ECE-Computer Engineering PE Exam as Licensing Exam for Software Engineers

ECE-Computer Engineering PE Exam as Licensing Exam for Software Engineers

The PE Exam in Software Engineering is being phased out because it had very few takers. One obstacle to taking the Software Engineering PE exam was that it was necessary to pass the Fundamentals in Engineering (FE) exam prior to taking the Software Engineering PE exam, and many competent Software Engineers have backgrounds which do not prepare them for the FE exam. Many, however, are fully prepared for the FE Exam, and for those Software Engineers, the ECE-Computer Engineering PE Exam is the appropriate PE exam. The specifications for the Fundamentals in Engineering Exams and the ECE-Computer Engineering PE Exam are available on the NCEES website.

Under the subheading “Embedded System Software,” the ECE-Computer Engineering PE exam includes such topics as:

  • Software design
  • Quality assurance
  • Software fundamentals
  • Development tools
  • Operating Systems
  • Interrupts and exception handling
  • Computer Security

There are also sections of the exam which cover:

  • Data Representation, including error detection and correction
  • Computer Architecture, including computer organization and processor design
  • Hardware, including programmable devices and arithmetic hardware and data conversion
  • Computer Networks, including protocols and standards; and safety, security, and privacy

The Computer Engineering PE exam is focused on safety and competence issues in the hardware and software aspects of embedded computer systems, but software engineers who can pass the Fundamentals in Engineering exam should find that they are comfortable with many of the topics on the Computer Engineering PE exam.

The Engineering Licensing process exists to protect the health and safety of the public, and the ECE-Computer Engineering PE exam addresses those hardware and software aspects of computer system design, especially real-time computer system design, which a competent computer engineer needs to know in order to design and build reliable computer systems. Software Engineering has become the critical component of modern systems, and it could be argued that it is the most complex safety component of these systems. As such, it is important for Software Engineers to demonstrate their competence and their dedication to protecting the health and safety of the public. There is no more appropriate way to do this than to become a licensed Professional Engineer, and the ECE-Computer Engineering PE exam is the PE exam available to and appropriate for Software Engineers.


Aaron Collins, Ph.D., P.E., is a Associate Dean at the Mercer University School of Engineering in Macon, Georgia. He is a member of the IEEE-USA Licensure & Registration Committee.

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