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Professional Engineer Licensure

Becoming a Professional Engineer (PE)

A Professional Engineer (PE) is an engineer licensed by a state board of registration to practice engineering. The PE license is the engineering profession’s highest standard of competence, a symbol of achievement and assurance of quality.The College of Engineering believes that professional registration is an important goal for engineering graduates. Passing the FE Exam is the first step toward that goal. You must complete four steps to become a licensed Professional Engineer:

  • Graduate from an ABET-accredited engineering program.
  • Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.
  • Work as an engineer for four years.
  • Pass the Professional Engineering (PE) exam (you cannot take the PE exam without first passing the FE exam).

NC State engineering programs are accredited by ABET. The College offers a review course, E 490, twice annually on the NC State campus to help prepare graduating seniors for the FE exam.

Engineering experience must be certified by the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCBELS).

Why Become a Professional Engineer?

Being licensed as a Professional Engineer is an important distinction and can enhance your career options. Many engineering jobs require a PE license to work as an engineering consultant or senior engineer, testify as an expert witness, conduct patent work, work in public safety, or advertise to provide engineering services. Although you may never need to be registered for “legal” reasons, you may find that you need to be a PE to be eligible for engineering management positions.

On the average, PEs make significantly more money than unlicensed engineers. Even if your first job does not require a PE license, you may need it later in your career. In today’s economic environment, it pays to be in a position to move to new jobs and compete with others who have a PE license or are on a professional engineering track. It is also highly unlikely that a job requiring a PE license will be outsourced overseas.

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam

The FE exam is a computer-based exam designed and administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The College of Engineering offers E 490, a formal review course to help prepare graduating seniors for the FE exam. There will never be a better time for taking the FE exam than the final semester of your senior year when the fundamentals of engineering are still fresh in your mind. The passing rate for seniors at NC State is typically better than 85%. Those who take it later have a passing rate below 45% and normally spend many hours trying to relearn the material they once knew. If you are a graduating senior, take it now. But prepare yourself by taking E 490, the FE exam preparation course. The FE exam may be the most difficult exam you have ever taken. You should not take this exam unless you have taken at least 75% of the courses in your major. Even with this background, you must prepare.

How should students prepare for Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?

  1. Select electives at NC State that support the exam. In most engineering programs, students can choose electives, many of which support the FE exam. Examine the NCEES information for engineers. Get help from your adviser.
  2. Take the FE preparation course E 490.
  3. Take one or more trial examinations from PPI or NCEES.
  4. Download a free copy of the Fundamentals of Engineering Supplied-Reference Handbook at Become familiar with it. This Reference Handbook is supplied to FE exam takers at the exam. Most questions on the exam concern topics covered in this handbook. The E 490 course teaches you how to use this handbook.
  5. Study one of the many preparation manuals available from NCEES or PPI.

FE Preparation for Practicing Engineers

We recommend the following advice for those who are not currently enrolled at NC State:

  1. If you have been out of college for more than a year and are a civil engineer, you should probably take the FE Civil Discipline-Specific Review Course offered by the Institute of Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) on the NC State campus. This in-depth course prepares you for the civil engineering exam.
  2. Study one of the many preparation manuals available from NCEES or PPI.
  3. For further information, contact the E 490 instructor.

PE Exam and Organizations

North Carolina Registration

In North Carolina, the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCBELS) is responsible for licensing qualified applicants. Engineering experience must be certified by the NCBELS, and this board also administers the PE Exam. The NCBELS states that “In order to be licensed to practice in North Carolina, an individual, in addition to paying the required fees, must be of good character and reputation, must satisfactorily pass the examinations administered by the Board and must submit evidence of education, and a specific record of progressive work of a nature and level acceptable to the Board.”

Other states have similar boards that certify engineers. Generally, there is a reciprocity agreement between states, which allows licensed engineers in one state to apply for and receive, certification in another state.

Join PENC and NSPE

Professional Engineers of North Carolina (PENC) is a professional association of over 1,800 individuals including Professional Engineers, engineering interns, engineering graduates and engineering students in nine local chapters and five university engineering programs. PENC is a state society of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Members represent all technical disciplines and all practice areas including construction, education, industry, government and private practice. By joining PENC you also become a member of NSPE. Students can join these professional engineering societies for a reduced rate and participate in local professional engineering functions.

PE Exam Preparation

The Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) offers a PE Civil Engineering review Course. Preparation manuals are available from Professional Publications Inc. (PPI) and Kaplan.