Professional Engineering Licensure

Having a Professional Engineer’s License (or PE) tells others that you are a competent engineer of high integrity and  have high ethical standards. It is important for many chemical engineers right now and could be even more critical in the future as regulations and laws governing the practice of engineering change and as the culture of chemical engineering changes.

What is a PE?

A Professional Engineer (PE) is an engineer that has been licensed by a state. The license symbolizes that the engineer has completed certain training and has demonstrated minimum competency in a field of engineering. The specific training required depends on the specific state where one seeks a licensure. In most cases this currently requires a BS from an ABET accredited engineering program, successful passing of the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE), 4 years of practical experience, and passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam.

Why should I get a PE?

There are many reasons to obtain a PE. These include:

  1. Your engineering career can extend over 40-50 years and it is almost impossible to predict what you will need many decades in the future. Having a PE gives you maximum flexibility.
  2. It is generally much easier to obtain your PE early in your career while technical content is fresh in one’s mind, so why not do it? Plan for your future.
  3. In some cases only a PE may attest to certain work products.
  4. You may want to be a Private Practitioner (whether now or 20 years in the future). If so, a PE will be required to advertise or offer services to the public.
  5. All things considered, having a PE may well make you stand out from those who do not. Obtaining your PE will give you a feeling of real accomplishment.

What is the process for becoming a PE?

The four general requirements for becoming a PE are:

  • Graduation from an accredited engineering curriculum
  • Successful completion of the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE)
  • Four years of engineering experience
  • Successful completion of the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam (PE)

PE Chemical exam transitioning to CBT in January 2018

The PE Chemical exam is scheduled to transition to a computer-based format in January 2018. The new computer-based PE Chemical exam will allow for year-round testing at approved Pearson VUE test centers. The new format will include a supplied digital PE Chemical Reference Handbook.

The last pencil-and-paper administration of the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Chemical exam is in April 2017. Registration for the April PE Chemical exam is open until 3:00 p.m. EST on February 23, 2017.

PE Chemical Reference Handbook

The PE Chemical Reference Handbook is now available for download. It contains charts, formulas, tables, and other information that may help you answer questions on the PE Chemical exam. However, it does not contain all information required to answer every question; theories, conversions, formulas, and definitions that examinees are expected to know have not been included. Log into MyNCEES to download your free copy.

To report errata in the PE Chemical Reference Handbook, send your corrections or comments using the chat feature on the NCEES website.

Learn more about the handbook and how you can help.

The PE Chemical Reference Handbook has been designed to support the upcoming computer-based version of the PE Chemical exam. If you choose to include it as one of the many resources you bring to the pencil-and-paper exam administration in April 2017, it must be bound according to the policies in the NCEES Examinee Guide. It should not be used for a single-source reference for the pencil-and-paper exam administration in April 2017. 

How can I prepare for the PE exam?

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (the organization that administers the exam) offers study materials.

Do all states have the same requirements?

Most do—in order to aid reciprocity. However, several vary from the general pattern for local reasons. State-by-state variations are possible, because licensure laws are exclusively under the control of the individual state legislatures.

What if I want to be licensed in several states?

Most states allow an engineer licensed in one state to become licensed, without further examination, as long as the requirements of the state that originally granted licensure at least equal their minimum standards. The actual process, documentation, requirements, etc. can vary from state to state.

How do I find out what my state's requirements for licensure are?

To learn more about professional registration and Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) requirements in your state, contact your state's board of licensure. The following web sites have links to each state's board as well as other information on professional licensure.

Do I have to take courses in order to renew my license?

Currently, 19 states have CPC rules in effect for relicensure. Each state maintains their own requirements but they all follow the same general pattern—again for reciprocity. The general requirement is 15 professional development hours (PDHs) per year. PDHs can be acquired for several activities, including coursework.