While the specific steps to becoming a licensed professional engineer may vary from state to state, the basic approach is the same. It takes a college education, an internship and a licensing exam. You don’t need to be licensed to work in the engineering field, but if you are, it will give you the advantage when seeking employment and ensure that you’re at the high end of the pay scale.
Choose Your Discipline
Once you are committed to becoming an engineer, you must decide which discipline you’d like to practice when you join a professional engineering firm. There are many engineering specialties, but the most common are mechanical, electrical, civil and structural.
Electrical engineering involves designing, developing, and testing electrical equipment and devices, including communications systems, motors, navigation systems, power generators, and electrical systems for aircraft and automobiles. Civil engineers are responsible for leading and supervising the design and construction of bridges, roads, waterways, and other types of infrastructure.
On the other hand, mechanical engineering involves designing or redesigning thermal and mechanical subsystems or devices using computer-aided design and in-depth analysis. Mechanical engineers investigate equipment malfunctions and failures to detect faulty operations and recommend solutions.
You can also find jobs in biomedical engineering, such as biomedical technicians, biomedical scientists, and biomedical engineering technicians. The employment rates for biomedical engineers are high, particularly in biomedical research and development companies, biomedical manufacturing, healthcare facilities, clinics/hospitals, university biomedical departments, and medical equipment sales companies.
Communications engineering is also popular nowadays, which involves researching, designing, and developing communications equipment and systems. Communications engineers are involved in the production of communications systems. They can work with several industries, such as telecommunications, computing, and internet technologies.
Get a Degree
The next step is to get at least a four-year engineering degree from an accredited institution, with a focus in your chosen discipline. Some firms offer summer internships for engineering students, so if you can find one, you’ll have a head start on accumulating hours as an intern.
Universities and colleges offering engineering courses usually have their specialization. Many engineering schools produce excellent engineers in specific fields of specialty, such as civil or electrical engineering, as shown in the published results of passing licensing rates. So, when you pursue engineering in college, you can choose the best school that excels in the specialty you prefer.
Do an Internship
Before being allowed to take the engineering licensing exam, you will need some work experience under the direction and supervision of a professional engineer. The length of the internship varies between states, but in general, it takes at least four years. Some students choose to become interns on a part-time basis while in their last two years of college, however, that’s when your studies will be most intense.
Pass the Licensing Exam
When you are nearing the end of your internship period, it’s time to start studying for the licensing exam. Most states offer the test twice each year, so check your calendar, register for the exam at the appropriate time, then sign up for a test preparation class. There are review classes available for each of the engineering disciplines. Since you will have been out of school for nearly four years already, a prep course will help refresh your memory about the information that will be on the exam. Once you pass the exam, you can ask your boss for a raise, because you’ll have a PE after your name.
The process of becoming a professional engineer is rather long and arduous. Still, when you consider that life safety is often in the hands of engineers, it’s a good thing the training is thorough. As a PE, you will be in high demand in the job market and command an excellent salary, so all that hard work will pay off.
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