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Should I take the SE Exam?

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TrevorG

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Hello all,

I have some questions concerning the SE exam and whether or not it is worth it to take this exam or go back to school. I am a forensic structural engineer with approximately 5 years of experience and got my B.S. in Architectural Engineering from University of Texas at Austin. I passed the Civil PE with a structural emphasis and passed the CA seismic/surveying exams in the past couple of years. As I am already a PE, I don't think a masters in structural engineering will benefit me that much but want to improve my knowledge on the subject matter.

I am leaning towards taking the SE exam by splitting it up into 2 parts and doing one test at a time. I wanted some input on what people in the community think of taking the SE exam without a masters degree and very little design experience (I know I've got a big challenge ahead of me and realize it would be a lot of studying). I live in a non-SE state so I don't need it for my job, but I realize it will provide me with tons of extra knowledge and will give me respect in the field. I am willing to study 6 months for each part and do a class to improve my chances, but I wasn't sure if anyone has even attempted this test without a masters and design experience (I know I'm a little crazy to consider it haha).

Thank you guys for the suggestions.
 
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Neither a lack of a masters or experience is big deal. Just will need to supplement that comfortability with code/design with study seat time. SE exam is hard, but doable.
 

TrevorG

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Perfect, that's what I've been hearing. Thank you for the feedback!
 

Be-n

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I'm somewhat in the same boat except structural engineering is all I have done since 2007 when I got my first part time job as a structural design technician back in my home country while being at school. Though I did take 3 year break from engineering when first got in US 11 years ago. After getting US ABET BS degree while working full time, I passed PE exam, but still fill unsatisfied with the amount of knowledge I have in structural engineering field. PE seemed to be too easy after passing it :) My personal opinion is that all states should gradually introduce SE licensure requirements for certain structures. What Georgia has done seems pretty reasonable to me. Thus, in order to get more knowledge, to make myself standing out in the field, and to ensure that no matter what state I live or what new laws my current state will pass during the next 30 years of my career, I decided to study for SE exam, Vertical first and then Lateral later. It is costly. My employer has no interest in it. Thus, I pay for the class and all my books and all old codes myself. But I am very excited to sharpen up the pencil and solve all the challenging problems by hand (too much computer programs at work) that I am facing while studying for SE. I guess I just love structural engineering too much :)
 

sol_ring

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Take the SE. I was in a similar situation as you. I started working after getting my Bachelors, and 4 years into it I was worried I wasn’t getting a wide enough variety of work. I had my PE, but the work I was doing was very repetitive and I didn’t feel like I was really learning much as an engineer...so I studied for the SE vertical. I self-studied and passed the October 2019 exam, then I really wanted to pass lateral so I took the AEI course in the spring and summer (thanks covid) and passed the October 2020 lateral exam. If you have the time to study now, definitely do it.
 

TrevorG

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I'm somewhat in the same boat except structural engineering is all I have done since 2007 when I got my first part time job as a structural design technician back in my home country while being at school. Though I did take 3 year break from engineering when first got in US 11 years ago. After getting US ABET BS degree while working full time, I passed PE exam, but still fill unsatisfied with the amount of knowledge I have in structural engineering field. PE seemed to be too easy after passing it :) My personal opinion is that all states should gradually introduce SE licensure requirements for certain structures. What Georgia has done seems pretty reasonable to me. Thus, in order to get more knowledge, to make myself standing out in the field, and to ensure that no matter what state I live or what new laws my current state will pass during the next 30 years of my career, I decided to study for SE exam, Vertical first and then Lateral later. It is costly. My employer has no interest in it. Thus, I pay for the class and all my books and all old codes myself. But I am very excited to sharpen up the pencil and solve all the challenging problems by hand (too much computer programs at work) that I am facing while studying for SE. I guess I just love structural engineering too much :)
Yah I agree. I'm thinking some of the states may start requiring it and it does seem like it will give me a significant amount of knowledge in the field. I'm planning on taking the vertical this october and then the lateral in 2022.
 

TrevorG

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Take the SE. I was in a similar situation as you. I started working after getting my Bachelors, and 4 years into it I was worried I wasn’t getting a wide enough variety of work. I had my PE, but the work I was doing was very repetitive and I didn’t feel like I was really learning much as an engineer...so I studied for the SE vertical. I self-studied and passed the October 2019 exam, then I really wanted to pass lateral so I took the AEI course in the spring and summer (thanks covid) and passed the October 2020 lateral exam. If you have the time to study now, definitely do it.
Congrats on passing! This is comforting knowing that you passed while coming from a similar background as me. I plan on taking the AEI course for both the vertical (thinking about taking in October 2021) and lateral (October 2022). How did you self-study for the vertical if you don't mind me asking?
 
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I definitely concur in taking each component separately, unless you are a glutton for punishment! :)
 

sol_ring

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Congrats on passing! This is comforting knowing that you passed while coming from a similar background as me. I plan on taking the AEI course for both the vertical (thinking about taking in October 2021) and lateral (October 2022). How did you self-study for the vertical if you don't mind me asking?
I had an old edition of the Structural Engineering Reference Manual and 4 or 5 books of practice problems that I went through and just did as many practice problems as I could (6 minute problems by Christine Subasic and Structural PE Practice Problems by Alan Williams were the best). I printed out the NCEES exam topic list and as I was studying I went down the list and made sure I touched on each topic and knew where I would have to look either in a book or reference to address a question on that topic. By the end, I wasn't as strong in bridges as I thought I was, so David Connor's book would have helped, but at the end of the day I did enough to get the acceptable score.

I think it's a great idea to take the exam as soon as you can, the only thing I'd say is if you manage to pass October, I'd recommend going for Lateral in April 2022. Hopefully by summer 2022 we'll have the pandemic behind us, and if that's the case it'll be even harder than usual to study during the summer.
 

TrevorG

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I definitely concur in taking each component separately, unless you are a glutton for punishment! :)
hahahaha yah I will definitely be taking them one at a time. I want to make sure I pass the first time, so I want to spend sufficient time studying each topic.
 

TrevorG

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I had an old edition of the Structural Engineering Reference Manual and 4 or 5 books of practice problems that I went through and just did as many practice problems as I could (6 minute problems by Christine Subasic and Structural PE Practice Problems by Alan Williams were the best). I printed out the NCEES exam topic list and as I was studying I went down the list and made sure I touched on each topic and knew where I would have to look either in a book or reference to address a question on that topic. By the end, I wasn't as strong in bridges as I thought I was, so David Connor's book would have helped, but at the end of the day I did enough to get the acceptable score.

I think it's a great idea to take the exam as soon as you can, the only thing I'd say is if you manage to pass October, I'd recommend going for Lateral in April 2022. Hopefully by summer 2022 we'll have the pandemic behind us, and if that's the case it'll be even harder than usual to study during the summer.
I may buy a couple of those books as well. And that is a good point about taking it in April; however, I'm a big snowboarder so studying during winter may be too difficult haha
 

organix

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I did my masters before the SE exam. At the time, I wasn't choosing between one or the other. I just wanted to get my masters and have it paid for by my company. But there's no question that the SE will progress your career much much more.
 

Titleistguy

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I may buy a couple of those books as well. And that is a good point about taking it in April; however, I'm a big snowboarder so studying during winter may be too difficult haha
As a slight fan of golf, I love the winter studying.

Hard to focus on horizontal irregularities when its 75 and sunny out.
 

FLOrida

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Hello all,

I have some questions concerning the SE exam and whether or not it is worth it to take this exam or go back to school. I am a forensic structural engineer with approximately 5 years of experience and got my B.S. in Architectural Engineering from University of Texas at Austin. I passed the Civil PE with a structural emphasis and passed the CA seismic/surveying exams in the past couple of years. As I am already a PE, I don't think a masters in structural engineering will benefit me that much but want to improve my knowledge on the subject matter.

I am leaning towards taking the SE exam by splitting it up into 2 parts and doing one test at a time. I wanted some input on what people in the community think of taking the SE exam without a masters degree and very little design experience (I know I've got a big challenge ahead of me and realize it would be a lot of studying). I live in a non-SE state so I don't need it for my job, but I realize it will provide me with tons of extra knowledge and will give me respect in the field. I am willing to study 6 months for each part and do a class to improve my chances, but I wasn't sure if anyone has even attempted this test without a masters and design experience (I know I'm a little crazy to consider it haha).

Thank you guys for the suggestions.
here is my advice
don’t sell! just hold on to gme and amc

;)


seriously tho, i have a masters and the only thing it has helped me is shave off one year of required exp for a PE.
masters helped me understand the codes better, but when i jumped into the SE content i got chills.... needed a lot more study
 

TrevorG

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I did my masters before the SE exam. At the time, I wasn't choosing between one or the other. I just wanted to get my masters and have it paid for by my company. But there's no question that the SE will progress your career much much more.
Yah that’s what I was thinking. I already have my PE so going back to school doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. However, the SE will give me more knowledge and respect in the field. Thanks for the input!
 

TrevorG

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here is my advice
don’t sell! just hold on to gme and amc

;)


seriously tho, i have a masters and the only thing it has helped me is shave off one year of required exp for a PE.
masters helped me understand the codes better, but when i jumped into the SE content i got chills.... needed a lot more study
Yah that makes sense. I think I’m just gonna study 6-7 months for each portion and hopefully it will compensate my lack of design experience and masters degree haha
 

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