Top 5: Reasons to Get Your P.E. as a Chemical Engineer

Every blog needs a Lettermanesque Top 5 listing every now and then, so here you have it: ChEnected is on the bandwagon. (Yes, yes, Letterman set the bar at a Top Ten, but seriously, coming up with 10 whole items is much more work than you'll ever know. How Letterman's highly paid staff of professional writers ever does it, I'll never know.) Today we tackle something that every young chemical engineer asks: is it worth it to get my P.E. license?

#5. The Challenge of It

Are you the type of person that does something just because you can? If you're a chemical engineer, you must be. Why else did you subject yourself to 4+ years of thermo, reaction kinetics, and separations? So if you're the type to climb a mountain just because it's a challenge staring you in the face, then you should go get your P.E. license. Trust me, passing an 8-hour exam is very challenging, and when you're done you can brag with all your cool chemical engineer friends about what you just accomplished.

#4. The Prestige of Professionalism

Who doesn't like extra letters behind their name? Seriously. Who would you hire to study your refinery, Nate Barber, or Nate Barber, P.E.? That's what I thought. In the engineering world, there's nothing quite like handing someone a business card emblazoned with your name followed by P.E. It screams to the world, not only do I want to brag about what I accomplished (see #5 above), but my state says I'm the Real Deal, so treat me like the professional I am! Now if only I could get over my self-worth issues ...

#3. Money, Money, Money ... Maybe!

Depending where you are and what you do, having your Chemical Engineering P.E. license can net you some extra cash ... maybe. There's something about having extra letters behind your name that just inherently makes you more valuable. If you're a consultant like I am, your clients will feel a little warmer and fuzzier and maybe more likely to give you work. If you work for an engineering firm, your company wants its clients to have that same warm-fuzzy feeling. If you work for a company that produces something, well, you want your bosses to have that warm-fuzzy feeling. Regardless, who wouldn't want to be surrounded by warm fuzziness of your P.E.?

#2. Really Know What You're Doing

My first day on the job out of college at a big engineering firm, I literally remember thinking, "Crud, I really hope no one asks me to engineer something!" Let's face it: right out of college few of us know which end of the pencil is up, let alone know how to work as an engineer. Fortunately, senior engineers know better than to ask you to do any real work for quite a while. Nevertheless, there is certainly something very appealing about really knowing what you're doing. For me, that came as I was studying for the exam. As I reviewed the material, I would think, "Oh yeah, I remember learning that!" By the time I had finished the exam, all the stuff I had crammed, er, learned in school had finally stuck and melded into one body of knowledge. This alone makes a P.E. worthwhile. Well, except for one other thing ...

#1. You Get a Stamp

What's better than having Nate Barber, P.E. emblazoned on a business card? That's right--having Nathan Barber chiseled into a rubber stamp! Granted, you'll likely never use the stamp in an official capacity. Chemical Engineers rarely design things that will be used by the general public and thus need stamped designs. In fact, the only legitimate use I have for my stamp is signing letters of recommendation for other engineers to get their P.E. licenses. Seriously. That is the only time I have stamped and signed something as a professional engineer. Still, if you need a use for your stamp, it is very useful for stamping your copy of Perry's before you lend it out.

Any reasons of your own to add?


NovaDawg's picture

Totally agree with your points! I specialized in hazardous waste remediation, so I pursued and have been licensed as an environmental engineer. Those letters after my name are pretty cool, and they add to one's gravitas and force you to take professional ethics even more seriously (bad PE ethics mean possible censure or license revocation). One more reason to obtain one's PE: many federal government engineering positions, particularly supervisory ones in design groups (e.g., the Army Corps of Engineers) require professional licensing as a job qualification.

Nathan, thanks for doing a top 5. I think these are really good for the community and help get people thinking. Hopefully, more to come.

Thank you all for your comments, I appreciate the feedback! And while I personally believe PE's should receive financial recognition (the large EPC firm I worked for gave me an extra $2,200/year for getting my PE), I understand that not everyone gets paid more for the extra letters after their name (thus my "maybe" caveat). Nevertheless, I'm proud to be a Enginerd, especially a professional one.

Robert S's picture

Good list. Yeah, I didn't see any money but it did make getting my next job easier. Couldn't agree more with your #1. Nothing makes you feel more official than getting a stamp. The first time I got to use it (thanks to a project location regulation and that no one else in our building had a PE) was a pretty fun moment.

nick R's picture

This list is great, and I am the kind of guy who agrees with number 5 completely, haha. I have never heard of this so I'm glad I stumbled on it... but does anyone have any indication about how hard it is compared to school tests? I am going into my senior year of ChemE at Michigan State University.