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Can a Professional Engineering License Advance Your Career?

Written by: Matthew Phillips
Date: 14 June 2019

Should you invest in obtaining a Professional Engineering (PE) license? If you want to distinguish yourself from the crowd, appear more attractive to employers, command respect from your peers and earn trust from your clients, the answer is a resounding yes.

The PE licence certifies that an engineer is at a higher level than the industry standard. The process to become licensed is rigorous; engineers must complete a four-year degree, shadow a Professional Engineer for at least four years, pass two exams and earn a license from their state’s board. From speaking to my candidates and clients, Florida and California are generally considered the most difficult states to obtain licences in due to the extra sections included in their standard PE exam. Once licensed, Professional Engineers must continually maintain and improve their skills throughout their careers to keep hold of their hard-won license.

Becoming a PE is a noble pursuit that I would advise candidates to undertake, not only will it help you advance your career by becoming more attractive to consultancy firms within the Civil Water industry, but you will be positively contributing to the public’s welfare, safety and well-being. If you need more convincing for why you should become a Professional Engineer, read on.

Why should you become a Professional Engineer?

For many, the accomplishment of just obtaining a PE licence is enough to satisfy them – I’ve heard of several engineers setting themselves the challenge of becoming licenses in each of the 50 states across the USA. However, holding a PE license opens up a myriad of career opportunities and financial rewards. Professional Engineers are recognised as the premier elites in the industry and are the most sought after for ground-breaking projects. Likewise, salaries are only every on the up for those with a PE licence. Earning a PE license also allows a professional engineer to become an independent consultant, government engineer, or educator.

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How attractive are Professional Engineers to the Civil Water industry?

The Civil Water industry is focused around government funding and contracts being released by local municipalities and public works. Subsequently, these bodies allow consultancies to bid for the projects and award the work to the designated consultancy. Due to the highly competitive nature of this process, it’s crucial for each consultancy to give themselves the best chance to secure projects. Consultancies that employ Professional Engineers are favoured during the decision-making process, as they are seen as having greater collective expertise and are therefore believed to complete work to a higher standard. This makes Professional Engineers very attractive within the Civil Water industry – they can command a higher hourly rate than an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) or a non-registered engineer.

Over recent years, many federal, state and municipal agencies now require that higher level engineering positions be filled by those who hold a PE licence. As a result, the average salary of a PE licence holder has increased by $5,000 over the last 5 years. In some states, such as New York, they have grown even higher than that.

These changes have opened up further opportunities within many firms, as only a licensed engineer may prepare, sign, seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval. With these responsibilities come more authority and greater earning potential.

What does it take to pass the Professional Engineering exam?

This can vary by state, but on average you need to score 75% to pass the Professional Engineering exam. Nationally, the average pass rate is 67% for people taking the exam for the first time, falling to just 43% for repeat takers. From my understanding from conversations with candidates and industry professionals, this dramatic decrease is due to the exam being much more theoretical than practical and this can be alienating for professionals who have ingrained themselves in the industry. Once engineers enter the workplace, they find solutions to problems that are based on adapting to practical, real-time situations, rather than text-book knowledge. Time is also not on the engineer’s side. It can feel almost impossible to find time to study once you are working 50-60 hour weeks.

How can we help you advance your career?

In my experience servicing the Civil Water industry, the need for a Professional Engineering licence is becoming an ever-growing necessity for candidates and clients alike. At LVI Associates, we work on exclusive mandates with several civil engineering firms in the US who continue to struggle to source Professional Engineers. With supply not keeping up with demand, Civil Water is a monopolistic market in the making, where salary continues to increase year on year.

Do you want to know what career opportunities are currently available for Professional Engineers? Get in touch with myself or my team for personal advice. We’re to help.