What does the P.E. license really do for
The whole issue of licensure has become a shame. The laws
in most states define who can be called an engineer, especially here in Pennsylvania. In
fact, the board has just instituted a first-offense $1,000 fine for having
"engineer" on your business card, signs, or letterhead, etc. Everyone I talk to,
though, thinks it does not apply to them; a salesman ("sales engineer") who
calls on me laughed. Im planning to turn a few in to the board for action, just to
see what happens. Im tired of competing against individuals and firms who flaunt the
fact that they dont need to be licensed. There is just generally a lack of respect
for the title. Many get the title as a manner of organization within a company, without a
degree. Its sort of the opposite of "I don't care what you call me, just pay
Most of the people claiming to be engineers are really
technicians, designers, salesmen, and/or programmers. Seen anyone claiming to be a doctor
or attorney for long before being shut down? No, these professions are very protective;
engineers are generally too quiet in standing up for their profession.
Is licensure an indication of attaining a level of
competence? I cant say it is. At times, I have felt like giving my license back for
the fear of being associated with some of the P.E.s I have worked with. Good test-taking
skills have to be the explanation of the success of some of these people in getting
licensed, because they just cant apply engineering principles to the real world.
-- Walt Flasinski, P.E.
I am in favor of promoting and encouraging the pursuit of
a P.E. license for EEs. Most EEs who object to such licensure are working for large
companies. Its all too easy to fall back on the industrial exemption as a
rationalization for avoiding the moderate effort required to obtain a P.E. license. It
then becomes easy as well to assume the company will take care of any safety or ethical
issues associated with the companys products. Experience has shown this to be a
dangerous assumption in many cases.
My contention is that through the pursuit and attainment
of a P.E. license, the individual engineer becomes much more aware of the need to take
personal responsibility for the ramifications of his or her engineering efforts. Certainly
the P.E. is meant to ensure a minimum level of competency, but I believe that a powerful
advantage of licensure to society is in the greater concern for engineering safety and for
the ethics cultivated with the license.
-- Lt. Colonel Cameron H. G. Wright, P.E., Senior
U.S. Air Force Academy
Im approximately 10 years out of school and
am very interested in getting my P.E. license. I think it's a good way to mark a milestone
in my education and experience. In addition, I think the P.E. license is an excellent
safeguard for those of us who have sweated through the fundamentals to guard against the
dilution of the word "engineer."
But theres a big chicken-and-egg problem in the
mechanics of achieving a license. So few EEs in my line of work
(consulting/telecom/software) have P.E. licenses that its tough to get three
references, just so I can apply for the examination! Were stuck without a critical
mass and I dont see how we break out of it.
-- John Feltz, IEEE Member
I am an electric power engineer and have had my P.E.
license for 16 years. I have never seen any benefit from having the license. However, I
continue to renew it in case I someday need it for a job; that is, it serves to ensure my
employability. My P.E. license means nothing in my current job with state
government. It also meant nothing when I was an engineer for a major manufacturing
company, and meant nothing when I taught electronics as a community college professor.
-- Mike Martin, P.E.
Not having a P.E. license has not made finding employment
difficult throughout my career. The testing system seems to be tilted too far to the
academic; using mathematics to solve a problem is an important but very small part of the
total of most engineering jobs.
In addition, the failure rate of the P.E. test seems much too high. This at least
implies that the skills the test developers emphasize are different from skills the test
takers have developed in their jobs. The whole notion results in the feeling that a P.E.
license only proves you can pass a test, which has nothing to do with what you do at work.
There is very little difference between what an engineer can do and what an engineer with
a P.E. license can do. The question is not "Yes or No?" but "Why
-- Robert E. "Bob" Ford, IEEE Member
Having read your article regarding P.E. licensure for
electrical and electronics engineers, I find myself a little at a loss to understand
certain omissions in the thought process. With all the Pros and Cons stated (in the
article), not one bullet asks the question "Why?" outside purely mercenary
issues. Are we to stand by in all professions and submit to the contention that we
are not what we are trained to be unless we have the nod of some civil body? I, for
one, resent the notion. Why does the populace at large assume that some governmental
branch knows better how to assess our skills than the institutions that made that
assessment at the time of our graduation?
We all studied hard to arrive on the job with a
learners permit to perform some of the most impressive tasks. In the process
of our initiation, we helped put a moving vehicle on Mars that sent us dazzling pictures
and data backand we did it for less than it took to produce "Water World."
We participate daily in developing methods and products
that make life better in all walks of life. Where is the evidence that licensure
will improve that professional situation, in which we all share great pride? Indeed,
where is the evidence that licensure will not, in fact, degrade that status? If we
really think about it, can we honestly
say that governmental certification has caused any particular profession to improve
I suggest that licensure will act as a protection for the
weakest of us, while not giving any of us cause for the pride in our profession that we
have always felt.
-- Francis X. Welsh, IEEE Member
Green Lane, PA