The Benefits of Earning and Maintaining a Professional Engineer License
I have been practicing as a licensed professional engineer (PE) for about four (4) years now, and I can tell you that it is one of my proudest accomplishments and one of the greatest things that I have ever done for myself. I can truly say that the benefits of earning and maintaining a professional engineering license have far exceeded my initial expectations and have helped me continue to take good steps forward (and it has only been four years so far). The benefits of being a PE are much more than just passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and PE exams. You can become a better version of yourself, gain more appreciation for other licensed professionals, help others achieve their goals, expand your opportunities, and develop positive habits. Yes, it is very nice having "PE" written on your business card, but let's delve into more of these often-overlooked benefits.
1. Become a Better Version of Yourself
I first mentioned becoming a better individual. I have always enjoyed engineering and science since there is always something new to learn. Engineering is a dynamic field, and the PE License helped me further my intellectual ambitions. The PE exam appealed to me in the first place because it was a much more practical exam compared to the FE exam. And I likened the PE license to being like a scientist, but without having to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Do not get me wrong; obtaining a PhD is an excellent accomplishment, but dissertations just seemed too specialized and did not truly appeal to me. The PE license can help you be a "practical scientist" of sorts, and there is so much I learned along the way. All PE exams offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) have practical applications. Maintaining a PE license has helped me with my everyday life too, as I can better understand household items like two-phase and three-phase circuits, as well as gravity sewer pipe.
2. Find a Newfound Appreciation for Other Professionals
Earning and maintaining a professional engineer license has provided me with a newfound appreciation of other licensed professionals and is a humbling experience too. When I first received my PE exam result, I passed the PE exam (good for me), but I also realized that there was much more to learn yet (and I am still learning more with each day). I took the PE Mechanical (Thermal and Fluids Systems) exam in Oct 2018, and I certainly did not know the answer to every question that day. And I am certain that I guessed some questions wrong (NCEES does not release exam scores, and you do not receive a diagnostic report unless you failed the exam). But the entire exam, including the application process, studying, and exam day was certainly an excellent experience. I actually enjoyed the trials and tribulations, and the sense of accomplishment from going through it all.
3. Prove Your Abilities and Skills to Yourself
In fact, I consider the PE license to be one of my greatest accomplishments since I did it largely on my own merit and initiative. I had support from family of course, but I did my own studying and preparation, and conquered the PE exam myself. I have worked with certified public accountants (CPA), licensed landscape architects (LLA), and professional land surveyors (PLS). My one colleague explained to me his own trials and tribulations with earning his architecture license and becoming a registered architect. He too gathered his own study materials, sat for the exam, and is now enjoying similar benefits of earning and maintaining a professional architect license.
4. Help Others Recognize Their Potential and Achieve Their Goals
You can also help other co-workers and colleagues achieve their goals. Since becoming a licensed professional engineer, I have served as a PE reference for other aspiring engineers to gain their Engineer-In-Training (EIT) certification and providing EITs with advice for the PE exam. These other engineers will be going for their PE licensure soon, and they know that they can count on me to help them gain licensure. I am currently licensed in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey; as of this blog post, both states require five (5) references for PE licensure. Other states may vary in the United States, but generally you will need to draft a work experience narrative, gain endorsement from references, and complete a background check for PE licensure, among other items. NCEES may adjust licensure requirements every now and then (but some of this I already know because these are benefits from being a professional engineer!).
Really think about the potential here. You can become a better mentor, develop more leadership qualities. Just by virtue of having a PE license, you will become more valuable at your organization, even become indispensable. Outside of your professional life, you can also help your friends and peers. Many of my undergraduate friends are also engineers and have asked about my PE exam experience. People will come to you for your knowledge and advice on how to pass the PE exam (I first advised my friend on pass the FE exam back in college). As you help others, it will come back to help you be better too.
5. Expand Your Opportunities
Maintaining a professional engineering experience can help to expand your opportunities. I do not want to sound vainglorious, but I have enjoyed some elevated status since passing the PE exam. I received praise and recognition (and a bonus!) from my company when I first shared the exciting news. But remember, you should focus on helping others achieve their goals to form a mutualistic relationship and build a winning culture at your organization (do not let the PE status go to your head). As a licensed professional, you can stand-alone call yourself an engineer; this includes starting your own firm or business, if you wanted to pursue your own venture. You do not need a company or other organization to label yourself an engineer. But also remember, added responsibility comes with the status. In theory, I can PE sign engineering drawings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey but must ensure good quality and ethical standards.
6. Encourage Positive Habits
In addition to the career benefits, I also wanted to discuss how maintaining a professional engineer license encourages positive habits in other aspects of your life. While studying for the PE exam, I developed habits that I still apply today. Becoming a licensed PE does not happen overnight; you need to gain work experience as well as set aside study time, and both require a certain amount of discipline. You are always better from a place of accomplishment. I feel more accomplished with each blog post since the writing and reflection help me to stay fresh and reinforce knowledge.
Coming off graduate school, I had gained some weight from stress-eating (balancing workplace with night school was a challenge). I knew that I would feel sluggish on exam day if I was not in shape, so earning that professional license also led to improved cooking skills (my meals beforehand were boring anyways). Eating healthier provided me with better energy. Commencement was May 2018 and PE exam day was Oct 2018, so I also challenged myself to lose weight in time for exam day. Maintaining the license also encourages you to always keep learning and striving to improve yourself. I learned much just from my exam preparation, so I do not view my continuing education credits as a chore; rather these credit hours are an opportunity for more growth. And these positive habits have spread into other areas of my life.
In summary, earning and maintaining a PE license can only help you to achieve more in life, both professionally and personally. I have not met an individual who regretted obtaining a PE license. The continuous improvement of maintaining helps to evaluate your different strengths and weaknesses. This will help you identify areas of improvement so you can be a better engineer going forward, especially if you are PE signing engineering plans one day. Even the reference handbooks are good for my own personal library, not just for passing the FE and PE exams, but there is a lot of good literature that you can refer to in both your job and everyday life. The path to becoming a PE is not a chore, but rather an enrichment journey and something you can always look back on with pride. All that being said, would you agree that it would look cool to have the "PE" credentials next to your signature?
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