To PE, or Not to PE? That is the Question.

May 15, 2008 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC

Is NOT pursuing your Professional Engineering license even an option? If you are a member of the consulting world (and possibly other worlds), the answer is “NO!”  When entering the field of engineering, especially as a consultant, pursuing one’s Professional Engineering license is a must. It lends itself to a higher level of credibility and respect, it shows initiative, shows understanding and knowledge, and it allows for a level of trust by the community within which you work that you might not otherwise receive.  Quite honestly, who wants to put the engineering of a dam or a bridge in the hands of an unlicensed engineer just because they have 25 years of experience, even if they hand off the plans to be signed by a PE?  Not me; not the public; and not the owner of that bridge or dam.  If that was the case, then I would prefer you put the prefix “Dr.” in front of my last name, as I have successfully nurtured back to health my three children time and time again after diagnosing them with headaches, colds, flu, fevers, and other various ailments. Luckily I have been able to successfully nurse them back to health; but if I make one error or neglect a certain symptom that lands them in the hospital as a result,  I’m in big trouble.   Often times I speak to engineers by self imposed title, not by registration.  They may have a BS, they may or may not have passed their Fundamentals of Engineering examination, but for some reason they have not fully pursued their P.E. license.  As a search consultant, I always inquire as to why? Here are the top three responses, with my two cents added:

A. “My college professors never really pushed registration.”

Shame on your professor, shame on the university you attended. Someone deserves a letter of reprimand.  If it’s not too late, take the FE Exam – it’s a lot of book/classroom material; move quickly so you are not too far removed from this information.  The Dean of the engineering program at your Alma Mater should be informed that s/he needs to change their philosophy.  By NOT pushing registration to the student body, they are holding back their students from long term opportunity.

B. “My boss said it wasn’t really necessary.”

If your boss is not pushing it, s/he may be threatened by you – threatened that you may advance more rapidly then them once you have your P.E.  Or threatened that you may leave as you will become more marketable to the competition.  If this is the case, get out while you can.

C. “Work/Life/Family got too crazy.”

You’re preachin’ to the choir, my friend.  Everyone is working crazy hours and is so busy at home.   That is no excuse these days…in fact, it’s 1AM on a Wednesday morning and here I am writing this article after putting in a full day of work at the office. Your employer should be supporting you in the registration process and making sure they give you the appropriate training, mentorship, and study time.  For those that were not given this opportunity earlier in your career, it may be too late. Eventually you get married, start a family, and then it REALLY becomes difficult.  GET IT DONE EARLY.

So, unless you have the desire to be a glorified engineering technician (not that there is anything wrong with that), make the pursuit of your P.E. license your number one priority early in your career.  I can’t tell you how many times I have presented a candidate who has all the technical, project, operations and marketing experience that my client is looking for, but they will not even consider the candidate because they do not have their license.  Is this closed minded?  Maybe.  Is it reality? Definitely.


Entry filed under: Civil Engineering Issues, Professional Registration. Tags: , , .

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