Ask Anthony: Why Is It So Important to Get Your P.E.?

September 15, 2016
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Civil engineers often ask me why it is so important to obtain your P.E. (professional engineering) license.

There are many reasons why obtaining this prestigious credential is important. In this post, I will list 5 reasons, but I am also looking for you to add any comments to the bottom of this post with other reasons, comments, or experiences you might share about how the P.E. license has helped you as a civil engineering professional.

Credibility – In the architecture, engineering and construction industry, your level of expertise and credibility is critical to your success, and a P.E. license gives you instant credibility. Now, I say instant, because it only takes a few seconds to write the letters, “P.E.,” after your name, but of course there are many hours of hard work that go into obtaining your license.

Fasano sidebarI remember how much more respect people gave me once “P.E.” was after my name. People want to hire experts and credible technical professionals, and a P.E. certainly gives you that credibility.

Reputation – Now, reputation may sound similar to credibility, but I believe it is different. Your reputation consists of the beliefs or thoughts that people have about you. Obtaining a P.E. license, especially at a young age, tells people that you are a motivated civil engineer looking to move up in your career.

I received my P.E. license at the young age of 23, one month before my 24th birthday, and achieving this milestone at such a young age really turned some heads in the company I worked for at the time. I also remember that when our company would interview a civil engineer, one of the first things they would want to know is whether he or she had their P.E. license or whether they were close to getting it.

Design capabilities – The P.E. license gives you the legal ability to be the responsible individual on design plans and specifications, meaning that you can sign and seal these documents. This may be a huge benefit to your firm, especially if you work for a small firm or desire to start your own. That being said, this can also open you up to liabilities, which I will discuss in a follow-up post.

Career value – If you want to succeed as a civil engineer, as in all walks of like, you must provide value to people. Your P.E. license allows you to do that, for the reasons I have already spoken about. The license bolsters your company’s reputation, and it can give your client or prospective clients more confidence in hiring or utilizing you as an engineer.

The bottom line is that with the P.E. license you become a much more valuable civil engineer. It may not make you a better technical civil engineer overnight, but it certainly makes you a more valuable civil engineer overall.

Investment – Lastly, but certainly not least, by investing the time and energy to obtain your P.E. license, you are investing in your future. You are showing your employer that you want to succeed. You are showing your clients that you are an expert. But most importantly you have added a valuable credential to your resume that can boost your career over and over.

I remember civil engineers that I graduated with who said they weren’t going to obtain their P.E. license because they planned to work for general contractors. Problems arose for them when the recession came and the contractors slowed down and laid off engineers. Those same engineers then had a hole in their resume, a big hole. Take the time to invest in yourself and obtain your P.E. license.

Here is a podcast episode that outlines the entire process you’ll need to go through to get your license, and in my next post, I will cover some things you should know as a civil engineer about the responsibilities and potential liabilities associated with obtaining your P.E. license.

In the meantime, please leave any comments on other benefits of your P.E. license or questions you might have below.

Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Career Coach website which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast and has written a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a free video series on his website that will give you the tools needed to immediately improve your networking and communication skills.

Register now for P.E./S.E. Exam Review Courses beginning August 2017.

 

15 Comments
  • Hi Anthony,

    I’m a recent graduate and have been working for about 6 months in the infrastructure consulting field. I plan to take the PE in April 2017, at which point i’ll also be 23. I agree with you that it’s advantageous to get it out of the way since my career will only get more demanding as time goes on. Every senior engineer i’ve talked to recommends that i take it. I figure that the experience required to become a true PE will come with time. Definitely enjoyed reading your article and it’s motivated me more to pass my PE. I was just wondering however, how did you get the four years experience by 23? Did you have internships all throughout college?

    • Ishan thanks a lot for your kind words. When I applied, I submitted all of my internship and summer experience, and some of it was accepted, not sure that they still accept that…good luck.

  • Anthony and others — right on. If engineering students and their profs were to read your your comments I suspect more of both would seek licensure. Earning an engineer degree and not immediately starting the licensing process is like finally getting that sports car you always dreamed of and never taking it out of the garage. Why would anyone do something like that?

  • Hey Anthony,
    Thank you for this post I’m currently in the process of obtaining my BS in civil engineering technology and I always thought the PE license was just unnecessary. I didn’t think that it would make a job applicant stand out or even have any additional value to a degree. I do have a question though, would obtaining my PE license be better and save more time than getting a Masters or Doctorate?

  • My experience supports Anthony’s “Investment” reason. In the consulting industry, you cannot move up without it. The first A/E firm I worked for defined positions based on ASCE’s Engineer Levels I through VIII, and Level III was where non-P.E.’s topped out. To further encourage young engineers to pursue their P.E., many companies cover the application fee, allow time off to sit for the exam, and offer a bonus upon passing.

  • Stanley R. Bujalski, P.E.

    Having spent most of my 43 year career working for specialty and general contractors I am constantly reminding young engineers to apply for the P.E license as soon as possible. While working in the construction field and interfacing with design engineers on means and methods for constructability, the credibility issue often comes in to play and the P.E. credential provides additional support to your position.

    • Good to hear it Stanley, I hear of engineers in contracting not getting their license because they think they don’t need it, so thanks for sharing this!

  • As an engineer who has been a stay-at-home mom for a few years, I really wish I had obtained my P.E. license because it would be very helpful to me as I try to re-enter the workplace.

    • Theresa, you make a good point, the license helps a lot in career transitions giving you that level of expertise and certification.

      • I second that, as a P.E. who spent several years as a stay-at-home mom and then received two job offers in one week when it was time to go back to work.

  • Eng. Geatano Okello

    P.E License.

    Anthony is spot on and i wish to add the following:
    1. The License also reminds an engineer of Professional RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY. The professional begins to take full responsibility and be accountable for all his/her technical actions in all steps of professional growth. This is enshrined in the concept of duty of care for the the CLIENT in all forms of contractual obligation(s) and/or any other professional relations at all levels.

    2. The license is an indicator/symbol of CALL subscription to the CORE VALUES that are a monoply of the Engineering Fraternity to change the Value of LIFE OF THE PEOPLE we serve.

    Eng. Geatano Okello.
    Civil/Hydraulic/Sanitary Engineer, KAMPALA – UGANDA.

    • Geatano, thank you, your point on accountability is well taken and will be a big part of my next post. Thanks again for feedback!

  • Hi. I’m in agreement with all the benefits. However I am not in agreement of obtaining your registration as soon as possible. The reasons for delaying registration are not always negative. An expectation from Professionals is to act with confidence in what you do and being registered without proper mentorship/guidance/experience will affect your confidence levels. Most registration processes rely on a set of standard forms, papers and reports to be completed that could easily be manipulated to look and sound professional although the person writing may be in two minds. I know young engineers that were exposed and mentored incredibly well and resulted in registration at a very young age while others have been doing the same notorious work for years without really ‘growing’. Gaining the experience (that may look as if you are ‘sitting’ on it) for a while is not always negative, but delaying it for the sake of ‘not have time’ or ‘do not feel like doing it’ is completely different.

    • Rojean, thanks for feedback! I see your point, however in my experience when engineers delay pursuing licensure, things tend to get in the way which presents a higher probability that they become to busy to get it, but hopefully that is not the case….thanks again.

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