1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min 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!

To acquire a P.Eng. designation, do I need an undergrad degree in engineering?

  1. Aug 10, 2012 #1

    set

    User Avatar

    Like many other posters here, I am interested in pure mathematics and physics who wants to open postgrad school options in engineering. It would be so nice if I can do a double degree in engineering and mathematics or physics, but my school won't allow it due to the heavy course load of their engineering programme. And I don't think I will have an adequate preparation for grad school in mathematics or physics by doing a minor, if I happen to go to grad school in the pure sciences. So I was thinking of overriding into few specialized engineering courses of which I am particulary interested and then pursue a master's degree in that field. But I did some surf on the Internet and it seems like I need a bachelor's degree in engineering to qualify for a P.Eng. designation exam. Is this true?

    Next question, I am quite certain that I need some credits in accounting courses when applying for CPA exams or such. So can I become a chartered accountant by doing a master's degree in accounting after a bachelor's degree with mathematics?

    Thank you in advance for any response.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2012 #2
    Look up the Professional Engineering requirements in your state or province. They vary.
     
  4. Jun 26, 2013 #3
    You require a bachelors degree in engineering from an accredited univerity to become a professional engineer. There are also some other requirements such as 48 months of professional experience (Ontario) and you must write an examination. Hope this helps.
     
  5. Jun 26, 2013 #4
    In my state you can get it if you have a science/math degree by substituting more years of experience.
     
  6. Jun 26, 2013 #5
    Note that the P.eng certificate is NOT what most people think. It is an assumption of liability for design correctness. IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING.

    It means that if you screw up, you're legally liable for your part of the damage. Thus, if a design you signed off on is deficient in any way you are personally and professionally responsible. (Example: a gusset plate was too thin and it failed, bringing a bridge down; or you designed a pipeline with insufficient thrust blocking to prevent the pipeline from moving and it washes away a house and kills the people living in it; or you design a cruise ship with inadequate fuel safety systems and it burns on the water)

    Things like that, where the public safety is at stake, could get you sued in court and you could be held professionally and personally liable for the failure of the design. This doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.

    Tread with care. This is not about competence, but liability.
     
  7. Jun 27, 2013 #6
    I'm curious what your career goals are. You want to get a CPA and be a PE? In South Carolina you have to have 48 hours of engineering courses to qualify for the FE which is the first step to the PE, you then need 4 years of relevant work experience under a PE. I'd also like to point out that you're unlikely to find any engineering work with a physics/math degree.
     
  8. Jun 27, 2013 #7

    StatGuy2000

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    Wouldn't someone with a bachelors degree in some cognate field (like math, physics or computer science) still be able to become a professional engineer if he/she completed a masters in engineering at an accredited university and complete the required 48 months of professional experience, plus the examination?

    I'm asking because I used to work as a consulting statistician for an engineering firm and one of my co-workers had completed his bachelors in math and was working on his PhD in aeronautical engineering. I would think that he would qualify for a P.Eng. (the Canadian equivalent of a PE in the US).
     
  9. Jun 27, 2013 #8
    http://ncees.org/credentials-evaluations/ncees-engineering-education-standard/

    You need 32 hours of math and science, 16 general education credit hours, and 48 credit hours of computer science and engineering. Honestly you're better of getting am engineering degree if you want to be a PE instead of going through all that, there's no escaping the 48 hours of engineering courses engineering students usually take
     
  10. Jun 27, 2013 #9

    StatGuy2000

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    The point of my previous post was that someone with a cognate degree such as math, physics or computer science could still become a PE (or P.Eng.) if he/she pursues a masters degree or PhD in engineering, as the 48 credit hours could be acquired by, say, taking courses during the masters program (or PhD program). Also, the 48 credit hours include computer science courses, so someone who has earned a double major or a minor with computer science would have already satisfied some of those credit hours already.

    Of course, if one's original plan was to become an engineer, an undergraduate engineering degree is easier, but someone who started out in math or physics still has the option of pursuing further study in engineering and ultimately working as an engineer without having to pursue a second undergraduate degree.
     
  11. Jun 27, 2013 #10
    The NCEES provides recommendation only, and those recommendations have changed over time. Not all states and provinces in North America stay current with those recommendations. Not all recommendations necessarily become local/regional requirements.

    Again, check your local laws regarding certification.
     
  12. Jun 27, 2013 #11

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Read the link that you yourself posted. Those hours pertain only to "programs that are not accredited by EAC/ABET".

    Engineering licensing varies from state to state. In my state (Texas), someone with a related science degree but not an accredited engineering degree can be licensed as a PE. The experience requirements are just a bit stronger. The only stricture is that some kind of appropriate degree is needed.

    As far as becoming a professional engineer, whether that PE license is needed varies between different fields of engineering. In civil engineering, it's very important. In aerospace (my field), it's pretty much worthless. Licensing is an intrastate concern. Its of reduced importance with things that routinely cross state or national boundaries.
     
  13. Jun 27, 2013 #12

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    And about insurance. Because a PE can be held liable, getting liability insurance is one of the first things a PE should do upon obtaining that certification. An insurance company will require that PE certificate before issuing that insurance.

    That insurance policy will of course have limits. Holding one person liable makes some kind of legal sense when errors result in damages in the thousands of dollars to perhaps a few tens of millions of dollars. It doesn't make sense when the damages are in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. Some engineering mishaps do have those kinds of huge price tags. Those high dollar missteps almost always involves interstate or international commerce. A PE certification isn't so highly valued by industry in those fields of engineering where mistakes are phenomenally expensive. The whole company is on the line for those mistakes rather than a small handful of employees.
     
  14. Jun 27, 2013 #13
    ...
    I don't think things get any more phenomenally expensive than they get for the Big Dig in Boston. I'm sure the place has walls filled with PE certificates.

    The PE does do several things: First, it is an automatic recognition of technical expertise in court (despite my warning in earlier messages). Second, some fields have more mature standards and guidelines than others. Aerospace tends to have standards, but they are often in flux. The same goes for telecommunications. However the electric distribution grid has many standards and they remain in use for many decades.

    Generally, when designing for infrastructure of some sort where public safety is at stake, a PE is expected. If you're designing a weather satellite, nobody is going to expect a PE. However if you're designing a refinery, a ferry boat, an office building, a tunnel, or a substation, you need that certification.
     
  15. Jun 27, 2013 #14

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    A rocket launched from the Cape that careens out of control and takes out all of the international banks in Nassua in the Bahamas comes to mind. Note: This failed launch is purely hypothetical. Such a failure has never happened. It is a concern, however, and it's one of the key reasons rockets are loaded with explosives that will cause the entire rocket to blow up given the right signal from the range safety officer.

    Neither the private supplier of the rocket nor the launch facility has walls filled with PE certificates. The Big Dig was intrastate. Engineering licensing is the province of states and thus mostly guards against catastrophes that occur within the bounds of that state. A failed rocket launch potentially has international ramifications. Those ramifications are far beyond the scope of what professional licensing is intended to cover.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2013
  16. Jun 27, 2013 #15

    StatGuy2000

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    This is very different from how engineering is practiced in Canada. In Canada (at least in the province of Ontario, and most likely in other provinces as well), all engineers working as professional engineers, regardless of specialty such as eletrical, mechanical, civil, aerospace, etc. (as opposed to those with engineering degrees not working as engineers) are required to have the P.Eng. license or be supervised by a P.Eng. licensee on their way to being certified with the P.Eng. license.
     
  17. Jun 27, 2013 #16

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Different countries, different regulations. The wikipedia article on regulation and licensure in engineering discusses this to some extent. (Aside: As of the 27 June 2013 version, this article is poorly written, incredibly so, even by low wikipedia standards. It looks (gasp) like it was written by a stereotypical engineer.)


    Suppose CanadaArm2 on the International Space Station goes into some hitherto undetected control mode that causes it to simultaneously lock out incoming control signals and to undergo positive feedback that eventually causes it to crash into and destroy the Japanese Experiment Module. The Japanese government is not going to look for the professional engineers at MacDonald Dettwiler who signed off on the design of the arm. They aren't even going to sue MDA for damages. They are going to seek reparations directly from the government of Canada. That's how spaceflight works, per multiple international treaties. It is national governments that are liable. Whether the Canadian government wishes to collect those losses from MDA or some engineer working at MDA for damages, that's up to the Canada. But good luck with that. No PE has that kind of insurance. Even a company as large as MDA doesn't have that level of monetary resources.

    Aerospace engineering, at least in the US, is pretty much immune from PE licensing concerns. The concerns are much larger than those typically covered by state-level engineering licensing organizations.
     
  18. Jun 28, 2013 #17
    Read the post. If he was going through an ABET/EAC accredited degree then this thread would not exist. The OP is a mathematics/physics major. I doubt those degrees are accredited by ABET.
     
  19. Jun 28, 2013 #18
    Yes the dean of engineering at my school has a physics undergraduate degree, MS in Mathematics, MS in Nuclear Engineering, and a PhD in Nuclear Engineering and he is also a PE (Nuclear). As I've said in other threads, there is a guy I know that's a physics major and wants to go to graduate school for mechanical engineering at NC State, and they told him he would need to take remedial courses up through heat transfer. I've had statics, strength of materials, dynamics, thermodynamics, and heat transfer with him, we are in Fluid Dynamics together this coming semester. Of course he just used his elective credits to take the engineering classes, but he still only has 22 credits of engineering coursework if you count the 4 hour C programming class we have to take. If the OP is taking these engineering courses already then he is ok but if not he is about to be in graduate school for at least a year longer to take the prerequisites. Which is why I said it would be easier just to get an engineering degree
     
  20. Jun 28, 2013 #19
    So you think someone without any type of formal engineering education can just go take the PE? Why have a credential evaluation if that's the case? Yes different states have different requirements to legally practice, for example some states require 5 years of relevant work experience under a PE while other states only require 3-4 years of relevant work experience under a PE. If the OP gets a masters degree in engineering he would have the education needed, I don't care how much the "recommendations" have changed you can't reasonably expect someone with no formal engineering training or education and no relevant engineering work experience to be allowed to sit the PE. I know people who have started off as physics majors and are now PE's but they also have engineering coursework and work experience as well. I've even heard of math majors sitting the PE, but I guarantee they just didn't graduate with a general math degree and go take the FE and then a few years later take the PE
     
  21. Jun 28, 2013 #20
    It's all depending on your province/state professional engineers academic requirements. Information regarding the academic requirements for Ontario are avaialable on the Profession Engineers Ontario website. If you do not have an undergraduate degree in engineering, the PEO will assess your academic background and determine whether your education is relevent. You may be required to do extra technical examinations and an interview. I'm guessing that similar requirements apply to other provinces.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook