America's oldest PE candidate lacks experience?

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I got my mechanical engineering degree decades ago; professors suggested mechanical engineers just skip the PE exam. I've worked a third of my time since then in technical areas, all in industry or the military. I never saw a need for a license until 10 years ago when a potential fiber optic consulting client required it.

I took and passed the FE exam in 2012. I then ran into the challenge that I needed references from old bosses that held PE licenses. None of them did, even though some had degrees from MIT, Cornell, etc.

I subsequently left consulting to work full-time managing a municipal fiber system so I never followed through. I haven't needed a license at this job until now but that may change. I'm now revisiting the license question. Questions:

1. I understand some states don't require supervision by a licensed engineer if the supervisor has equivalent experience - does anyone know where I can find a list of those states?

2. I noticed North Carolina doesn't necessarily require licensed references but it deprecates any military engineering experience; my most advanced engineering work was with Navy nuclear repairs. Is this military clause common?

3. Can I count experience gained before I took the FE exam or does the clock only start after I take the exam? My references are all pre-FE exam.

4. Can I take the PE exam first before applying for a license?
 

ruggercsc

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Call your state board or board member. for the most part, they will want you to get licensed and will help guide you in that direction. I had a long discussion with a board member at a local NSPE meeting (when they were still in person) and he gave an example of someone who worked for a contractor with no PE's in their company getting a "supervisor" reference from someone at the DOT who held a license. He told me that the most important thing is that the reference is familiar with their work.

Again, call you board and talk to them.
 
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I agree,the local Licensing Board is the way to go. Since you are trying to be licensed by experience, the Board may give some wiggle room on supervisor requirements. While they have standard application requirements, each application is also reviewed on its own merits. Therefore you may end up with more 'qualified ' experience than someone who has worked under a PE but did a bad job at detailing their experience.
 

jean15paul_PE

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Welcome to EB.

You asked about a list of states. Are you considering a move? Trying to get licensed somewhere and then apply in your home state via comity? (That often doesn't work.)
 

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Hello A B,
My situation has some similarities to yours. As a control systems engineer, I never really needed a PE until I started consulting in 2008 in California and wanted to incorporate myself.

I recommend to review your states's licensing requirements in detail, see what the waver requirements are. In California if you have been an employee of a company doing qualified engineering work, your former boses can sponsor you and they don't have to have PE themselves.
 

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Welcome to EB.

You asked about a list of states. Are you considering a move? Trying to get licensed somewhere and then apply in your home state via comity? (That often doesn't work.)
I am not looking to move. I'm not sure I'm even looking to apply in my home state via comity.

I have observed other engineers stamping documents who live in one state and are licensed in another. A prominent civil engineer that I worked with lived in Idaho, was licensed in Colorado and had worked all over the US for years. We had him do a project for us with one of our clients in Oregon; our Oregon client, a municipality, required the PE be licensed in Oregon. He applied for and got licensed in Oregon via comity; he said that was the first time he'd ever had to do this.
 

jean15paul_PE

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I am not looking to move. I'm not sure I'm even looking to apply in my home state via comity.

I have observed other engineers stamping documents who live in one state and are licensed in another. A prominent civil engineer that I worked with lived in Idaho, was licensed in Colorado and had worked all over the US for years. We had him do a project for us with one of our clients in Oregon; our Oregon client, a municipality, required the PE be licensed in Oregon. He applied for and got licensed in Oregon via comity; he said that was the first time he'd ever had to do this.
I don't have enough information to comment on the specifics of that situation, but it doesn't sound right.

Generally speaking you can only stamp drawings for work for the state(s) where you're licensed. You need to be licensed where the work will be done (not necessarily where you live). I don't know of any way that you can get a license in a single state and work all over the US. Some engineers have licenses in many states for that reason.

If you plan to work in a particular place then you should plan on working with the board in that state to get licensed there.
 
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@A B
Which State are you currently living or working?
I assume that you are trying to get a PE to satisfy a contract "requirement" or to make yourself more marketable and not to stamp things. If the former then the State shouldn't matter. If the latter then the licensing State matters a lot!

1. I understand some states don't require supervision by a licensed engineer if the supervisor has equivalent experience - does anyone know where I can find a list of those states?

I'm not sure anyone has compiled a list like that before. It would be a lot of work to do so too.
Only a few States have a hard requirement that the qualifying experience be done under a licensed PE. Most States have provisions to allow the experience to happen under non-PEs but the documentation requirements are usually pretty substantial. Maryland is one of those States - however plan to write a few pages explaining the work you did and providing examples of your work.


1.

2. I noticed North Carolina doesn't necessarily require licensed references but it deprecates any military engineering experience; my most advanced engineering work was with Navy nuclear repairs. Is this military clause common?
I've literally never heard of that before. And I'm shocked that North Carolina, of all States, would have such a requirement! Are you sure that is only excludes engineering work done as a uniformed member of the military? As opposed to doing military engineering work as a civilian.

As an example, and continuing from A1 above, Maryland recognizes that some engineering work may be done for defense and/or national security. It certainly allows that as qualifying experience. Maryland has explicit provisions in its applications to allow applicants, who did not work under a PE, to provide less documentation of their work than they would for non-defense engineering. But you may need to get creative in explaining the work you did and the engineering principles you used than would be required otherwise.

I'll also add that one of the Maryland board members is a nukee. And while I can't speak for him or the board: I am a nukee and I have worked with lots of navy nukes, and have a really good understanding of their work, training, and background. It's very pervasive through the field and I'd expect to every other nukee to have a similar understanding. So there's a good chance that the Maryland board will have a decent appreciation for your nuclear navy experience.


1.

2.

3. Can I count experience gained before I took the FE exam or does the clock only start after I take the exam? My references are all pre-FE exam.

4. Can I take the PE exam first before applying for a license?
Depends on the State. Pennsylvania is super strict about the experience starting after the EIT is issued. Most states are far more lenient and only require passing the FE and four years experience with no order requirement.


1.

2.

3.

4. Can I take the PE exam first before applying for a license?
Again, depends of the State. I think there are over 15 States that are decoupled (can take PE before gaining experience). A somewhat old list can be found here:

The only drawback to taking a decoupled exam is that it may cause issues later when applying for comity with States that are still coupled. Pennsylvania and Ohio are the big ones that come to mind.


Generally speaking you can only stamp drawings for work for the state(s) where you're licensed. You need to be licensed where the work will be done (not necessarily where you live). I don't know of any way that you can get a license in a single state and work all over the US. Some engineers have licenses in many states for that reason.
^Well said^. Definitely agree and am quoting here for emphasis.
 

jean15paul_PE

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@A B
Which State are you currently living or working?
I assume that you are trying to get a PE to satisfy a contract "requirement" or to make yourself more marketable and not to stamp things. If the former then the State shouldn't matter. If the latter then the licensing State matters a lot!



I'm not sure anyone has compiled a list like that before. It would be a lot of work to do so too.
Only a few States have a hard requirement that the qualifying experience be done under a licensed PE. Most States have provisions to allow the experience to happen under non-PEs but the documentation requirements are usually pretty substantial. Maryland is one of those States - however plan to write a few pages explaining the work you did and providing examples of your work.



I've literally never heard of that before. And I'm shocked that North Carolina, of all States, would have such a requirement! Are you sure that is only excludes engineering work done as a uniformed member of the military? As opposed to doing military engineering work as a civilian.

As an example, and continuing from A1 above, Maryland recognizes that some engineering work may be done for defense and/or national security. It certainly allows that as qualifying experience. Maryland has explicit provisions in its applications to allow applicants, who did not work under a PE, to provide less documentation of their work than they would for non-defense engineering. But you may need to get creative in explaining the work you did and the engineering principles you used than would be required otherwise.

I'll also add that one of the Maryland board members is a nukee. And while I can't speak for him or the board: I am a nukee and I have worked with lots of navy nukes, and have a really good understanding of their work, training, and background. It's very pervasive through the field and I'd expect to every other nukee to have a similar understanding. So there's a good chance that the Maryland board will have a decent appreciation for your nuclear navy experience.



Depends on the State. Pennsylvania is super strict about the experience starting after the EIT is issued. Most states are far more lenient and only require passing the FE and four years experience with no order requirement.



Again, depends of the State. I think there are over 15 States that are decoupled (can take PE before gaining experience). A somewhat old list can be found here:

The only drawback to taking a decoupled exam is that it may cause issues later when applying for comity with States that are still coupled. Pennsylvania and Ohio are the big ones that come to mind.



^Well said^. Definitely agree and am quoting here for emphasis.
This is why @RBHeadge PE is the champ. :)
 

A B

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@A B
Which State are you currently living or working?
I assume that you are trying to get a PE to satisfy a contract "requirement" or to make yourself more marketable and not to stamp things. If the former then the State shouldn't matter. If the latter then the licensing State matters a lot!



I'm not sure anyone has compiled a list like that before. It would be a lot of work to do so too.
Only a few States have a hard requirement that the qualifying experience be done under a licensed PE. Most States have provisions to allow the experience to happen under non-PEs but the documentation requirements are usually pretty substantial. Maryland is one of those States - however plan to write a few pages explaining the work you did and providing examples of your work.



I've literally never heard of that before. And I'm shocked that North Carolina, of all States, would have such a requirement! Are you sure that is only excludes engineering work done as a uniformed member of the military? As opposed to doing military engineering work as a civilian.

As an example, and continuing from A1 above, Maryland recognizes that some engineering work may be done for defense and/or national security. It certainly allows that as qualifying experience. Maryland has explicit provisions in its applications to allow applicants, who did not work under a PE, to provide less documentation of their work than they would for non-defense engineering. But you may need to get creative in explaining the work you did and the engineering principles you used than would be required otherwise.

I'll also add that one of the Maryland board members is a nukee. And while I can't speak for him or the board: I am a nukee and I have worked with lots of navy nukes, and have a really good understanding of their work, training, and background. It's very pervasive through the field and I'd expect to every other nukee to have a similar understanding. So there's a good chance that the Maryland board will have a decent appreciation for your nuclear navy experience.



Depends on the State. Pennsylvania is super strict about the experience starting after the EIT is issued. Most states are far more lenient and only require passing the FE and four years experience with no order requirement.



Again, depends of the State. I think there are over 15 States that are decoupled (can take PE before gaining experience). A somewhat old list can be found here:

The only drawback to taking a decoupled exam is that it may cause issues later when applying for comity with States that are still coupled. Pennsylvania and Ohio are the big ones that come to mind.



^Well said^. Definitely agree and am quoting here for emphasis.

Thanks - this is so helpful.

Location:
North Carolina

Motivation:
  • Currently, I just want to save my employer (a city) money and time.
  • Post-retirement, I may want to use this to make myself more marketable

Until now, I've done the fiber cable plant design work, written up instructions for our crews and then they've gone and installed it. I inherited a couple of projects that were done by engineering firms and they were poorly done (nice drawings and writing, but poor technical choices reflecting ignorance of fiber technology).

We're now trying to get an FAA grant that may or may not require a PE stamp. If a PE is required, I'll probably still have to do most of the work then pass it to an engineering firm for them to "design", then I'll review it, they'll modify it, yada, yada, yada. What I work on is so specialized (fiber optics in electric power applications) that the typical engineering firm can't necessarily get it right. (I've been hired as an expert witness after a couple of engineering firms' work). Furthermore, if we get the grant, there'll be a tight window to get this work done to meet federal completion deadlines and get paid.

We have an engineering department but they are busy with civil engineering projects.

No offense to the licensed engineers here; those projects that went wrong were not due to PE stupidity or sleaziness. The PEs involved just didn't understand what they didn't know (see Donald Rumsfeld: There are known knowns)

So if a stamp is required and I can stamp the documents, that will be a plus for the local taxpayers.

Military experience: here's the NC language:
"Experience gained in the armed services, typically while serving in an engineering or engineering related group, shall be accepted only if substantially equivalent to civilian work."

21 NCAC 56 .0501 REQUIREMENTS FOR LICENSING - paragraph b.1

My Navy experience was in uniform (navy nuke officer). Frankly, it was tougher and more advanced than anything I've seen in the civilian world since.

Based on my education and experience over the years, I'm confident I'd be a competent PE. I'm just unsure I can get the "engineering guild" to accept me.


Thanks again y'all for your help and advice!

PS, when I took the FE exam in Georgia, there were several hundred examinees. I was clearly the oldest in the big convention center hall -- and that was 2012.
 
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Redleader

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I'm just curious, are you looking for a path to obtain a PE via work experience (w/o sitting for the exam) or are you looking for a path to qualifying to sit for the exam but your work experience wasn't under PE's? Hopefully it's the former and hopefully it you're able to get it. As most of us probably know....the exam may be a path to the PE but it's not necessarily representative of one's skill/experience and half the time won't represent what the work we'll be doing in real life. I don't know how the rules have changed over the years but way back when I was getting licensed (here in CA) I recall one of the rules involved license by experience and it was something like 30+ years of experience or something like that (correct me if I'm wrong).
 

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I'm just curious, are you looking for a path to obtain a PE via work experience (w/o sitting for the exam) or are you looking for a path to qualifying to sit for the exam but your work experience wasn't under PE's? Hopefully it's the former and hopefully it you're able to get it. As most of us probably know....the exam may be a path to the PE but it's not necessarily representative of one's skill/experience and half the time won't represent what the work we'll be doing in real life. I don't know how the rules have changed over the years but way back when I was getting licensed (here in CA) I recall one of the rules involved license by experience and it was something like 30+ years of experience or something like that (correct me if I'm wrong).
I figured on taking the exam. None of the exam topics address what I do now which is a mish-mash of different disciplines. I was thinking of either taking the nuclear or the mechanical (thermal and fluid systems).

I have done some, but not a lot of, work for clients who held PE licenses. Most of my technical work has been under the supervision of engineers that didn't hold PE licenses. Most of it was in industry or the military.

There's an experience exemption in NC for the FE exam requirement ("20 years of progressive engineering experience"). There doesn't appear to be an exemption for the PE exam.
 
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No offense to the licensed engineers here; those projects that went wrong were not due to PE stupidity or sleaziness. The PEs involved just didn't understand what they didn't know (see Donald Rumsfeld: There are known knowns)

So if a stamp is required and I can stamp the documents, that will be a plus for the local taxpayers.

Military experience: here's the NC language:
"Experience gained in the armed services, typically while serving in an engineering or engineering related group, shall be accepted only if substantially equivalent to civilian work."

21 NCAC 56 .0501 REQUIREMENTS FOR LICENSING - paragraph b.1

My Navy experience was in uniform (navy nuke officer). Frankly, it was tougher and more advanced than anything I've seen in the civilian world since.

Based on my education and experience over the years, I'm confident I'd be a competent PE. I'm just unsure I can get the "engineering guild" to accept me.


Thanks again y'all for your help and advice!

PS, when I took the FE exam in Georgia, there were several hundred examinees. I was clearly the oldest in the big convention center hall -- and that was 2012.

Okay, I think I have a better idea of your situation now. Just one more question: have you applied or checked with the board yet on your references?

The way I read the requirements you *should* be okay. From the para you referenced above:

Required Experience. In evaluating the work experience required, the Board shall consider the total experience record and the progressive nature of the record. Not less than half of required engineering experience shall be of a professional grade and character, and shall be performed under the responsible charge of a licensed Professional Engineer, or if not, a written explanation shall be submitted showing why the experience should be considered acceptable and the Board shall approve if satisfied of the grade and character of the progressive experience. Experience gained under the technical supervision of an unlicensed individual shall be considered if the appropriate credentials of the unlicensed supervisor are submitted to the Board. Experience gained in the armed services, usually while serving in an engineering or engineering related group, shall be considered if of a character equivalent to that which would have been gained in the civilian sector doing similar work.

It looks like you can attach the CV of your supervisors to show that they are close enough to a PE for the Board's purposes. Most States have a provision like that in their regs. I would think you'd be okay to prove your progressive experience.


Experience gained in the armed services, usually while serving in an engineering or engineering related group, shall be considered if of a character equivalent to that which would have been gained in the civilian sector doing similar work.
It should be super easy to write up your experience as an officer in the navy nuke as comparable (if not outright exceeding) that done in a nuclear power plant. I'd be really disappointed if they didn't count it.

I looked at the NC board and I didn't see any obvious vets in the group. A couple guys are from AECOM, and AECOM does a lot of work with DOE, so maybe they're familiar with navy nukes and that'll help things along? You might want to write too much (while keeping it unclassified) just to be sure.

The PEs involved just didn't understand what they didn't know (see Donald Rumsfeld: There are known knowns)
lol yeah. I do mostly first-of-a-kind work. "known unknows" and "unknown unkowns" is part of my daily vocabulary.

I don't know how the rules have changed over the years but way back when I was getting licensed (here in CA) I recall one of the rules involved license by experience and it was something like 30+ years of experience or something like that (correct me if I'm wrong).
California and a few other States had grandfather clauses to become a PE way-back-when. I think those were all phased out decades(?) ago. I'm not aware of any jurisdiction which still has rules like that still on the books.

I figured on taking the exam. None of the exam topics address what I do now which is a mish-mash of different disciplines. I was thinking of either taking the nuclear or the mechanical (thermal and fluid systems).
Just for your background: The nuclear PPE is offered only one day in October every year. There is only one study guide, and ANS makes it. If you choose to take the nuclear PPE, then I recommend getting that guide, as it has retired exam questions, and covers all of the subject areas found on the exam specs. With that said you will still need to study with other textbooks and materials.

By comparison, the mechanical exams are offered every day of the year. There a tons of study guides to help you prepare for the exam. Lots of old and example exams to work with.

My undergrad is mechanical. Grad is nuke, and I work as a nuke. I took the Nuclear PPE. It's not an easy exam And it has a bent towards commercial nuclear power plants. I'm not on the power side of things and I've never even been to a NGS! I failed the first attempt. I briefly considered taking the TFS exam. I realized quickly that I would spent more time relearning the ME stuff than I would invest in learning about commercial NGS. I stuck with the nuclear PPE. I passed the second attempt.

I'd recommend looking at both exams and consider the above and your own qualifications before you pick which exam you want to take.
 

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Okay, I think I have a better idea of your situation now. Just one more question: have you applied or checked with the board yet on your references?

The way I read the requirements you *should* be okay. From the para you referenced above:



It looks like you can attach the CV of your supervisors to show that they are close enough to a PE for the Board's purposes. Most States have a provision like that in their regs. I would think you'd be okay to prove your progressive experience.



It should be super easy to write up your experience as an officer in the navy nuke as comparable (if not outright exceeding) that done in a nuclear power plant. I'd be really disappointed if they didn't count it.

I looked at the NC board and I didn't see any obvious vets in the group. A couple guys are from AECOM, and AECOM does a lot of work with DOE, so maybe they're familiar with navy nukes and that'll help things along? You might want to write too much (while keeping it unclassified) just to be sure.


lol yeah. I do mostly first-of-a-kind work. "known unknows" and "unknown unkowns" is part of my daily vocabulary.


California and a few other States had grandfather clauses to become a PE way-back-when. I think those were all phased out decades(?) ago. I'm not aware of any jurisdiction which still has rules like that still on the books.


Just for your background: The nuclear PPE is offered only one day in October every year. There is only one study guide, and ANS makes it. If you choose to take the nuclear PPE, then I recommend getting that guide, as it has retired exam questions, and covers all of the subject areas found on the exam specs. With that said you will still need to study with other textbooks and materials.

By comparison, the mechanical exams are offered every day of the year. There a tons of study guides to help you prepare for the exam. Lots of old and example exams to work with.

My undergrad is mechanical. Grad is nuke, and I work as a nuke. I took the Nuclear PPE. It's not an easy exam And it has a bent towards commercial nuclear power plants. I'm not on the power side of things and I've never even been to a NGS! I failed the first attempt. I briefly considered taking the TFS exam. I realized quickly that I would spent more time relearning the ME stuff than I would invest in learning about commercial NGS. I stuck with the nuclear PPE. I passed the second attempt.

I'd recommend looking at both exams and consider the above and your own qualifications before you pick which exam you want to take.
Thanks - this is helpful.

I'll stick to the Mechanical.

Nuclear's more interesting but time's a factor when it comes to exam prep.

I still remember MARF and S5W like it was yesterday but that doesn't sound like it's going to help. Fast scram recoveries won't be on the exam.

The nuke exam schedule is an issue, too.

Al
 
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