1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is a PE license really that difficult to obtain?

  1. Mar 30, 2015 #1
    I am currently in my second year of college majoring in electrical engineering. I was wondering if getting a PE license is really as difficult as people say it is. I am in one of the top engineering universities. I am not an outstanding student but I do my work and do fairly well and understand the material. I would really like to get my PE license some time after I graduate because my dad owns an electrical contracting company in NYC and told me if I get that he could easily hook me up with reviewing and signing off on electrical drawings and permits through his company as a side job. Everyone I speak too says only about 20% of people pass the test though and that worries me. Is it really that hard to get? What are some suggestions I could do to work towards really knowing the material for the FE and PE exams throughout the next few years of college?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2015 #2

    Doug Huffman

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    If it was easy then every one might do it. It is designed for engineers who have gained at least four years’ post-college work experience in their chosen engineering discipline.
  4. Mar 30, 2015 #3
    You have a long way to go before that becomes a concern. Like Doug above said, PE licenses are for people that already have an engineering degree and years of engineering experience. If you are a sophomore now, you wouldn't even be eligible to take the exam for another six or seven years probably. There is no advice anybody can give you right now that is going to help you pass the test six years from now other than telling you to pay attention to your classes now.
  5. Mar 30, 2015 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    You don't have to wait that long to take the FE exam.

    Check with the PE Licensing Board in the state in which you want to practice about the eligibility requirements for first time examinees. Most states will accept you as eligible for examination for the FE as long as you have your engineering degree.

    When I was in school, back when Noah was completing his Ark, several members of my senior class took the FE exam in the spring just before graduation.

    As far as pass rates are concerned, here are some statistics compiled by the NCEES for several different FE exams:


    Once you have passed the FE, then you'll be eligible to take the final PE exam after several years of relevant engineering experience.

    Good Luck!
  6. Mar 30, 2015 #5
    Let me dispel some myths about the PE registration:

    1. It is supposed to be an indication of experience and ethics. It is hoped that a certificate holder has seen how the engineering process works, the reality of how designs have held up over time, and has seen how things get done.

    2. That said, the PE is instead a mark of liability for the safety and durability of the design. It is not a guarantee of an efficient, high performing, creative design. Unfortunately, I have seen many less than ideal designs from colleagues who really should have known better. These designs weren't unsafe, but they did not perform as well as they should have.

    3. It carries professional obligations to the public to warn of danger in designs. Thus, if you have reason to know that a design or an asset will be dangerous to those who work around it, you are obligated to disclose this fact to government and the public if the owner of the assets does not address the problem. This can get you in a no-win situation where you will have to defend your integrity either way.

    In other words, a PE registration is about public safety first, while performance is secondary. It is not a mark of creativity, thrift, or even good practice --although these are encouraged through regular training and study requirements to keep the certificate current. Nevertheless, if you are interested in designing something where public safety is an issue, then I strongly encourage you to pursue the PE registration. While it is quite a liability, it also opens up many doors for you that wouldn't otherwise be available. For example, you can serve as an expert witness in a court of law. It also helps when conversing with other engineers who may be getting defensive about their work.
  7. Mar 30, 2015 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Some schools have much higher pass rates than others. Ask you College of Engineering Dean's office for information about their pass rates.

    A number of years ago, I taught at a small branch of the UW system in Wisconsin. All our seniors took the exams, and we had about a 95% pass rate, a bit better than UW-Madison did. We graduated engineers with a practice orientation whereas most schools were more oriented to graduating "scientists."
  8. Mar 31, 2015 #7
    Regarding the exams themselves, the Fundamentals of Engineering (required for the EIT) should be something that any recent graduate with a degree in Engineering should be able to pass. I do recommend review study so that you get the full flavor of the notation and subjects you will find on this exam, but I didn't think it outrageously difficult.

    I think one of the most difficult parts of taking the principles and practices exam was filling out the papers, documenting your experience correctly, and getting the appropriate signatures from other engineers who will vouch for you.

    I sat for the Principles and Practices exam for Control Systems Engineering. The exam is two sessions of four hours, with an hour for lunch. You are allowed to bring whatever references you want to bring in to the testing hall in one trip. Some people used a child's wagon or a dolly to cart their references with them. I used an egg crate. This exam was clearly one of the most difficult exams I have ever taken. It is given only once a year. If you fail the exam, you may have to wait for another year to have the opportunity to take it again. The subjects ranged from the theoretical, such as the application of Laplace Transforms, to the very practical issues, such as material selection for the packing of a steam valve.

    If you expect to pass a test like this, you will need to do two things: First, take a review course. No, I really mean it. You will NEED that review course. You will be asked questions that cover such a broad spectrum of subjects that I can almost guarantee that there will be many that you have not seen before. Second, figure out what reference books are needed, purchase them, and plan on spending a lot of time learning what's in them. I suggest writing on sticky tabs to indicate what the book mark is for and then using those tabs to save time looking for the correct sections. Do not bring a reference book you are not intimately familiar with to the test room. You do not have time to discover what's in it while taking this exam.

    You may also be limited as to what kind of calculator you may bring with you to the exam room. Buy that calculator and get to know it very well.

    My exam from eight years ago had two sets of 40 questions to be answered in 4 hours each. That's an average of six minutes per question. Some questions could be answered instantly (you either know it or you don't), other questions could take up to half an hour of calculations.

    It is a difficult exam, but it is about as fair and reasonable exam as anyone could make. It is not easy to find a paper test that properly indicates years of experience in the field. At the end of the day it is still a paper exam. Some are good test takers and some are not. It often has very little to do with how capable you really are as an engineer.

    You can pass this if you put the time and effort in to it. Don't let the scare stories hold you back.
  9. Apr 9, 2015 #8


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Most PE exams are given twice a year (aside from a couple of the hard and less common ones), April and October. Currently, you are restricted to only what you can carry into the exam room. Otherwise what Jake said is pretty much spot on.

    I don't think every discipline or individual needs to subject themselves to an expensive review course, but it should help (especially if you ARE taking one of the more difficult disciplines. "Controls" is one of those disciplines).

    If you haven't studied for years, it is almost certain you have forgotten a lot of knowledge that you will need to relearn. It takes discipline and dedication to set aside time to study, ideally on a daily basis.

    Advice for the OP. Take the FE (EIT) exam in your senior year. While you may feel overly burdened with other classes, you will still have a lot of book knowledge vs working for a year then having to restudy for the exam while earning a living and who knows what else going on.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook