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What should I do? Grad school or PE licence?


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#1 libnitz

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 09:20 PM

Hello,

I'm a new user here, so please excuse my ignorance. I'm 27y and currently trying to further my career. I graduated with a BS in physics and Mathematics, and contemplating whether to return to graduate school or take the FE/PE exams. or should I just do both?
Oh I'm also currently unemployed.

Thanks.

PS: please ask me questions, obviously I'm probably not asking the proper ones.

#2 Dexman PE PMP

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 09:31 PM

Both, but I would add that it depends on what your state requirements are to sit for the FE/PE exams. Since you BS is not in engineering, you state may have different requirements for experience than if you had a BSE. You could probably use a MSE in place of a BSE and a year of experience, hence my thought you should go back to grad school.

#3 libnitz

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 11:41 PM

Thanks, I plan on doing both however I feel so doubtful because I'm getting too old(?) and maybe worse I'll be rejected by grad schools...

#4 Jayman_PE

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 01:30 AM

Lib,

What is your background? Have you worked in the engineering field before? What is driving you toward becoming an engineer? If it is merely to take the FE/PE exams I'm afraid you will be disappointed. You need to want to work and live as an engineer. Licensure is optional. One of the very best engineers I worked with was not licensed. It was not necessary, his knowledge and what he was capable of preceded a relatively useless piece of paper.

As Dexman alluded to, if your undedgrad degree is not in engineering, you may need to get your BS or MS in engineering in order to eventually become licensed. State laws vary on this topic so you may wish to contact your licensure board and see what they say. If you chose the MS engineering path be aware that you must attend a graduate school in which the undergraduate engineering program is ABET accredited - something to consider if you wish follow the licensure path. Too, under the MS engineering option, you would very likely be required to take pre-requisite undergrad engineering courses. Depending on your background, etc. the MS engineering degree could end up being a 3 to 4 year program - something else to consider.

I'm not trying to interject fear or doubt, just get you thinking about questions to ask others and yourself. With a math/physics background engineering should come natural to you, if it hasn't already.

All the best

#5 libnitz

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 02:01 AM

@Jayman_10x

I do not have much experience in engineering. I've being working as a research assistant for the past couple of years in a small lab, and its not working out so well. I want to build things, mechanical machines to be specific. I also want to understand complex structures that go into engineering plants.

I've tried applying for several entry level positions in mechanical engr but with no luck. I do have lots of experience with AutoCAD (not the "play around" your computer kind). I designed some buildings floors plans and did some incomplete designing of engines.

To be quite honest, I have no idea where to go from here. I feel my best option is to go to grad school and try to complete a masters in mechanical engr and in the process obtain a PE licence.

#6 Jayman_PE

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 02:28 AM

Lib,

What I would suggest is doing all you can to pin down a job in a mechanial engineering office. Get as much experience as you can, say over a summer between academic years. See how you like it. Try to envision yourself doing this during your working life. Does it seem right, feel right? Do your natural skills comensurate with the skills required? Were you meant to do this? You can only answer those questions by getting experience. A summer or two is not a lot of time, but you may be surprised how much exposure you can acquire. I am a civil engineer, but there are a number of mechanical engineers who frequent this site and they can point you in the right direction.

All the best.

#7 Peele1

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 03:41 PM

Maybe... See if you can get in an undergrad Mech Eng. degree program. If you have the math, physics, chemistry, electives, etc, then it should be only a year or two, especially if you go summer.
If you are 27 and it takes you two years, then how old will you be? How old will you be in 2 years if you don't pursue it?
While in school you can do co-op or interships to get experience.

You could possibly look for an internship doing Mech Eng. if that's what you want.

If you do grad school, you may be able to find a program that will give you a graduate assistant job, paying for tuition, and possibly (or need to) complete the undergraduate degree.

Good luck.

#8 ptatohed

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 03:59 PM

Of importance in descending order (my opinion):

1.) Drive, passion, work ethic, commitment, etc.
2.) Work experience/field knowledge
3.) Your PE registration
4.) Masters (totally optional in my experience/opinion)

Good luck.

#9 Jayman_PE

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 03:16 PM

Of importance in descending order (my opinion):

1.) Drive, passion, work ethic, commitment, etc.
2.) Work experience/field knowledge
3.) Your PE registration
4.) Masters (totally optional in my experience/opinion)

Good luck.

I agree with numbers 1 and 2, but would swap numbers 3 and 4. It just depends on the individual and what they aim to achieve. To me knowledge supplants PE registration. I realize public perception is different. I've said elsewhere here that the best engineer I've worked with was not licensed. A high school classmate of mine is an unlicensed engineer, bachelors in mechanical, yet he never got licensed, just wasn't necessary. He currently owns a fabrication shop and does very well. I can offer two more similar examples, but the point is PE registration is little more than a piece of paper that says someone memorized enough to score around 70% on their test, perhaps minimum competence. It does not mean you are a good engineer; and I realize people here do not want to read this reality. I am a licensed surveyor and can name surveyors who have absolutely no right being licensed to practice, in fact they may be considered a danger to the public under certain circumstances, yet they passed the NCEES and State Specific PS exams and that's what counts.

A few years ago I recall reading something indicating future ABET requirements for PE licensure will include a Master's Degree in Engineering, and I agree. Asia is supplanting us in innovation and I think it's high time the American engineering curriculum ratchets up the minimum competence level. I am convinced we have the best and brightest here in our country but the education system needs house cleaning, for example replacing certain ABET courses with more relevant one's.

#10 ptatohed

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 04:03 PM


Of importance in descending order (my opinion):

1.) Drive, passion, work ethic, commitment, etc.
2.) Work experience/field knowledge
3.) Your PE registration
4.) Masters (totally optional in my experience/opinion)

Good luck.

I agree with numbers 1 and 2, but would swap numbers 3 and 4. It just depends on the individual and what they aim to achieve. To me knowledge supplants PE registration. I realize public perception is different. I've said elsewhere here that the best engineer I've worked with was not licensed. A high school classmate of mine is an unlicensed engineer, bachelors in mechanical, yet he never got licensed, just wasn't necessary. He currently owns a fabrication shop and does very well. I can offer two more similar examples, but the point is PE registration is little more than a piece of paper that says someone memorized enough to score around 70% on their test, perhaps minimum competence. It does not mean you are a good engineer; and I realize people here do not want to read this reality. I am a licensed surveyor and can name surveyors who have absolutely no right being licensed to practice, in fact they may be considered a danger to the public under certain circumstances, yet they passed the NCEES and State Specific PS exams and that's what counts.

A few years ago I recall reading something indicating future ABET requirements for PE licensure will include a Master's Degree in Engineering, and I agree. Asia is supplanting us in innovation and I think it's high time the American engineering curriculum ratchets up the minimum competence level. I am convinced we have the best and brightest here in our country but the education system needs house cleaning, for example replacing certain ABET courses with more relevant one's.


Seriously? If you could only have one, you'd pick an MS over a PE? Not me. Right now I am an Associate Engineer (the highest I could go with my EIT). Now that I have my PE, I hope to be promoted to Senior Engineer sometime in the (near?) future. Having an MS is not required for me to promote but having my PE is. I thought most organizations had a similar structure. I don't think any of the Seniors I work with have an MS (yet they wouldn't be here if they didn't have their PEs). I'll skip the MS. But I am still totally jealous of your PLS. ;)

#11 Dexman PE PMP

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 04:30 PM

I wouldn't have the job I have today if I had a MS instead of my PE...
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#12 Jayman_PE

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 03:46 AM

I appreciate what both of you are saying. It goes back to common perception about the importance of holding a PE license. I personally do not believe it is as meaningful as many people think. Nor am I saying one must have a Master's Degree to be a solid engineer. Of course not. My point is what someone knows, and can apply, should take precedence over paper/memorization credentials. Again, it just depends on the individuals circumstance, primarily one's own drive, passion, work ethic, etc., just as ptato said above.

About this Master's Degree business: The VP of the company I work for once told me he prefer's to hire individuals who out-degree him. Otherwise, for lack of better information, he fears hiring someone who knows nothing more than himself. He prefers people who can challenge his own thiniking, and angle in from different perspectives than his own, contrary to modern group think. This is very forward thinking, I believe. And the results show - the company, private and American owned, turns record profits each year, employs hundreds, and has zero debt. How many PE's do they employ? Four, and one of them does not practice anymore.

Edited by Jayman_10x, 16 May 2012 - 03:51 AM.


#13 libnitz

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 02:40 PM

Wow, thanks for all the amazing insightful responses guys, Its really helping and encouraging. I've really being trying to land an entry level mechanical engineering position here in houston, texas. I got interviewed twice but no reply or call back. They asked me the basic questions and I thought I did pretty well (apparently not since I haven't got a call back). At the moment, I'm going to be tutoring some college students in physics to make ends meet till I get into my masters program or obtain a position with an engineering company.

@Dexman PE : I've also started studying for the exam in October; just borrowed FE Review Manual and Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual for PE Exam both by Michael Lindeburg. I believe I'll do very well on the test, I've always kept up with my physics knowledge with tutoring. My only problem is the Statics and Dynamics, I never took any of these courses as they were not related to my Physics degree.

@Jayman_10x: Your statement is what I feared before applying for any engineering position. What if I'm given a task and I'm unable to perform because of my lack of knowledge in mechanical engineering. The last thing I want to happen to is my performance lagging the progress of the company or team. For this reason, I'll be acquiring (or hoping to acquire if admitted) to a graduate school program in the Fall as a mechanical engineering student.

Again, thanks guys, I should probably visit alot more lol.

#14 Boomer01 PE

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 04:19 PM

I would agree with the PE over masters also. Personally, I do not have a masters because my school didn't offer one in transportation. I would have had to move to another state to get it in the field of my choice. Instead I worked right out of school and took my PE when I was able to. I can get a lot further with my PE than I could with a masters. When you hand out a business card it says PE, not the degree(s) you have (i guess unless you have a phd).

Edited by Boomer01 PE, 16 May 2012 - 04:19 PM.


#15 snickerd3

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 04:34 PM

Really depends on what you want to do. Why can't you pursue both eventually? I would have had to find a new school to get my masters. At Univ of IL Both the ChemE and Chemistry departments REFUSE to accept their own undergrads into their MS and PHD programs....they consider it imbreeding.

#16 solomonb

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 11:16 PM

Lib-- Glad that you are here. Based upon the fact pattern you present, I would see if you have the requisite education to take the FE examination in your state. Assuming you do, I would do that first. You may need to have some tutoring on the subjects that you don't have specific class work, however, if your state approves you to take the FE examination, I would do so. Many folks have taken the FE/PE exam without having an engineering undergraduate degree. Each state is different, so you will need to check with your state board for what your state's specific requirements entail.

As mentioned earlier, there are always opportunities in graduate school. See if you can get into a good engineering school and have the tuition paid as you get your Master's degree. You may be a teaching assistant or a lab rat researcher, however, there are always programs that are seeking good graduate students.

If you enjoy building machines, tools, etc, then find a good grad program in Mechanical Engineering. This may require a move to some place you may not know about, but, take the opportunity and find out what is out there.

I am going to disagree with some of the earlier posts on the validity/value of the PE license. While it is true that a piece of paper does not make the engineer and many very talented and successful engineers never pursued professional registration, this is a "cutting" tool that will put you over the bar if all other things are equal. After all, the PE license is not that complicated to achieve--many folks make this exercise substantially more difficult than what it really is. Yes, you have to study and have to know how to do some calculations, however, the PE test is designed to test for the "minimally competent" engineer, the "D" student, not the "A" student. Seems counter intutive, however, that is how the program works.

I would find the grad program, get enrolled and find some work in the program to give you the resources to get through school. Check with your state board about FE eligibility. If you are elgible to take the exam, do so. If you need more course work, take it, then take the exam. Don't be afraid to move-- you never know what is around the corner-- and it may be much better than you imagine.

The rules at Univ of ILL of not taking their undergrads in their grad programs make good sense to me. You want a wide breadth of education and experience; going to different schools will provide that.

Good luck in your pursuit of new opportunity.

#17 Jayman_PE

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 11:36 PM

I am going to disagree with some of the earlier posts on the validity/value of the PE license. While it is true that a piece of paper does not make the engineer and many very talented and successful engineers never pursued professional registration, this is a "cutting" tool that will put you over the bar if all other things are equal. After all, the PE license is not that complicated to achieve--many folks make this exercise substantially more difficult than what it really is. Yes, you have to study and have to know how to do some calculations, however, the PE test is designed to test for the "minimally competent" engineer, the "D" student, not the "A" student. Seems counter intutive, however, that is how the program works.


I agree 100%. You made my point, in that the PE license should not be a cutting tool - as you said it's not complicated to achieve.

#18 Jayman_PE

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 11:40 PM

@Jayman_10x: Your statement is what I feared before applying for any engineering position. What if I'm given a task and I'm unable to perform because of my lack of knowledge in mechanical engineering. The last thing I want to happen to is my performance lagging the progress of the company or team. For this reason, I'll be acquiring (or hoping to acquire if admitted) to a graduate school program in the Fall as a mechanical engineering student.


Lib,

From what you have described I believe you are correct in choosing graduate school. However, I did not intend to scare you off from applying for an engineering position. If you apply for a summer position, are open and upfront about your level of expertise, a reasonable employer will uset you up accordingly. The idea at the beginning is to learn. Most would not throw you into the fire. The good one's pull you aside and teach you the ropes from the bottom up, and this is what I would do if I were you.

#19 Dano_PE

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 07:00 PM

In my case it was better to get my PE (After I value engineered the cost/benifit of grad school).

Grad School - $30,000+
PE- $1,500 (books, exam and certificate)

Return on my money is much faster with the PE option, but your situation may be different.

Good luck either way. Both options are good life decisions.

#20 solomonb

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 09:37 PM

I would go to graduate school first and get the requisite engineering skills required to become an engineer. That may be either getting a Master's degree or another bachelor's degree. You may have to take several undergrad engineering courses prior to starting the Master's program--however, that is school specific. It may be that you end up with a Bachelor's degree in engineering as well as a Master's degree. You will still have to gain the 4 years of engineering experience before testing for the PE license. Of course, this is after successful matriculation at either the undergrad/graduate level in engineering.
I would then work toward the PE license. You will need your 4 years of engineering experience-- then sit for the exam. In some jurisdictions, the Master's degree will count for 1 year of experience.

No, at 27 or 29 or 31-- you are NOT too old to sit for the PE. Hell, we have folks that are 60 years old that are sitting for the first time. Trust me, they are just as nervous as a 26 year old engineer! Remember, when there is a will, there is a way!

Grad schools will take you-- grad schools are always looking for good students. Bring a physics background is good-- you may have to search schools a little to find one that is suited to you, however, you will get in. Your tutoring skills will be beneficial as a teaching assistant, something that the school may give you to help defray tuiton costs.

Now that you are unemployed and have a plan, go for it. There is no reason to sit and wait-- jump in and go-- you will do fine.

#21 Momen

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 02:01 PM

I will advice to take FE/EIT first. You have BS in physics, which is enough to cover FE/EIT. Go for that.




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