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sci.engr.* FAQ on the PE and EIT Exams

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Archive-name: engineering/pe-eit-exam

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	sci.engr.* PE/EIT FAQ -- Last updated 08/04/95 -- 608 lines


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Ron Bean		nicmad!madnix!
John Beaudry
Stan Bischof
Henry Black
Timothy M. Chu
Dave Forrest
Ron Graham (editor and FAQ-keeper)
Brian Gross
Lisa Henn
Gary Krauch
Elaine Lindelef 
Rita M. Lumos
Joseph Melrose
Michael D. Miles
Andrew Moskalik
Tony Mullins
Chris Pikus (this address may have changed)
Dave Russell
A. E. Siegman
Richard Suhar
Alex Tessier
A. W. Utay (also may be changed)
Wallace Venable



   I.  Definition of PE/EIT and their Exams
  II.  Does an engineer have to have a PE to practice?
 III.  How is private practice different than working in industry?
  IV.  What else does professional certification qualify me for?
   V.  Why don't all engineers get certified?
  VI.  If the industrial exemption means I may not need certification, what
 VII.  What might I expect on a PE exam or an EIT?
VIII.  What are the biggest problems with the certification system?
  IX.  Any other related suggestions?
   X.  New developments
  XI.  The way the law reads today (LONG)



EIT   =  Engineer in Training
FE    =  Fundamentals of Engineering
LPI   =  Licensed Private Investigator
NCEES =  National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
NSPE  =  National Society of Professional Engineers
PE    =  Professional Engineer
PP    =  Principles and Practices

Term definitions:

Certification =  The process which documents expertise.  It is comprised
                 of work experience and examinations.  It is maintained by
                 evidence of continuing education.  [Suhar]

Registration  =  That which enables one to practice as an "engineer."
                 Registration is obtained by proof of work experience,
                 references from other engineers (mostly themselves
                 registered) and by passing examinations.  [Black]


   I.  Definition of PE/EIT and their Exams

A Professional Engineer (PE) is one who has met the requirements of a
state (province) to be licensed to offer engineering services to the
public, and who has paid dues to purchase and maintain that license.
This license may be independent of the degree(s) held by the licensee,
although it takes longer (sometimes much longer) for a nondegreed 
individual to get what a licensing board considers appropriate experience.
[Mullins, Lumos]

For exact requirements in your state write your state's Board of 
Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors and request an 
application packet.  Also, contact the NCEES in Clemson, SC for 
information on the exams and their new file service.  [Venable, Henn]
NCEES has tables available which list requirements for licensing by
state.  [Lumos]

	National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
	1820 Seneca Creek Road
	PO Box 1686
	Clemson SC   29633-1686
	(803) 654-6824


Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam

This is the first step toward obtaining the PE license.  Successful 
completion leads to the designation of Engineer in Training (EIT).
Some states require an application to take this exam -- check in yours.

	o  It is standardized nationally.
	o  It is given in each state on the same day.  [Chu]
	o  It covers material common to most engineering disciplines.
		-  circuits		-  fluid mechanics
		-  thermodynamics	-  solid mechanics
		-  mechanics/statics	-  materials science
		-  mathematics		-  chemistry
	o  It is eight hours long, in two four-hour segments.
	   You get a lunch break in-between.  ;-)  [Chu]
	o  It is multiple choice.  [Mullins]  For now.  [Lumos]
	o  It is closed-book, although a reference book is included.  [Chu]

Those who complete the FE Exam are required to have four years of
experience by the time the state receives the scores.  Since the 
college years count, many applicants take the exam late in their
senior years.


Principles and Practices (PP) Exam

This is it -- the exam that gets the PE license.

	o  It is standardized nationally, 
		-  but states decide on passing score.
		-  and some states have specific disciplinary sections:
			o  CA -- seismic design (Civils)
			o  FL -- high winds
			o  NJ -- environmental
			o  WI -- "barrier-free" design
	   NCEES no longer offers a combined test.  [Lumos]
	o  It covers mini-design problems of the type encountered
	   in upper-level undergraduate design classes.
	o  It consists of two segments, with applicants choosing to solve
	   a subset of the problems available in each.  [Moskalik]

The PP Exam requires a long application with details of work experience
and (usually five) letters of reference (in most states, at least three
of the references must themselves be licensed PEs).  The NCEES packet 
says references should

	o  reflect the character and diversity of the applicant's experience
	o  be personally acquainted with the applicant's professional
	   reputation and technical ability.

Every time you apply for a PE, you need new letters of reference, although
you can use the same people over again.  [Henn]

Those who complete the PP Exam are required to have eight years of 
experience by the time the state receives the scores.  The undergraduate
years count for four, and advanced degrees for two -- so even with a PhD
you would have to add two years of work experience to qualify.  [Mullins]


Here are some of the differences between states:

	o  Some states do not recognize licenses granted in other states.
	   They may require re-examination, even from license-holders in
	   other states.  Reciprocity, in which re-examination is waived,
	   generally requires what NCEES considers as a passing score.
	o  Some states may not recognize individual specializations.
	o  Some states grant licenses routinely to (say) holders of PhDs.
	o  Exam fees may vary greatly.

The NCEES now maintains (for a fee) a file of references, exam scores
and experience for licensees.  You might check with them for details.


  II.  Does an engineer have to have a PE to practice?

The following people must have a PE license to practice [Mullins]:

	o  Anyone who offers engineering services to the public.
	o  Anyone who advertises one's self as an "engineer."
	o  Half of the principals (i.e. owners) of a company that
	   offers engineering services to the public.
	o  Half of the principals of a company that wants to use
	   the term "engineer" in its name.

This does not include publicly-held companies that provide engineering
services as their primary business.  The following get licensed as well, 
in practice:

	o  Many employees of companies whose primary business is
	   contract engineering.

The following documents (for example) require the review of a PE:

	o  Electrical power system designs
	o  Public utility designs
	o  Construction documents and related designs
	o  Environmental containment designs

There is a strong likelihood of PE review needed if the thing being 
designed has impact on the public, e.g. public safety or utility 
availability.  Such review would be required prior to construction,
although the *design* can be accomplished by unlicensed engineers.
Some utilities are required by law to hire PEs in some positions.

On the other hand, the following designs will probably not require 
such review:

	o  Control systems design (except where safety is involved)
	o  Design and manufacture of computer chips

The "industrial exemption" works as follows: if you provide engineering
services to your employer that are related to the design and manufacture 
of the company's product, you need not be licensed.  The theory is that
the employer assumes the liability in the case of harm to the public, not 
the individual engineer.  (In the USA, Mississippi is the only state that
does not have the industrial exemption.)  The company most likely is covered
by product liability insurance as well.  [Mullins]  In short, you can
"engineer" a product for your employer, although without certification you
cannot publicly call yourself an "engineer."  [Venable]

The "flip side" of licensing is as follows:

	o  The discipline involved in the licensing process can serve as
	   a reminder to young engineers of the "ethic" involved in working
	   in engineering -- some who are unlicensed (and are thus unaware
	   of the PE's "Canons of Ethics") may at times ignore this.
	o  Someone with a PE can be sued.  This knowledge will at times
	   help the young engineer to scrupulously avoid failures.
	o  There is little effort to enforce the law here, unless someone
	   without a license tries to advertise the services of an engineer.


 III.  How is private practice different than working in industry?

Since you cannot advertise your services as an "engineer" without 
certification, you must make certain of the following:

	o  Your understanding of the legal aspect of private practice.
	o  How liability can affect your client(s).
	o  What ways you can advertise your services legally.
	o  Whether your client is liable for payroll taxes, providing
	   an industrial exemption, etc.

The NSPE and the Consulting Engineers council have done quite a bit to 
provide insight in these areas.  [Miles]


  IV.  What else does professional certification qualify me for?

	o  Expert witnesses: a PE can offer expert opinion as to what
	   caused (for instance) a structural failure.  This is the
	   same as for a police officer, firefighter, physician, or
	   anyone else (again) who deals with the public safety.

	o  Expert investigator: in many states, a PE can be called upon
	   to determine the cause of (for instance) arson.  This is, once
	   again, in relation to the public safety.  [Venable]


   V.  Why don't all engineers get certified?

"Because of the industrial exemption" is the technical answer, but
there are other underlying trains of thought.  

	o  Some industries are already regulated on a federal level,
	   such as aerospace.  [Utay]

	o  Some individuals who do not work with PEs have no way of
	   getting the five references required to sit for the PP Exam.
	   [Lindelef]  In some such cases, an application may be 
	   considered individually anyway.  [Moskalik]

	o  The application procedure can take longer than the exam
	   itself.  [Moskalik]

There is a move afoot nationally to eliminate the industrial exemption.


  VI.  If the industrial exemption means I may not need certification, what
       advantage is there to my getting it anyway?

Here are some things that certification *may* do to help you:

	o  Demonstrate your proficiency to certain potential employers.
	o  Refresh your memory on problems not recently solved.  [Beaudry]
	o  Give you the "aura" of a professional consultant.  [Gross]


 VII.  What might I expect on a PE exam or an EIT?

Here is an example of an EIT in EE, contributed by Pikus on 06/22/94.
Solve eight of the following:


	Generation systems (power plants)	2
	transmission/distribution systems	3
	   (includes power and RF)
	Rotating Machines			1
	Lighting Protection and grounding	1
	  (e.g. Natl. Elect. Code)
	Control					2
	Electronic Devices			3
	  (semiconductors, opamps)
	Instrumentation (D/A, A/D - ?)		3
	Digital Systems				2
	Computer Systems			3
	Communication Systems			3
	Biomedical				1
	-------------			     -----
	TOTAL				       24

I didn't see any analogous contributions for other disciplines in any
of the threads on this subject that I followed.


VIII.  What are the biggest problems with the certification system?

Loaded question.  This is the one that brings up the thread in the
first place.  The system itself has these observed problems: 

	o  Certification as a process would be more popular if the 
	   process were streamlined somewhat -- even for the test-
	   makers, there is a lot of work.

	o  An honorarium of no more than $20/hour for writing questions; 
	   travel expenses only for (long) meetings to review scoring 
	   standards and new questions, etc.  Few working engineers are 
	   willing to give up weekends for policy conferences.  [Venable]
	   Of course, your mileage on this point will vary.  [Lumos]

	o  What would be useful (and what isn't there) would be a voluntary
	   certification process conducted by an unpaid volunteer group (with
	   no ax to grind) of working engineers.  [Bischof] 

	o  The NSPE must recognize that there are many engineering 
	   disciplines out there and that certifications should either 
	   address common areas or be specialized.  [Forrest]

The use of the title "engineer" has these problems:

	o  Many people call themselves "engineers" -- this can be a misuse of
	   the term.  A blatant example is the "software engineer" that has 
	   taken computer science courses and uses the title "engineer."  

	o  No test can measure whether someone will be a competent engineer.  
	   This is why the experience and reference requirements are crucial 
	   parts of professional certification.  [Gross]

The testing process has these problems:

	o  A large percentage of test-takers fail.  [Mullins]  Numbers were not
	   verified in this portion of the discussion, and some thought it was
	   unreasonable that anyone should fail such a "simple" exam.  The 
	   passing rate on the FE for first time takers from ABET-accredited 
	   programs is about 70%.  The passing rate for all takers is about 
	   50%.  The rate varies slightly with each exam since the selection 
	   of questions is different each time.  [Venable]

	o  The EIT is not required for undergraduates, nor is there a waiver 
	   on the PE exam for, say, a PhD with some work experience.  [Krauch]

	o  The EIT is structured more toward Mechanical and Civil 
	   than for, say, Geological and Chemical engineering.  [Melrose]
	   There is a counter-argument that ME programs place a greater
	   emphasis on the EIT.  [Venable]


  IX.  Any other related suggestions?

	o  Make sure you have an apprenticeship or cooperative education 
	   program you can jump into while an undergrad.  [Tessier]

	o  Alternatively, make sure you have a two-year in ______ Technology, 
	   where ______ is some discipline which offers credits that will
	   transfer into a four-year program in engineering.  [Bean]

	o  Contrary to the opinions of many students, the FE is NOT a test 
	   of what you know so much as a test of what you can understand.  
	   Mature engineers on the review panel found that if the read the 
	   questions carefully, they could find information in the references 
	   which let them solve problems for which they were otherwise 
	   "clueless."  Faculty colleagues have said essentially the same 
	   thing after taking the FE.  Those who cannot (or will not) read 
	   carefully will not do well.  [Venable]


  IX.  New developments [Gross]

The California (USA) Board of Registration for Professional Engineers
and Land Surveyors is in the process of rewriting the Professional
Engineers Act.  

Note:  The current Act is available online (look under Chapter 7) at:

[...the article describing this rewrite is quite long, and I will send it
 by request.  Ask for article new-pe.act...  --  RG]

The proposed rewrite would have the following effects:

o	All registrants would be "professional engineers."  Registration
	as a "civil engineer" or "chemical engineer" would involve separate
	testing or registration prior to the rewrite.

o	Disciplines would be divided according to "practice"

	-  civil
	-  mechanical
	-  electrical

	or "title"

	-  agricultural			-  manufacturing
	-  chemical			-  metallurgical
	-  control systems		-  nuclear
	-  corrosion			-  petroleum
	-  fire protection		-  quality
	-  industrial			-  safety
					-  traffic

	No-one may practice in a "practice" discipline (and use the title
	of that discipline) without registration or a supervisory line 
	with registration.  Anyone may practice in a "title" discipline 
	whether registered or not.

o	EIT waivers would no longer be available.

o	Experience required for professional registration would increase 
	from six to eight years.

o	Stronger sanctions against PEs who violate provisions of the Act
	would be implemented.

o	Only NCEES exams would be offered.  Since NCEES does not offer
	exams in traffic, corrosion and safety, these would no longer be 
	available, and no new registrations would be given in those areas.


   X.  The way the law reads today [Gross, Black] (LONG)

The current law makes distinctions between registered and nonregistered
engineers as follows:

   O  Registered engineers
	1)  May use the titles "registered engineer", "professional 
	    engineer", "consulting engineer" or combinations of those
	2)  May use one of the titles in Section 6732 as appropriate
	    for the branch in which they are registered.
	3)  May practice civil engineering if registered as a civil
	    engineer and similarly for mechanical or electrical

   O  Unregistered engineers
	1)  May NOT use the titles "registered engineer", "professional
	    engineer", "consulting engineer" or combinations of those
	2)  May NOT use one of the titles in Section 6732.
	3)  MAY practice engineering in any branch other than civil,
	    mechanical or electrical engineering (so long as they do
	    not use one of the titles in Section 6732)

Note that exemptions to registration may be found in:
        Section 6737     Architectural exemption
        Section 6737.1   Structure exemption
        Section 6737.4   Contractor exemption - electrical, mechanical design 
        Section 6739     exemption of federal officers and employees
        Section 6740     exemption of subordinates
        Section 6741     exemption of nonresidents
        Section 6742     exemption for real estate broker or salesman
        Section 6744     exemption for land owner
        Section 6745     exemption for building alterations
        Section 6746     exemption for communications industry
        Section 6747     exemption for industries

6701.  "Professional engineer," within the meaning and intent of
this act, refers to a person engaged in the professional practice of
rendering service or creative work requiring education, training and
experience in engineering sciences and the application of special
knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences in
such professional or creative work as consultation, investigation,
evaluation, planning or design of public or private utilities,
structures, machines, processes, circuits, buildings, equipment or
projects, and supervision of construction for the purpose of securing
compliance with specifications and design for any such work.

6702.1.  "Electrical engineer" as used in this chapter means a
professional engineer in the branch of electrical engineering and
refers to one who practices or offers to practice electrical
engineering in any of its phases.

404 (l)  "Electrical engineering" is that branch of professional
engineering described in Section 6734.1 of the code, which embraces
studies or activities relating to the generation, transmission, and
utilization of electrical energy, including the design of electrical,
electronic and magnetic circuits and the technical control of their
operation and of the design of electrical gear.  It is concerned with
research, organizational, and the economic aspects of the above.

6703.  The phrase "responsible charge of work" means the independent
control and direction, by the use of initiative, skill, and
independent judgment, of the investigation or design of professional
engineering work or the direct engineering control of such projects.
The phrase does not refer to the concept of financial liability.

(The definition of "responsible charge" is greatly expanded upon
in Section 404.1)

6704.  In order to safeguard life, health, property, and public
welfare, no person shall practice civil, electrical, or mechanical
engineering unless appropriately registered or specifically exempted
from registration under this chapter, and only persons registered
under this chapter shall be entitled to take and use the titles
"consulting engineer," "professional engineer," or "registered
engineer," or any combination of those titles, and according to
registration with the board the engineering branch titles specified
in Section 6732, or the authority titles specified in Section 6763,
or "engineer-in-training."
   The provisions of this act pertaining to registration of
professional engineers other than civil engineers, do not apply to
employees in the communication industry; nor to the employees of
contractors while engaged in work on communication equipment;
however, those employees may not use any of the titles listed in
Section 6732 unless registered.
   The provisions of this section shall not prevent the use of the
title "consulting engineer" by a person who has qualified for and
maintained exemption for using that title under the provisions of
Section 6732.1, or by a person licensed as a photogrammetric

6732.  It is unlawful for anyone other than a professional engineer
registered under this chapter, to stamp or seal any plans,
specifications, plats, reports, or other documents with the seal or
stamp of a professional engineer, or to in any manner use the title
"professional engineer," "registered engineer," or "consulting
engineer," or any of the following branch titles:  "agricultural
engineer," "chemical engineer," "civil engineer," "control system
engineer," "corrosion engineer," "electrical engineer," "fire
protection engineer," "industrial engineer," "manufacturing engineer,"
"mechanical engineer," "metallurgical engineer," "nuclear engineer,"
"petroleum engineer," "quality engineer," "safety engineer,"
"traffic engineer," or any combination of such words and phrases or
abbreviations thereof unless registered hereunder.

6732.1.  Any person who has been granted permission to use the title
"consulting engineer" pursuant to legislation enacted at the 1963,
1965, or 1968 Regular Session is exempt from the provisions of
Section 6732 as it restricts the use of the title "consulting
engineer", and such exemption shall apply so long as the applicant
remains in practice and advises the board of any change of address
within 30 days of such change.  The board may adopt such rules under
provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act as are necessary to
implement this section.
   The provisions of Articles 5 (commencing with Section 6775), 6
(commencing with Section 6785), and 7 (commencing with Section 6795)
of this chapter shall apply to all persons who are granted permission
to use the title "consulting engineer" pursuant to legislation
enacted in 1963 and 1965 and the amendments to this section enacted
at the 1968 Regular Session.

6734.1.  Any person practices electrical engineering when he
professes to be an electrical engineer or is in responsible charge of
electrical engineering work.

6763.  Application for authority to use the title "structural
engineer," "soil engineer," "soils engineer," or "geotechnical
engineer" shall be made to the board on forms prescribed by it and
shall be accompanied by the application fee fixed by this chapter.
   An applicant for authority to use the title "structural engineer,"
"soil engineer," "soils engineer," or "geotechnical engineer" who
has passed the examination  prescribed by the board,  or an applicant
for authority to use the title "soil engineer," "soils engineer," or
"geotechnical engineer" whose application is submitted prior to July
1, 1986, and who has otherwise demonstrated that he or she is
qualified, shall have a certificate of authority issued to him or
   For purposes of this chapter, an authority to use the title
"structural engineer," "soil engineer," "soils engineer," or
"geotechnical engineer" is an identification of competence and
specialization in a subspecialty of civil engineering and
necessitates education or experience in addition to that required for
registration as a civil engineer.


The netizen formerly known as RG
Dr. Ronald E. Graham
Control Systems Branch
NASA Lewis Research Center 

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