If you are reading this and considering taking the P.E., the best time to get started is NOW! While the amount of engineering experience you will need in each state varies, if you have hit the marker in the state you are applying to be licensed in, I strongly urge you not to hesitate on taking the exam.
I hear from a lot of young engineers that there’s “no point” because, if you work at a large engineering company, you will not be stamping your own drawings for at least ten years, maybe ever. While that may be true, here are some of the reasons you should not hesitate to take the exam as soon as you are eligible:
1. You will remember more from the general engineering courses you took in undergrad that don’t apply to your professional job
The P.E. exam is an extremely broad exam – covering things from all areas of engineering. There are thermodynamics, transportation engineering, fluid dynamics, and structural questions as well. Just to name a few. My point here is that while you may not have studied all these topics in undergrad, you probably studied some and that general recall you still have from undergrad will help you during the exam. Trust me, it is a much better feeling to say to yourself, “oh, I remember Bernoulli’s equation!”, than “oh gosh, I haven’t thought about that in ten, fifteen, twenty years.”
2. The closer you are to school, the better your study skills are
This is something you may currently take for granted, but if you have made it this far through an engineering program, you have some good study skills. The way we focus and succeed into our professional work is so different than how we focused and succeeded in school. It is more collaborative and a whole lot less focused. When you are stuck on something at work, you can immediately ask a coworker for help. And how many times, when you are working through something at work, do you check your email or phone or get a call from a client? The more we get into our professional lives, the further we stray from those study skills. Can you get them back? 100%, but it will be a lot more frustrating and annoying as you get started and realize you have not studied for anything in a long time.
3. You (may) have fewer other commitments
Kids, spouses, and other responsibilities can take up a lot of time and energy as we get older! As full as your life may be at this moment, it is almost certainly going to become fuller as you get older. You may also have more responsibilities at work as you get older and may not have all of your nights and weekends available for studying due to project demands. Whatever it is, the best time to do it is now. Then, in the future, you can take on whatever you want without needing to schedule in night/weekend study time. 😊
4. You may be holding yourself back from higher pay and more responsibilities
Immediate benefits from passing the P.E. vary, but it is unquestionable that you will have more opportunities for raises and promotions if you pass the P.E. I have heard of some people immediately getting a bonus and a promotion, but even if this does not happen to you, trust that your bosses are noticing the initiative it took the prepare for and pass this exam, and the skills that it implies you have. Don’t hold yourself back from those opportunities!