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What is professional engineering?

Static equilibrium setup, an engineering EAST project completed at USM and presented in the 2012 ASEE conference in San Antonio, TX

Static equilibrium setup, an engineering EAST project completed at USM and presented in the 2012 ASEE conference in San Antonio, TX

A professional engineer uses engineering principles, science and math to provide solutions to everyday problems. As you go about your day, you may come into contact with many products that have been engineered, and not even think about it. But it’s a good thing an engineer did!

For example, let’s say you woke up this morning when your alarm went off, used the bathroom and showered, got dressed, ate breakfast and read the paper, brushed your teeth and possibly put on makeup, texted a friend to make plans for later, got into your car or on a bus, and went to school.

Professional engineers were likely involved in the design of your alarm clock, the radio signal it received, the way water is provided to your home and wastewater taken away and treated, the shampoo you used, the wrinkle-free nanotechnology in your clothes, your washer and dryer, your dishwasher and toaster oven, your breakfast cereal, the paper, ink and the machines that printed your newspaper, your electric toothbrush and your toothpaste, your makeup and perfume or cologne, your cell phone and the towers that transmit the signals, your car, or the train or bus you rode, the roadways, bridges and tunnels you used, and building you go to school in.

In Maine, in order to use the title “Professional Engineer” or the designation “PE,” a person must be licensed by the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers. The practice of engineering is defined in Maine statute 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 licensed professional engineer, a person typically receives a four-year engineering degree, passes a national examination in the Fundamentals of Engineering, obtains at least four years of engineering work experience under the supervision of licensed professional engineers, and then passes a national examination in the Principles and Practices of Engineering.

The rigorous qualifications for professional licensure insure that before someone is licensed to practice professional engineering they have met the basic standards necessary to prove competence in their field.

Because so much of what a professional engineer does impacts people, the whole purpose of the licensure process 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.

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