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Professional Engineer Exam for Experimental Physicist

  1. Jun 16, 2014 #1
    Long story short:
    I have a B. Sc. in EE, and currently doing PhD in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics. I plan to go for industry.

    I found that it would not be difficult for me to pass the Electrical and Computer PE exam (both the "Computer Engineering" and the "Electrical and Electronics").

    1) Is it worth it for me to do it? It will require some +$400 and some time to study.
    2) If the answer to 1) is yes, then which one would be more useful to me to get a job in industry, computer engineering or electronics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2014 #2
    The PE is not just another academic test.

    It requires documentation of experience working on real projects of significance with other engineers. It requires sponsorship by other PE certificate holders, and in most cases it requires passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (aka: EIT). Once you meet the experience requirements, you can then sit for the Principles and Practices (aka: PE) exam.

    So when someone says that "it would not be difficult... to pass the PE Exam" I have to wonder what they're talking about.

    Many states request a fee of something around $400 to sit for the Principles and Practices exam. Here in Maryland, that exam is an eight hour, open book ordeal. I know of no-one who thought that exam was anything less than difficult. I know some who failed it twice before they managed to pass it. In many exams, if you fail, you have to wait an entire year before it is offered again.

    Is it worth doing? It depends on what you would like to design. If you're merely interested in building embedded systems for something like a car radio, it is unlikely that anyone will ask for a certificate. However, if you are designing the controls for substation at an electrical cooperative, that does require a PE.

    As for which would be a better bet, I would tend toward the middle (embedded hardware design) but only because that's what I know and that's what I think has a steady growth potential in the market. But I'm often very wrong about such things. I am not a prophet, and I don't even play one on TV. I suggest you follow your own gut feelings on this subject. Don't make a mistake because of what I said. Make one of your own. You'll learn more that way.
  4. Jun 16, 2014 #3
    Thanks for the reply.

    Actually, by "not difficult" I meant that it is possible. I said this because my first impression was that this is not for someone doing PhD in Physics. Of course the exam itself is difficult, I agree, but I mean that it is "doable", hopefully.

    I have the work experience, although the specifics will differ from a state to a state.

    My question was more like whether a silicon valley company looking to hire me as an experimental physicist will look favorably to me had I have a PE.

  5. Jun 16, 2014 #4
    Most things you see coming from silicon valley do not even vaguely require a PE. So, no, it probably doesn't help in that situation.
  6. Jun 16, 2014 #5


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    As Jake said, your must pass the FE exam and work for 4 years under a practicing PE before you can take the PE exam. I can tell you that the bar to pass the FE exam is around 58% and the FE is long (8 hrs) and the topics covered are very broad in scope. However, imo, the FE exam was not a hard exam and the bar to pass is set really low. I have not taken the PE exam so I am not sure how difficult it is. However, it is surely more difficult. Also, the PE exam covers just your discipline whereas the FE exam spans many different engineering disciplines.
  7. Jun 17, 2014 #6
    Well here in South Carolina if you have a PhD in the same area you intend to take the PE exam then you don't have to take the FE. Of course since the OP has a PhD in physics it's doesn't apply to him.
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