CareersLicensure & Registration

Five Reasons to Pursue Professional Licensure

By Julian Mercer

Engineers like to think they belong to a profession much like doctors and lawyers, but less than 20 percent of electrical and computer engineers are licensed as professional engineers or P.E.s. That’s not surprising, given that most engineers in the United States can practice their profession under the industry exemption to licensure as corporate employees. Licensure also takes successful passage of two examinations and four years of supervised practice. As a licensed engineer, you are also subject to continuing education requirements like other professionals and may have your ability to practice in different states restricted by state reciprocity rules.

If 80 percent of graduates can get good jobs as engineers without licensure, it shouldn’t be surprising that most don’t bother. There are, however, several good reasons why engineering grads should consider pursuing professional licensure. Here are what I consider the top five:

1. Legal Authority: As a licensed professional engineer (P.E.), you have legal authority to take responsibility for engineering designs and projects under government contracts or on regulated projects that require licensed engineers. This can lead to increased job opportunities and career advancement. Many engineering projects in such fields as power engineering require a licensed P.E.’s involvement to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations.

As a P.E., you also have the legal authority to advertise your services to the public in your state of registration as an engineer, which is essential for those running their own businesses or working as consultants. Many states, including California, regulate the use of the title “engineer” and require professional licensure when advertising your services using titles such as “consulting engineer,” “professional engineer,” or “registered engineer.”

2. Global Recognition: Large engineering firms increasingly operate globally with offices, staff and projects distributed in many countries. The “Industrial Exemption” to licensure is unique to the United States, whereas the P.E. license is often recognized internationally, which can expand your career opportunities beyond your home country. Under the terms of the International Professional Engineers Agreement (IPEA), you can register yourself as an International Professional Engineer (IntPE). The NCEES International Registry for Professional Engineers (IRPE) assists U.S.-based professional engineers who are seeking recognition in countries that are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) or the International Engineering Alliance (IEA), formerly the Engineers Mobility Forum (EMF). Learn more here.

3. Career Enhancement: The fact that professional engineers are held to a higher standard of accountability to protect the public interest marks them as leaders. A P.E. license adds credibility to your professional profile and your commitment to ethical and technical standards in the field of engineering. By showcasing your competence and expertise, licensure can open doors to executive and management positions within the company.

4. Increased Earning Potential: It should come as no surprise that with increased responsibility and professional credentials comes increased compensation.

As has been confirmed for independent consultants in IEEE-USA’s annual Consultants Fee Survey Reports for many years. Consultants with P.E.s command a higher hourly rate than consultants without a P.E.

5. Personal Fulfillment: Achieving a P.E. licensure is a significant professional accomplishment and a source of personal pride. It signifies your commitment to the engineering profession and your dedication to sound engineering practices that benefit the public interest. Plus you can take pride in sharing your achievement by appending the P.E. initials to your signature, in the same way as scholars who have earned a “Ph.D.” or other licensed professionals such as lawyers who add “Esq.” or doctors who append “M.D.”

In closing, professional licensure offers engineering graduates a wide range of benefits, from increased career opportunities and earning potential to personal fulfillment and the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on society through responsible engineering practice. Something to consider as you set foot on your path to a career in engineering. To learn more about the benefits and requirements of engineering licensure, visit the resource links of the IEEE-USA Licensure and Registration Committee at:


Julian Mercer

Julian Mercer is a retired executive, with more than 30 years’ experience in the technology sector as a leader, manager, consultant, and teacher.

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