Registered Professional Engineer

Generally, the terms licensed professional engineer and registered professional engineer are synonymous. Many engineers, whether self-employed or employed by others, may seek to obtain a license as a registered professional engineer.

The licensing of professional engineers (and of those in other professions and trades) falls under the aegis of the individual state education departments, which control and administer professional licensing within the state’s jurisdiction. In years past, some states granted the license as a professional engineer to a few persons who, although lacking formal credentials (education and otherwise), had a demonstrated record of performance of the duties of a professional engineer. The licenses were granted under “grandfather” clauses. This is now very seldom the case.

registered professional engineer

The usual route to obtain a license as a professional engineer is via a combination of education, experience, and written examination. The successful attainment of an undergraduate degree in engineering will admit the applicant to a first examination, the successful completion of which results in the applicant being granted a certificate as Engineer in Training (EIT). Additional suitable experience for another 4 years admits the EIT into the final written examination for professional engineer. The successful completion of the final examination results in the award of a license as Professional Engineer.

Federal, state, and most local municipalities require that their key engineering personnel be licensed professional engineers. Engineering documents submitted to those bodies, likewise, will require that the signatory thereto be a licensed professional engineer.

There are minor variations from state to state as to acceptable experience, the degree to which academic experience may be acceptable as engineering experience, etc.; but by and large, there is a degree of uniformity among the state education departments in the matter of licensing professional engineers.
Professional engineers active in several state jurisdictions may be required to obtain a license as professional engineer in those different states. To that end, most states have established procedures to grant a license as professional engineer by comity, but usually this will be possible only if the original license was granted on the basis of a written examination. Comity is often initiated through the offices of the National Society of Professional Engineers as a service to its members.

The work bearing the professional engineer’s seal is considered creative work and is so addressed in most stated education laws. The work carries an implicit copyright, even though a statement to that effect may not be placed on the documents. Said work is the property of the professional engineer; unauthorized copying of such documents is illegal, and violators are subject to legal action and redress.
The basic intent of formal licensing of professional engineers is to protect the public from incompetent practice. A licensed professional engineer whose competence is called into question is subject to formal investigative procedures, and when the circumstances warrant it, the license may be revoked or suspended.

Detailed information regarding license as a professional engineer can be obtained from the state education department having jurisdiction, and it will set forth the requirements, privileges, and responsibilities inherent in the granting of the license.

In recent years, there has been recognition that a registered professional engineer provides services in a rapidly changing environment of evolving technology, with the concomitant necessary continual development of knowledge and skills. To that end, most jurisdictions now require that, as a prerequisite to license renewal, professional engineers accrue specified minimal amounts of continuing education, usually in the form of contact hours or continuing education units. Acceptable continuing education includes formal coursework and/or educational activities; teaching a course in an acceptable subject area; authoring an article in a peer-reviewed journal or a published book; making a technical presentation at an approved technical conference; obtaining a patent related to the practice of engineering; and completion of an approved self-study program.

Inquiries along these lines are made to the entity having jurisdiction over granting licenses and renewals.

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