Just a few months ago, Idaho implemented a new exam policy to allow exam applicants to take the PE exam before obtaining the required four years of engineering field experience. Various other states have a similar policy already in place. These states include Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
So why is this policy being implemented by multiple state boards? Having a policy that allows applicants to take the PE exam before gaining four years of field experience may actually benefit exam applicants. By taking the PE exam sooner, applicants may have concepts they studied when preparing for the FE exam fresh in their mind. They also can avoid the long process of waiting to get approval to take the exam. Of course, the field experience, passing the PE exam (odds of passing the PE exam can be increased by taking a PE exam review course), and board approval must be completed and obtained before a professional engineering license is administered.
In a recent report on the matter, the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) stated the following:
NSPE is in favor of state licensing boards allowing candidates to take the PE exam early, as long as they have met the educational requirements for licensure and passed the FE exam. The Society also believes that the four years of progressive engineering experience indicated in the NCEES Model Law should remain unchanged, and licensure candidates who pass the PE exam early need to obtain the requisite number of years of engineering before becoming licensed.
As safety is a big concern for engineering state boards, other state boards are likely to monitor the success of this new policy for states that have implemented it. If this new policy proves to be effective, all 50 states may end up implementing it as well.