Professional Engineer's Licensing Exam



by Luke Setzer

I passed the Professional Engineer's (PE) Licensing Examination in 1998 with a score of 86 after four consecutive annual attempts.  I assembled this page so others can learn from my mistakes.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Experience keeps a dear School, but Fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that."

Those who majored in engineering and have at least an inclination to get licensed should visit the web site of Professional Publications Inc. (PPI) and order the reference and solutions manual for their discipline. Make sure you do this before you even think about actually registering for the exam. This will give you a chance to see how much "brushing up" you need to do before you actually take the test.

If you have not even taken the Engineer-In-Training (EIT)/Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, that is the first thing you will need to do. The PPI web site offers study guides for that preliminary test as well.

The reason I emphasize all this is that, unless you work for someone that actually requires you to apply what you learned in college on a daily basis, you likely will have forgotten much of the material several years after graduation.

At the time I applied for the PE exam, my employer was making all kinds of "cut and burn" threats regarding the workforce. I basically let myself get scared into registering prematurely so that I could (hopefully) get something else to slap onto my resume in the event I got laid off. (My employer does not require a PE license for this job.)

After I started getting into studying for it, though, I realized I had probably made a costly mistake. In Florida (and probably most other states), the initial registration fee is $300 and the re-test fee is $100. You have to re-take the test at least once a year until you pass, otherwise you forfeit your initial registration attempt and have to re-do all the papers and pay another $300. Of course, the limit is four re-tests before you are compelled to take remedial engineering and re-do the registration anyway. What a racket!

The PE test allows you to bring in up to eight textbooks, and textbooks themselves can be multiple volumes. I saw some folks bring huge crates of books--very cumbersome. I brought the maximum allowable number of individual texts, but to tell the truth, I only cracked open Michael Lindeburg's Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual during the whole test. It really is a complete text, and even includes phone numbers of each state's licensing board in the front for easy reference should you need them.

Well, I think that is a good overview about how to get prepared for this very grueling, eight-hour exam. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions.


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