Why did you go for the PE license? - OCT 2009 - Engineer Boards
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Dark Knight

Why did you go for the PE license?

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A co-worker, a young engineer that just came to our company, asked me the yesterday about whatwhy did I get from my PE license(PE from now on). It caught me off guard and I realized that I have got no benefit from becoming a PE. I do not feel smarter, not better, nor superior than anybody else. The best thing I was able to tell him it is just a lame reason. I told him that the only reason I went for the PE was for personal satisfaction. To complete the circle. :true:

His reply just left me cold. He asked me that if all the hard work and the money spent in taking that kind of exam was worthy. I told him that in the personal aspect YES, but in the professional aspect NO. The reasoning for that answer is that in the industry I work for, electric utility owned by investors, the PE is just a worthless piece of paper. Not even nice to have. They put in the job postings "Preferable qualifications... PE license" but the truth of the matter is that it is completely irrelevant, and worst than that...there is hate toward engineers with license. If you have the PE you are a minority.

NCEES could not care less about how these companies run their business and in 90% of the cases, their decission making people are there because internal politics and not because competency. I know cases of engineers without even the EIT(or FE) supervising PEs. There in one unit in the group where the manager has only nine years of experience, not even the FE certificate and has engineers with more than 20 years of experience, PEs among them, reporting to him. I mean, these people are taking decissions on how the infrastructure to keep the power grid up and running will be built and/or maintained. Do not you think that somebody has to keep an eye of them? Not important? Huh? North East Blackout and South Florida Blackout. Does that ring a bell?

NERC keeps an eye on how the maintenance is done and they are doing a heck of a job. But in the designing aspect things are chaotic because, and hang in there, most of the design job is done by design technicians, not engineers. Who does review their job? The manager without the FE, but the manger anyways. The same manager that knows nothing about the area of expertise that he is supposed to be overseeing. This is ironic at least. I have seen some designs that any third year student in an engineering school would laugh at them because they are so ridiculous.

NCEES created the PE te$$$t to evaluate minimal competency and protect the public. But what are they doing with those non-regulated industries? Nothing? Anything? Why? For one, I would like to know. Seriously. Is there is someting to do? I think I know the answers but maybe I am wrong. Maybe NCEES is too busy creating new ways to get more money...sorry....to evaluate competency from engineers. At least they keep the list of approved calculators in good shape and somebody mentioned they are even working in a new Software Engineer test. Way to go.

The young engineer told me that he has no intention to go after his FE or PE because he does not need it in the line of work he(we) are. He is right. His reasoning is true and like him there is a large group of engineers that think in the same way. What will NCEES do to lure those ones to try for the PE? We are talking about a lot of money in fees and books. Think about it.

My advice to any one that ask me about the PE is: If you are going after a consulting job? Go and get it. If you are going to work in a non-regulated company do not even bother, unless it is a personal satisfaction thing. Not too many will put themselves thru hell just for personal satisfaction. NCEES would say about this that is the state board responsability to regulate in each state. True. But when we sign for the test we do not take a state test and NCEES writes and put the rules.

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Ok, he works in your industry which is exempt today. What will he or she be doing in 25 years?

You may mention in North America today the average job lasts less than five years and who knows when it might come in handy. Personally I know several engineers who got bored of being cogs in larger machines so they struck out and started businesses. You might say its a logical flaw to assume things will remain constant for one's career and personal life.

We should all be safely able to say the days of working your career at one employer, with rare exception, are over.

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I always encourage young engineers to at least take the FE directly out of school because it is infinitely easier to pass while the topics are still fresh in your mind. After a few years of doing electrical engineering work, you won't remember hardly anything about thermo, or chemistry. MGX is right. I never thought I would need or want my PE license. But I ended up getting it as soon as I was eligible even though I was in your boat (in an exempt industry where nobody had their PE, and it wasn't really useful). But after I passed, I ended up using my license to get into consulting. The license opens doors that would normally be closed. Even if you don't use the license for its intended purpose, you can use it as a resume ornament to open career paths in the future.

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Even if you don't use the license for its intended purpose, you can use it as a resume ornament to open career paths in the future.

:appl: Well said Wil :appl: It is a nice ornament...sometimes

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Guest Dexman PE
I always encourage young engineers to at least take the FE directly out of school because it is infinitely easier to pass while the topics are still fresh in your mind. After a few years of doing electrical engineering work, you won't remember hardly anything about thermo, or chemistry. MGX is right. I never thought I would need or want my PE license. But I ended up getting it as soon as I was eligible even though I was in your boat (in an exempt industry where nobody had their PE, and it wasn't really useful). But after I passed, I ended up using my license to get into consulting. The license opens doors that would normally be closed. Even if you don't use the license for its intended purpose, you can use it as a resume ornament to open career paths in the future.

I went down a similar path (for a BS in Civil). I took the EIT (FE) the fall semester of my last year in school, for no other reason than to get it done "just in case." I wanted to get into construction, which I did, where having a PE (or even an EIT) has little or no relevance. Sure there are some PE's but they are all in the corporate office estimating and IMO lead pretty boring careers. After about 2 years and getting ready for my oldest child to be born, I realized that I needed something more stable. So I persued a job in the consulting world. Having the EIT done and out of the way lead to so many opportunities that otherwise would have been much more difficult.

Now that I'm in the consulting world, having a PE is critical (especially for Civils).

But I have to agree with most of my professors who told me that it would be better to have and not use than to need it and struggle to make it up.

Short answer: I got the PE because I wanted to. Having it has proven very beneficial in numerous occasions that I had no idea would ever happen.

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chicks, duh.

Of course!

I did it becasue there's no way you can own (all or part of) a consulting firm without one these days. I agree with MGX in that there's no telling what career move one may want to make in 10, 15, 25 years and having that PE just might come in handy.

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Dark Knight. I also work for a Utility but I am a Civil. Not many of us "Civils" in the company. There are two units where the illusive creature could be found and that is in the substation engineering group (where I am) and the transmission engineering group. I recieved my PE for both work and personal reasons. I did recieve a promotion to senior engineer when I recieved my PE. I believe it was appreciated because of the niche I function in. Without me they would have to farm out all the PE sealing required for building permits. We did do this for a year when the previous civil PE left (I didnt have my PE yet)and it cost us more than 130k in one year to farm out PE stamping. We do a lot of work that is minor that will require a building permit. Adding a feeder position to a substation for example. You just need to add a couple foundations but alot of times it requires a permit. Just me stamping these projects pays my salary and then some. So I do feel that my PE is appreciated. But it also is only appreciated by only the people that are benefited by it like the project managers and the other people in my unit. The rest of the people I encounter could care less. My direct supervisor is not a PE and he is in charge of the high voltage engineering and the civil engineering group. The EE that I work with don't think its worth it. They really don't get any benefit but it does look good and it makes it easier to find work outside the utility world.

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I got my PE for the raise that came with it. I have to admit that I DID get a ot of personal satisfaction from passing.

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Dark Knight. I also work for a Utility but I am a Civil. Not many of us "Civils" in the company. There are two units where the illusive creature could be found and that is in the substation engineering group (where I am) and the transmission engineering group. I recieved my PE for both work and personal reasons. I did recieve a promotion to senior engineer when I recieved my PE. I believe it was appreciated because of the niche I function in. Without me they would have to farm out all the PE sealing required for building permits. We did do this for a year when the previous civil PE left (I didnt have my PE yet)and it cost us more than 130k in one year to farm out PE stamping. We do a lot of work that is minor that will require a building permit. Adding a feeder position to a substation for example. You just need to add a couple foundations but alot of times it requires a permit. Just me stamping these projects pays my salary and then some. So I do feel that my PE is appreciated. But it also is only appreciated by only the people that are benefited by it like the project managers and the other people in my unit. The rest of the people I encounter could care less. My direct supervisor is not a PE and he is in charge of the high voltage engineering and the civil engineering group. The EE that I work with don't think its worth it. They really don't get any benefit but it does look good and it makes it easier to find work outside the utility world.

That is anothe huge difference. Seems to me that a Civil Engineer can cash his/her PE easier than a an EE.

I have to admit that I DID get a ot of personal satisfaction from passing.

Same here. Thanks for reminding me that. I needed it.

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I'm a structural engineer, so I pretty much have to get my PE to be able to advance in my career. But I also received a lot of personal satisfaction from passing the exam as well. I'm still waiting on a raise, but I'm not holding my breath considering how things have been going lately.

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I think personal satisfaction is my number one reason of getting the PE. When I was in college I set a goal of being the first person in my family to get a masters degree and the PE. I would have done it even if I didn't get a promotion, although that extra carrot did help. I view it as being a part of an elite group. Not many engineers have a PE and I do think its looked upon highly in our little community.

A friend/coworker of mine who is an EE asked if he should get a PE. I told him that as long as the company is paying for a prep material and the test that he should go for it. He already passed the FE. It just makes him more valuable in the outside world. The thing is that Utilities really do operate like they are in a different world. I think the utility exemption is what fosters this perspective.

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I work in Land Development, so it is kind of required if you are looking to make any traction in the field. However with Landscape Architects slowly making headway as to what they are allowed to stamp, the PE in Land Development has lost some of its value. With that said I would rather have it than not.

The NCEES requirements are olny going to get tougher in order to obtain one and I feel furtunate that I was able to pass the test. The beauty of the PE in the Civil field is that it gives you a nationaly recognized certification that at a minimum says that you do know something regardless of what college you attended.

I would recommend that anyone able to get one should pursue one. I found that it helps me alot more than it hurts me.

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Are landscape architects allowed to stand grading plans and sediment and erosion control plans? In maryland they are only allowed to stanp landscaping plans. I don't think they should be allowed to stamp anything other than that.

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Guest Dexman PE
Are landscape architects allowed to stand grading plans and sediment and erosion control plans? In maryland they are only allowed to stand landscaping plans. I don't think they should be allowed to stamp anything other than that.

In CO, a PE is universal. I took the civil exam, but technically I can stamp anything from landscaping to electrical to mechanical. CO doesn't have a structural designation either so I can stamp high-rise plans too.

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I got my PE for personal satisfaction. That and I had way too many people (including my current boss) tell me that I didn't need it, shouldn't bother, etc. This is the same boss that gave me a $10k/yr raise at the end of this year. I don't know that I would have gotten this raise without having my liscense, but it sure didn't hurt. And I work for an electric utility so I really didn't need the PE (I'll admit it now) but it sure feels good to have it!

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Are landscape architects allowed to stand grading plans and sediment and erosion control plans? In maryland they are only allowed to stand landscaping plans. I don't think they should be allowed to stamp anything other than that.

That is a hot topic in Va. I know that some localities will accept a LA stamp and some won't. I have also seen a DPOR letter stating that localities must accept it and that under the DPOR code a LA will not stamp something outside of his/her technical abilities but the reality is that some of the plans I have seen stamped by a LA are pretty on the surface but have no technical merrit. I am sure some have the ability but they have had no classes in hydrology or hydraulics. I think they should stick to what they know and if they are smart enough to do site plans then get a PE and prove it. There is also a push in some states thet a LA could stamp a survey which I think is insane (I am also a lic. surveyor)! That is when the crap really hits the fan.

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Are landscape architects allowed to stand grading plans and sediment and erosion control plans? In maryland they are only allowed to stand landscaping plans. I don't think they should be allowed to stamp anything other than that.

Kind of a tricky question to answer. At my last job, they were not permitted to stamp anything but a Planting Plan (closer to Phily). At my current job (out in the sticks), they stamp everything to include grading, site plans, E&S, details, etc. A PE is required for the Stormwater design if a structure is required.

IMHO it all comes down to liability and how much the company is willing take on. If a Landscape Architect wants to stamp a site plan he/she will need take on the liability that goes with it. In my experience a major cause of most law suits involving site design (besides SW basin non performance) is traffic related. I have known no Landscape Architects who could reference the correct signage guidance when questioned on it (MUTCD).

I think that everything will be all well and good until there begins to be some push back from the clients who are getting sued for a poorly designed plan and their "design professional" was just shooting from the hip.

With that said, I have run into some LAs who made it a point to learn how to properly route a basin and were just fine at design.

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I worked 15 years as a Manufacturing engineer therefore I did not need to be a licensed engineer. I got my PE as I now work in the Nuclear field and our design specifications and reports need to be PE stamped. About 50% of our PE's are getting close to retirement age and I figured I should pursue a PE for advancement and also for professional development. Being out of college for 21 years I felt I needed a good review. I did not expect it to take two years though and I also did not anticipate the type of problems that would be on the exam. In any event I have it now.

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Are landscape architects allowed to stand grading plans and sediment and erosion control plans? In maryland they are only allowed to stand landscaping plans. I don't think they should be allowed to stamp anything other than that.

Kind of a tricky question to answer. At my last job, they were not permitted to stamp anything but a Planting Plan (closer to Phily). At my current job (out in the sticks), they stamp everything to include grading, site plans, E&S, details, etc. A PE is required for the Stormwater design if a structure is required.

IMHO it all comes down to liability and how much the company is willing take on. If a Landscape Architect wants to stamp a site plan he/she will need take on the liability that goes with it. In my experience a major cause of most law suits involving site design (besides SW basin non performance) is traffic related. I have known no Landscape Architects who could reference the correct signage guidance when questioned on it (MUTCD).

I think that everything will be all well and good until there begins to be some push back from the clients who are getting sued for a poorly designed plan and their "design professional" was just shooting from the hip.

With that said, I have run into some LAs who made it a point to learn how to properly route a basin and were just fine at design.

An interesting side note...

In order to put some comments to rest, I actually looked into applying for an landscape architecture license. Logically, it would seem to me that if an engineer has historically been the responsible party for stamping land development plans and an LA is just now getting the opportunity, the engineer should be able to get this license through proving qualified experience. I will admit that I don't know the first thing about plant species, but I don't really know much about electrical engineering either and that does not mean that I can't be an engineer.

Further, I am stamping post construction storm water management plans which are showing landscaping. I typically try and use evapotransporation rates for little bumbs in my storm water volume credits.

To make a long story short, the board said that I was not eligeble for this license due not having the education requirements.

Another loss for the PE...

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I'm confused. The board said you are not elegible for landscape architect license? I also don't understand the not knowing electrical engineering comment. It depends on the PE exam you take. If you take the electrical PE exam you better know electrical engineering topics.

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So when was the last time yall stamped something?

The last time i stamped something was the piece of paper I stamped then laminated the day I got my stamp in mail.

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I stamped a small renovation project at Ft. Knox last month. I have a couple more of those coming up, plus a big project at Ft. Bliss, TX.

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Guest Dexman PE
I stamped a small renovation project at Ft. Knox last month. I have a couple more of those coming up, plus a big project at Ft. Bliss, TX.

You're working on Ft Bliss too? The company I work for has spent the last few years doing design work there (not my office, but the corporate offce in Dallas).

Last time I stamped something? The recept from buying the stamp in July 08. I did it because I could. Then I had to send the receipt to corporate with my expense report so I would get paid back.

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