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Benefits of a Professional Engineering License

By Cliff Jones posted 06-06-2019 04:20 PM

Despite what many may think, being a licensed professional engineer (PE) does not mean you are at the pinnacle of your field. In fact, it means quite the opposite.
A professional engineering license is an indication that you meet the minimum requirements to independently perform and oversee engineering work – often referred to as being “in responsible charge.”

However, although it does serve as an indicator of minimum competency, the P.E. is still a great achievement that requires considerable effort to attain.
The goal of this article is to highlight some of the many benefits of being a licensed (or registered) professional engineer. So, without further ado, below is a list of the top six benefits of professional engineering licensure.

1. Credibility
The PE designation is a highly respected and broadly recognized designation for engineering competence and ability. Having the PE designation on your business card, in your email signature, and on your LinkedIn profile can widely signal your credibility as an engineer. In addition, a conservative interpretation of many state engineering regulations would reveal that you can’t even call yourself an engineer (technically) until you’ve obtained your PE license!

2. Authority
In many jurisdictions, only a P.E. can be in responsible charge of engineering work. That often means only a licensed P.E. can sign and seal engineering work product, including drawings, reports, calculations, and specifications. So, if you want to be in charge, you’ve got to take the necessary steps to obtain your P.E. license.

3. Advancement
Your career progression may involve being in responsible charge of engineering work that will require you to get your PE license. In addition, many engineering companies require those at and above certain levels to have their P.E. So, attaining your P.E. can provide you the opportunity to take those next steps in your career.

4. Opportunities
Speaking of opportunities, having a P.E. license can open many other doors in your career. These can include eligibility for a wider range of employment opportunities, the ability to serve in technical advisory roles (for example, on committees), the authority to run your own engineering business, and even the opportunity to perform certain specialized work like serving as an expert witness.

5. Improved Earning Potential
The numbers don’t lie. As highlighted in the 2018 ASCE Civil Engineering Salary Report, licensed engineers make more on average than their nonlicensed counterparts. So if your goal is to earn more money for the work you do, a P.E. credential can help make that dream a reality.

6. Job Security
With the uncertain and ever-changing job market, a P.E. license can improve your job security and stability by differentiating you from your peers. While it may not always be the case, having a P.E. typically makes you a more desirable candidate for retention because you have the ability to be in responsible charge of work, not to mention that often you can bill your time at a higher rate than those without their license.
In the end, the good news is that the hard work of obtaining your P.E. license has the potential to benefit you in many different and important ways. So, have I missed anything? What are your thoughts on the subject? How have you benefited from obtaining your P.E., or how do you expect to? Let me know in the comments below.

Cliff A. Jones, S.E., P.E., PSP, M.ASCE, is a civil/structural engineer located in Austin, Texas, who has expertise in protective design, physical security, force protection and structural forensics.

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Check out Cliff's second article about licensure: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Multistate Licensure.

07-29-2019 11:35 AM

Bill (@William Hayden​) -- thank you for the feedback.  I couldn't agree more.  While clients pay the bill and often define much of the scope, our duty to to the public should always be the top priority as PEs.  Like you, I have found that this mindset it not as uniform and consistent across practicing professional engineers as it ought to be and I'm glad you added your feedback as another reminder of utmost responsibility of licensed professional engineers.

So, while there are many benefits to being licensed, they do come with responsibilities.  Further, the ASCE Code of Ethics takes a similar view in placing safety at the top (see:

07-26-2019 04:39 PM

Hi Cliff, thanks for the opportunity to comment. It brought back, spontaneously, the joy I felt back in about 1970/71, when I received a letter in the mail....snail mail...from the NJ Board that I was now a properly licensed Professional Engineer!

Over the years, I had the good fortune to be groomed by more senior PEs who had not just technical expertise, but the integrity and character the PE license requires. I found that in practice an uncomfortable dilemma existed.

The license itself is NOT to be in business but instead to "Protect the safety, health and welfare of the public." What seemed to conflict some PEs in some firms is they would argue that "No," their first obligation was to their client.

I'll stop here, and see what you as well as your readership thinks.