Professional Licensure & the FE Exam for Engineers

Please note:  The below was adapted from the website of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors and the providing organization for all information related to licensure examinations.  Please access the NCEES website at http://ncees.org/ for the most up-to-date information, upcoming testing dates, application process, deadlines and preparation materials to sit for the FE Exam for Engineers.

Excellent and helpful information can also be found through the Licensure section of the National Society for Professional Engineers at http://www.nspe.org/Licensure/index.html.

What is Professional Licensure in Engineering?

Professional licensure protects the public by enforcing standards that restrict practice to qualified individuals who have met specific qualifications in education, work experience, and exams.  In the United States, licensure for the engineering and surveying professions is regulated by state. Candidates interested in pursuing licensure are encouraged to check the requirements in the state or territory where they plan to practice, as the requirements vary; many states also accept "comity licensure," which allows multi-state practice.  For additional information, please also see "What is a PE" from the NSPE.org website.

Why pursue Professional Licensure?

Licensed engineers are a select group. Because the requirements are stringent and because there are some exemptions that allow engineers to work under the supervision of a P.E., not all engineers become licensed. Those who do achieve licensure, however, enjoy the professional benefits that accompany this distinction, such as:  a high level of responsibility; greater career development, growth and options; respect; flexibility; and potentially higher salary.  As a P.E., you would be able to perform certain tasks, such as:

  • Stamp and seal designs
  • Bid for government contracts
  • Be principal of a firm
  • Perform consulting services
  • Offer services to the public

Click here to review an informative video from the NCEES on why a P.E. is a valued designation for engineers, as well as review the five reasons offered through the "Why Get Licensed" section of the NSPE.org website.

What is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam?

The FE exam is typically the first step in the process leading to professional licensure in engineering, the Professional Engineer (P.E.) designation. The exam is most relevant for select majors, and successful completion will result in the candidate receiving the "Engineer in Training," or "E.I.T." designation (in some instances, also referred to as an "Engineer Intern," or "E.I.").  The FE exam may be taken by junior or senior engineering students or recent graduates from an appropriately accredited institution, such as the ABET-accredited School of Engineering & Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

How do I apply to sit for the FE Exam?

Licensing is done by individual state licensing boards.  Undergraduate students attending the University of Pennsylvania typically take the examination during their senior year, sitting in the state of Pennsylvania.   The exam lasts 8 hours and is administered in April and October in a variety of locations; candidates typically apply to sit for the FE exam one to several months in advance of the scheduled testing.