K-12 Students

What is professional engineering?

Professional Engineering uses math and science used to solve complex real-world problems. You encounter things every day that have been engineered.

Engineers design and oversee the construction and maintenance of systems that bring you electricity and clean drinking water, roads and bridges you travel on for work or school, and the signals that control the flow of traffic. They direct the flow of storm water and treat wastewater to help reduce pollutants in our waterways.

Engineers design manufactured products like cars and airplanes, game controllers and drones, computers and phones, shampoo, soap and makeup, and the nanotechnology that keeps clothes from wrinkling. Engineers also design machines and systems for manufacturing.

If it could impact your personal safety, then the engineer who designs it or builds it must be a "Professional Engineer". In order to use the title “Professional Engineer” or the designation “PE,” a person must be licensed by a State.

The practice of professional engineering is defined in Maine law as “any professional service, such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design or responsible supervision of construction in connection with any public or private utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, works or projects, wherein the public welfare or the safeguarding of life, health or property is concerned or involved, when such professional service requires the application of engineering principles and data.” 32 M.R.S.A. §1251 (3).

To become a PE, a person completes a 4-year engineering or engineering technology degree, or a degree in a "related science" like math, physics, biology, chemistry, etc. Next, they pass a national examination in the Fundamentals of Engineering, pass a second national examination in the Principles and Practices of Engineering, and complete required engineering work experience.

The rigorous qualifications for professional engineering licensure ensure that someone is competent before they are licensed.

Because so much of what a professional engineer does impacts the safety of people, the whole purpose of professional licensure is to protect the public. 

      College Students

      Not everyone who studies engineering gets licensed as a professional engineer. About 20% of all engineering graduates become professional engineers. Engineering is also a great foundation for a career in other fields, including medicine, research, business, and law.

      The PE credential is a mark of achievement that sets you apart. A PE license is required to perform work using engineering principles and data when that work impacts public safety.

      Professional Engineers oversee manufacturing, mining, nuclear energy, oil exploration, development and refining, commercial construction, bridges, roads, traffic controls, and engineered systems for water, stormwater, electricity, and natural gas, to name a few. The PE credential assures that you have met the minimum standards needed to protect the public. 

      You will first obtain a Bachelor of Science degree from an ABET-accredited engineering or engineering technology program.

      Maine also accepts unaccredited engineering and engineering technology degrees, or allied science degrees (Math, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, etc.), although the work experience requirement expands from 4 years to 8 years for alternative degrees. If an alternative degree meets the NCEES Engineering Education Standard, it can be deemed equivalent to an ABET-accredited degree and the experience requirement remains at 4 years.

      During or shortly after your senior year, you take the NCEES FE Exam, the first national exam, to test your knowledge of the fundamentals of engineering acquired in college.

      After you pass the FE exam and receive your degree, you can apply for Engineer Intern Certification in Maine. The EI credential lets employers and others know that you have met national standards and are on the path to- professional engineering licensure. The certification is not required for future licensure as a PE, although the FE exam is.

      Once you graduate, you will begin to acquire engineering work experience. Your experience should be under the supervision of professional engineers, so you can learn from them and they can observe your progress and provide opportunities for you to grow in knowledge and responsibility.

      In evaluating your experience, the Board will look for evidence of increasing responsibility in your experience. Advanced degrees in engineering, such as an MS or PhD, will each take one year off the experience requirement.

      At any point after graduating and passing the FE exam, you can take the NCEES PE exam. You are not required to complete any specific amount of experience before sitting for the PE exam, although statistics indicate that most people perform better with some practical experience before testing. You will register directly with NCEES to take the PE exam in your chosen discipline.

      Once you pass both the NCEES FE and PE exams and have acquired the experience corresponding to your education, you will complete the Application for Initial PE Licensure, furnish any required supporting documents, and pay the licensure fee. Once approved, you will be licensed as a PE.

      Licensure carries significant responsibility to protect the public, so professional engineers participate in ongoing professional development and abide by the laws, rules, and code of ethics of each jurisdiction in which they practice.

      If you need additional information about PE licensure, please contact us.

      BS Degrees from Outside the US

      Candidates for licensure with an undergraduate degree obtained outside the US must have their degree evaluated with an NCEES Credentials Evaluationunless their degree program is accredited by ABETCEAB, or is deemed equivalent by formal agreement such as the Washington Accord.

      Please be aware that both the NCEES FE and PE exams are required of all applicants.

      Contact the board office with any questions: