Engineers love acronyms — this is a fact. So it’s no surprise that in order to answer the simple question, “how do I become a licensed engineer?” you have to eat more than your desired share of alphabet soup.
Here are the basics:
- The FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) and PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering) exams are tests created and administered by the NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying).
- Passing the FE exam grants one the title of EIT (Engineer-in-Training), sometimes known as EI (Engineering Intern).
- In some areas, the FE exam is called the EIT exam.
- Passing the PE exam grants one the title of P.E. (Professional Engineer).
- Both the FE and PE exams are eight hours long and are split into two four-hour sessions, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon (with a 60 minute lunch break in between).
The FE exam, which is the first of the two, is designed for students who are close to completing their undergraduate educations. The morning session tests breadth of knowledge of general engineering principles and practices; this is where you will see topics from general engineering courses, like statistics, circuits, fluid dynamics, statics, and chemistry (among others). The afternoon session tests depth of knowledge of material more specific to your chosen field. So if you used your old notes and books to feed a massive post-graduation bonfire, you probably need to figure out how to reverse entropy and turn the ashes back into notes. No problem.
The PE exam is the second step in receiving a P.E. license, and it’s designed to test competence in a specific engineering field. In order to take it, you must have passed the FE exam and worked in the industry for at least four years (exceptions exist in certain states). For most engineers, the exam will basically be an eight-hour test of a broad range of topics within their fields of study. However, civil engineers, electrical and computer engineers, and mechanical engineers will need to select specific concentrations for their exams. For them, the morning sessions will broadly cover topics common to their fields as a whole, and the afternoon sessions will cover their selected concentration in greater depth.