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Question about opportunities of PE license

  1. Jul 4, 2014 #1
    I recently graduated with my BS in physics and was accepted in into a Masters of Electrical Engineering program. Given my initial background, I was curious as to what are the benefits of having a PE in EE as opposed to not having one. I know most engineering societies at university obviously praise having one, but I get the impression that this is over-hyped. I tried doing research on this and Im still confused. It seems that PE only matters depending on specific Industry and employer, as some engineers claim that they have worked 20 years + not having one.

    If anyone has more experience with the consequences of having a PE, please respond. If I see worthy advantages of having a PE for myself, then I will possibly go back to school for the BS after working for awhile.
    And btw, I want to work with Electronic Materials and Processing or possibly Semiconductors.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 4, 2014 #2
    If your EE work involves designing for "the public welfare" then YES it would be beneficial. If not essential for your career growth. Examples: working for an Architecture & Engineering (A&E) firm designing buildings, plants, and etc.; working for an industrial design house that designs & builds factories, electrical distribution, infrastructure, etc. Any employment where NOT having a PE would be considered a legal liability issue. Sometimes companies want their employees to have a PE just so they can brag on their employee statistics ("76% of our Engineering staff possess a PE license blah blah blah"). This has been discussed many times on eng-tips.com with hundreds of useful comments.

    I'm an ME so I don't pay attention to all of the areas in which an EE should possess a PE license. I would assume the majority of EE jobs (like ME) DO NOT require a PE. I have spent my entire career in manufacturing doing Manufacturing Engineering, robotics, automation, and so on, including have a side business going and extensive freelance work. I have had my PE for almost 30 years, and have never stamped a drawing. Nor ever had need to stamp a drawing. Once, a hack wanted me to stamp a structural drawing he made and I refused.

    The advantage of having a PE for me is (1) it indicated that I had a bona fide ABET-accredited Engineering degree rather than masquerading behind "title inflation" so common in industry today, (2) it definitely opened doors for me, (3) it definitely helped separate me from lesser-qualified individuals during job hunts.
  4. Jul 4, 2014 #3


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    That is basically correct. Having a PE means you can legally sign off projects, and you personally are legally liable for any damages that might occur. Of course, you would take out personal insurance against the damages claims.

    If you are designing something like electrical installations for houses, or small factories, that personal liability makes sense. The buck has to stop somewhere, and it may be a legal requirement in your country or state that it stops with the person who signs off the design.

    On the other hand, if you are designing part of NASA's next deep space mission, or Intel's next generation of microprocessor, that sort of personal legal liability makes no sense, and having a PE is unlikely to be a mandatory requirement for the job.
  5. Jul 5, 2014 #4
    My Bachelor's degree is in Electrical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University, Whiting School of Engineering. Because I went to school at night, my degree wasn't ABET certified. I never bothered with the EIT either.

    I worked for 20 years without a PE designing SCADA and telecommunications systems. Then one day, in an orgy of silliness, our General Manager wanted to claim they had more PE certificates. So we were "asked" to obtain one. I looked at the eligibility requirements, and realized that with appropriate sign offs, I would easily qualify to sit for the Principles and Practices exam. I studied for it, and passed the Principles and Practices exam. My expenses totaled about $2000 for the course and the hotel stay, and it cost me a week of leave. Yes, I did it on my own. My PE exam was in Controls Engineering.

    The PE certificate is a liability. If you design things that might jeopardize public safety if it goes wrong, then you should probably have a PE. The PE also opens a lot of doors for you. Though I dispute the notion, many regard it as a mark of experience and competence. But one thing it does do for you is when other PE certificate holders take ownership of a project design and refuse to take input from others.

    At that point, I show them my registration. Then we both step outside and have a cordial professional discussion on an entirely different level of ethics. The PE is basically an assignment of responsibility. If I can assume that responsibility, then the discussion becomes entirely different.

    That's why I spend a few hundred dollars every couple years to renew my PE certificate. It's worth the trouble so that we can discuss things with consulting engineering firms without being too submissive to their ideas of how things should go.
  6. Jul 8, 2014 #5
    Thank you all for the advice. Tygerdawg I appreciate the website, Zero thank you for the comparison, and Jake I appreciate adding in your own experience. Ill give it some more thought as I pursue my MEng. But this has helped me see that at best I need to identify industries I possibly want to work in or determine if design is really my niche.
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