Engineering Licensing Compliance Guide
Professional 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.
- Jump To:
- Additional Requirements
- Initial Application Fees
- Reciprocal Registration
- Renewal Requirements
Explore licensing in your state:
Engineers in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, must be individually licensed before practicing or soliciting business as an engineer. While each state board for engineers has its own requirements for licensure, potential licensees will follow a similar path of prerequisites to obtain a license in any state. Prerequisites typically 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.
- 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.
After passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, most states issue or allow individuals to apply for an engineer-in-training (EIT) certificate. Although in many states EIT certificates are valid perpetually, some states require certificates to be renewed periodically. Click on a state page link below for more information about engineer-in-training certificates in your state.
In addition to the standard licensing requirements mentioned above, some states have additional requirements that go beyond what is required in other states. Additional requirements often include:
- A duration of state residency
- A reference from licensed engineer
- A duration of internship or training
- Additional experience
- Additional jurisdiction-specific exams (beyond the FE and PE)
Initial Application Fees
After meeting the prerequisites for licensure, applicants can begin the license application process. Depending on the state, applicants may need to file an application with the board prior to taking the PE exam, after passing the PE exam, or both prior to taking and after passing the PE exam.
Like the application process, application fees also vary by state. Some states charge separate fees for exam applications, license applications, and the issuance of the license, while other states charge a single flat fee. In many states, applicants must wait until their license application is approved before submitting the license fee and then receiving their license from the board.
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 an NCEES Record as a basis for reciprocal registration, although some will 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.
Professional engineer licenses typically need to be renewed on an annual or biennial basis. In addition to filing a renewal application and paying the license renewal fee, engineers in almost every state must also complete continuing education hours during the license renewal period. Many states require either 24 or 30 hours of continuing education over the course of a two-year license period.
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.
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.
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.