What is professional engineering?
A professional engineer uses engineering principles, science, and math to create solutions to real-world problems. You probably have contact every day with things that have been engineered.
Engineers design and oversee the systems that bring you electricity and clean drinking water, the 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 many of the manufactured products you use from cars to airplanes, from game controllers to drones, from computers to phones, from soaps to shampoo, and even the nanotechnology that keeps your clothes from wrinkling. Engineers also design the machines and systems for manufacturing. If you can think of it, an engineer probably had something to do with producing it.
And if it impacts your personal safety, then the engineer who designs it or builds it has to be licensed. In order to use the title “Professional Engineer” or the designation “PE,” a person must be licensed by the 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 degree, passes a national examination in the Fundamentals of Engineering, works for at least 4 years with licensed professional engineers, and then passes a second national examination in the Principles and Practices of Engineering.
The rigorous qualifications for professional licensure ensure that before someone is licensed they have met the standards to prove competence in their field.
Because so much of what a professional engineer does impacts people, the whole purpose of professional licensure is to protect the public. The law requires the Board to protect the health, safety and property of the people of Maine. A Professional Engineer is required to uphold the highest standards of integrity, competency and ethical conduct.
The path to professional engineering licensure.
Students come to engineering for a variety of reasons. Some are inspired by an engineer or teacher. Others have an interest or ability in math or science. Still others look at buildings, bridges, or manufactured products and find that engineering is at the root of what they want to create. And some find out that engineering occupations are seven of the top ten highest-paying jobs in the United States. Whatever the reason, welcome to the exciting world of professional engineering!
The first step on the path to licensure is to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program. To be licensed in Maine, you can also attend an ABET-accredited engineering technology program, or an engineering, engineering technology or allied science program that meets the NCEES Engineering Education Standard.
In or after your senior year of college you take the NCEES FE Exam, the first national exam, to test the fundamentals of engineering acquired in college.
After you pass the FE exam and receive your degree, you apply for an Engineer-Intern Certification (PDF) from the State of Maine. The EI credential lets employers and others know that you have met national standards in education and fundamental engineering knowledge.
Once you graduate, you will complete at least four years of engineering experience of increasing responsibility. 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 both in knowledge and responsibility.
When you are ready, you will prepare and take the NCEES PE exam. You will register with NCEES to take the PE exam in your chosen discipline. After you pass the exam, you will complete an application (PDF), provide the required supporting documents, and pay the licensure fee. Once approved, you will be granted licensure, indicating that you have met the standard to be licensed as a professional engineer.
Licensure carries with it significant responsibility to protect the welfare of the public, so professional engineers participate in ongoing professional development and abide by the statutes, rules and code of ethics of each jurisdiction in which they practice.
Please Note: Applicants who have been educated outside the United States must provide an NCEES credentials evaluation and may be required to fulfill additional educational or examination requirements before being licensed. Please contact the office with any questions.