The FE and the PE – What Are They?

The FE and the PE – What Are They?

Engineers love acronyms — this is a fact. So it’s no surprise that in order to answer the simple question, “how do I become a licensed engineer?” you have to eat more than your desired proportion of alphabet soup.

Here are the basics:

  • The FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) and PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering) exams are tests produced and administered by the NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying).
  • Passing the FE exam grants one the title of EIT (Engineer-in-Training), sometimes known as EI (Engineering Intern).
  • In some areas, the FE exam is called the EIT exam.
  • Passing the PE exam grants one the title of P.E. (specialized Engineer).
  • Both the FE and PE exams are eight hours long and are divided into two four-hour sessions, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon (with a 60 minute lunch break in between).

The FE exam, which is the first of the two, is designed for students who are close to completing their undergraduate educations. The morning session tests breadth of knowledge of general engineering principles and practices; this is where you will see topics from general engineering courses, like statistics, circuits, fluid dynamics, statics, and chemistry (among others). The afternoon session tests thoroughness of knowledge of material more specific to your chosen field. So if you used your old notes and books to satisfy a enormous post-graduation bonfire, you probably need to figure out how to reverse entropy and turn the ashes back into notes. No problem.

The PE exam is the second step in receiving a P.E. license, and it’s designed to test competence in a specific engineering field. In order to take it, you must have passed the FE exam and worked in the industry for at the minimum four years (exceptions exist in certain states). For most engineers, the exam will basically be an eight-hour test of a general range of topics within their fields of study. However, civil engineers, electrical and computer engineers, and mechanical engineers will need to select specific concentrations for their exams. For them, the morning sessions will broadly cover topics shared to their fields as a whole, and the afternoon sessions will cover their chosen concentration in greater thoroughness.

More information about the exams, including the different subject areas in addition as what material will be covered on each exam can be found on the NCEES website.

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