to be individually licensed before practicing or soliciting business. Each state board has its own professional standards for engineering licenses. There are certain prerequisites for licensing, which vary slightly by state. Generally speaking, the requirements include:

  • A four-year engineering degree from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology(ABET) -accredited college or university program with a degree in engineering.
  • Successful completion of a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) written examination, testing an applicant’s breadth of understanding of basic engineering principles, with some exams also testing elements of an engineering specialty. (Upon completion of the FE exam, applicants may request certification as an engineer in training (EIT), also known as an engineer intern (EI)).
  • Successful completion of a written Principles and Practice in Engineering (PE) examination, testing an applicant's knowledge and skills in a specific engineering discipline and engineering ethics.
  • A requisite amount of engineering experience, which for most states is four years and is usually under the supervision of a professional engineer.

ABET Waiver: In some cases, a state board of engineering may waive the requirement of an ABET-accredited degree and register an applicant who has demonstrated professional experience that is deemed to be equivalent to a degree in engineering from an accredited program.

Once these initial steps are complete, an aspiring engineer can begin the application process in his or her state. Licensing is administered by the board of engineering in each state. The specific requirements, application fees, and processing times vary by state.

Additional Requirements

Each state has their own additional engineer license requirements. Common requirements include:

  • Duration of state residency
  • Reference from licensed engineer
  • Duration of internship or training
  • Additional experience
  • Additional jurisdiction-specific exam (beyond the FE and PE)

Initial Application Fees

Fees vary widely by state. The fee in Delaware is just $50 whereas the Illinois fees for registration by examination by a resident are $373. States typically charge an application fee plus the fees for processing exam applications.

Reciprocal Registration

Thanks to reciprocity, many engineers are licensed to practice in more than just one jurisdiction for greater job flexibility, mobility, and security. Reciprocity or licensure by comity is when a registered engineer in one jurisdiction applies for registration in another by providing documentation that he or she meets that jurisdiction's registration requirements. Typically this is accomplished through an NCEES Record.

Registration boards examine and keep a record of qualifications for each applicant for registration. Many registration boards expect a NCEES Record as a basis for reciprocal registration, although a some consider applicants without this record. A complete copy of an applicant’s NCEES Record will be provided to a registration board in support of the application for reciprocal registration.

If reciprocal registration is permitted, there will be an application fee registration. For example, the fee for the Engineer by Reciprocity application is $110 in Washington and $125 in California.

Renewal Requirements

Generally speaking, engineering individual licenses must be renewed periodically. The renewal frequency is one to two years, depending on the state. State fees also vary. California imposes an engineer service renewal fee of $115 for a two-year period, while Wisconsin renewal is $82. Continuing education (CE) is required in nearly every state. Keeping up with each state’s requirements, tracking renewals, and submitting the applications on time is critical to avoiding penalties. A dedicated compliance expert can help you keep track of varying jurisdiction requirements and updated laws.

Key Terms

Design Firm - Engineering firm registration is sometimes grouped with architecture and land surveying on a single “design firm” application form.

EI (Engineering Intern) - A term also used to describe an Engineer in Training.

EIT (Engineer in Training) - A professional designation granted upon having completed at least 3 years of school at an ABET-accredited university and having passed the FE exam.

FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) - An exam testing on basic engineering principles that is required to become an engineer in training.

PE (Professional Engineer or 'Principles and Practice in Engineering') - Means either Professional Engineer or refers to the Principles and Practice in Engineering exam that is a prerequisite for an engineering license.

Reciprocity - When a licensed engineer in one state can provide documentation (often an NCEES Record) to more easily apply for a license in another jurisdiction.

Industry Resources

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
Accrediting board that sets standards for university programs in a variety of applied science disciplines.

American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)
Engineering, architecture, and land surveying advocacy group.

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Organization that provides continuing education, professional conferences, and advocacy efforts to the civil engineering community.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
Mechanical engineering organization that focuses on education and professional development.

Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC)
Reviews accreditation requirements and makes final decisions regarding the accreditation process.

National Council of Examiners for Engineering & Surveying (NCEES)
Develops, administers, and scores the exams used for engineering licenses.

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
NSPE is an advocacy group for professional engineers.

Engineering Licensing Compliance Guide
Licensing by state

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