Need a book? Engineering books recommendations...

Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

Re: License

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
Title: Re: License
While Bill’s responses might be a bit on the “abrasive” side at times, he is correct in this situation.

There is no national engineering license process.  As such, these things are left to the states.  And as such, they are able to impose whatever conditions and standards that they wish.  They are under no obligation to grant licensure by comity/reciprocity, but most (if not all) do.  I am not aware of any that grant it based upon “pure” comity/reciprocity (i.e. you only need to prove you are licensed in another state).  To my knowledge, you still have to go through the full licensure process (i.e. fill out all the paperwork including proving your experience again and pay the fee) with the exception of taking the exam again, unless the exam you took is not the one that they use in the “new” state.

Now, since most states use the same basic requirements (i.e. graduate from a 4 year ABET accredited engineering school or equivalent, take and pass the NCEES EIT/FE exam, get 4 years of experience, and then take and pass one of the NCEES PE exams...oh, and pay the fee...can’t forget the fee) for the PE license, it is usually a non-issue to get comity/reciprocity in most, if not all, states...other than it is a pain in the rear to fill out all the dumb a$$ paperwork.  For most US engineering school grads, they should have little problem.

Where problems crop up is in the details/differences/non-standard stuff.  One problem can be the “or equivalent” part in the section above.  This will likely definitely hit anyone with a degree from a non-US (with the possible exception of most Canadian schools) school as you will have to prove to the board that your degree was equivalent to an ABET accredited program.  This can be a real challenge in some cases.  This can also be problem of people who graduate from non-ABET programs in the US (i.e. “technical” degrees rather than “engineering” degrees) or do not get engineering degrees at all (some states will allow additional experience to substitute for education...but then some states do not...thus, if you get your PE license with that additional experience in some state, you might not be “allowed” by comity in a state that does not accept such stuff).

Even the NCEES PE exams can potentially create problems.  NCEES offers two PE exams that we as structural “types” could take...the Civil PE exam and the Struct I exam.  Both are the “PE” level exam (8 hours of multiple guess is 100% structural and the other is the more general Civil Engineering exam which is usually about 20% to about 40% structural).  The problem is that some states only offer the Civil exam and do not offer the Struct I exam.  It is possible that such states might make you take the Civil exam if you took the Struct I exam originally.

Even the 4 year experience requirement can get a bit messy.  First, there is at least one state that does not require 4 years...California only requires 2 years if I recall correctly.  There are some that think “I will go get my PE in CA since I can do it quicker”.  Such people could get a smidge hosed in some states.  Most states will likely look at your experience amount when you apply for comity...thus, you just need to have the 4 years when you apply.  I believe that there are some states that will look at the experience amount when you took the exam...i.e. if you took the exam prior to getting your full 4 years experience, then they might require you to retake the exam (they are interpreting that in order to be allowed to take the exam, you have to have 4 years experience rather than in order to get your license...a subtle but important difference).  And this little item can even hose people who “got” their 4 years of experience (not the 2 years in CA).  I remember reading about some guy who was licensed in one state but that state allowed him to sit for the exam before getting his full 4 years (i.e. Had like 3.8 or 3.9 years of experience), but he would have the full 4 years prior to being issued his license (i.e. The time to grade the exam and the board to issue the license).  He ran into a problem with one of the next states over...they made him take the test again because he did not have the full 4 years prior to sitting for the test.

And then there is SE licensing.  This is where things REALLY get messy.  Things have gotten somewhat better in the last decade, especially with CA finally dropping the Western States exam.  To my knowledge, all SE licenses now require the NCEES Struct I and Struct II as a minimum.  Then WA requires the Struct III (which to my knowledge is not an NCEES exam unless NCEES took it over from was a WA specific exam when I took it).  I am not sure what CA requires...never looked into it as in theory I will not need to worry about it as my WA SE will now get me comity for a CA SE (still have to fill out the paperwork including proving my experience and getting 3 CA SEs to act as references...oh, and pay the fee <grin>) if/when I ever want to get it.

The end result of all this is that you have to still fill out the paperwork for each state.  The fact that this is basically silly to a large degree is irrelevant.  While I am not bothered too much by having the 2nd or 3rd state want to theoretically check my experience again (in reality is likely that my experience verification forms are just filed in some drawer somewhere...or the recycle bin) in case the first state screwed up (a reasonable belief, if unlikely), I find it kind of stupid to do it after that...after all, if I am now licensed in 4 or more states, that means that in theory 4 or more states would have had to have missed something on my experience verification, which is highly unlikely (as much as some think all government is completely incompetent, I find it highly unlikely that 3 states could be incompetent enough to allow something like that through).  Thus, I will completely agree that the need to fill out employment/experience verification form for each and every state is completely asinine, I also realize it is part of life.  And as noted, it can be dealt with by and large by having an NCEES Records program account/record.

In the end, this is the price we pay for leaving this up to the can end up with a miss-mash of requirements and dumb a$$ hoops to jump through.  And virtually no state is “innocent” in this.  For example, CA has their dumb a$$ surverying exam.  While it was a rather easy exam (basically mostly just trig calcs), it is nominally completely useless as in this day and age, the surveying stuff will be handled by licensed surveyors, not PEs.  But, I just went with the flow and flew out to CA and took the exam...and got to visit a friend while I was out there.


Adrian, MI
On 7/22/09 1:23 PM, "Bill Polhemus" <bill(--nospam--at)> wrote:

Every state sets it's own standards and doesn't have to grant comity (although of course other states can "retaliate").

Up until about 20 years ago Texas' standards were considered "too lax" by some states who would not accept the Texas P.E. as acceptable for reciprocity.

If CA continues to insist on administering a nonstandard exam, this is one likely consequence.

William L. Polhemus, Jr. P.E.
Via iPhone 3G

On Jul 22, 2009, at 10:26 AM, "SGE Structural" <sgordin(--nospam--at)> wrote:

Good morning,

Yesterday I was informed by an official with the licensing board of the State of Utah that this state does not accept the reciprocity applications from engineers who did not take the NCEES exams (for example, the CA SE exams are not accepted since 2004).  In other words, to become licensed as a Civil or Structural engineer in Utah, a person like me has to take the examinations again.

I am wondering - what would be the underlying wisdom for such decision?  Can it possibly be legal?

V. Steve Gordin, SE
Irvine CA