The Basics: Professional Engineering as a Career Path

What does a Professional Engineer do?

Engineers design products, processes and systems that protect the environment, and/or enhance the quality of life, health, safety and well-being of the public.
They also manage world-leading companies at the forefront of emerging technologies.The specific duties of an engineer differ by discipline, but, in general, engineers design, test or build materials, equipment or systems. For instance, electrical engineers may develop or test electrical equipment while civil engineers may oversee the design and construction of bridges, airports or roads. Chemical engineers design equipment or processes related to the production of food, chemicals and other products, and mechanical engineers are responsible for developing, testing and manufacturing mechanical devices.

How do I become a licensed engineer?

Overview of the Licensing Process in the U.S. and Canada:

Engineers in both the United States and Canada need a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Engineers who work with the public are also required to become licensed. Licensure requirements include completing an accredited program and passing a series of exams. Schools offering Computer Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Important Facts About Engineers

What is an engineering degree worth? Year after year, engineering jobs are paid one of the highest average starting salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) engineers have a median annual wage of $91,010 and the engineering field projects to have employment growth of nearly 140,000 new jobs over the next decade. (Figures from National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States Department of Labor, May 2017)

Key Skills: Strong mathematical foundation, critical and analytical thinking, problem-solving, observation, clear communication, good judgment and decision making

Work Environment: Primarily full-time with extra hours needed to ensure project success

Job Requirements

The requirements to become an engineer typically include a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline, though a master’s degree may be needed for advancement in some fields. Engineers who wish to become licensed to work with the public must complete a program that is accredited by ABET (formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) and meet the state requirements for licensure.

Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering

Bachelor of Science programs are available in a variety of disciplines, but all typically include the education and training needed to perform general engineering practices in the field of your choice. Programs typically include a combination of math and science courses, along with coursework specific to the area of study. B.S. degree programs are available in the areas such as the following:

Aerospace engineering
Agricultural engineering
Biomedical engineering
Chemical engineering
Civil engineering
Computer engineering
Conservation engineering
Electrical engineering
Environmental engineering
Health and safety engineering
Industrial engineering
Material engineering
Mechanical engineering
Nuclear engineering

Licensing Requirements
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many entry-level engineering positions do not require state licensure. However, earning the credential increases opportunities, particularly in leadership and management.

In Canada, only licensed engineers can practice engineering.

In the United States, after you earn an undergraduate degree accredited by ABET, you’ll then need to complete a 2-part state licensure examination. After passing the first part of the test, you’ll need to build some experience through an internship or supervised training. Following that, you may take the second part of the test to become a Professional Engineer (PE). Most states require continuing education for license renewal.

How do I get my licence in Canada?
There are five criteria that must be satisfied:

Academics: Hold an engineering degree from a Engineers Canada Accreditation Board-accredited undergraduate program, or possess equivalent qualifications.
Work Experience: Fulfill the engineering work experience requirement in the province or territory where you are applying for a licence.
Professionalism and Ethics: Pass the Professional Practice Examination (PPE), which tests your knowledge of the laws that affect the engineering profession, the professional standards to which you will be held accountable, and ethical standards and other topics such as patents, trademarks and copyrights.
Good Character: Applicants must demonstrate good character.
Language: Applicants must demonstrate an ability to work in either English or French, depending on the province or territory in which they apply for licensure.

To be a professional engineer (P.Eng.) in Canada, you need to become licensed by a Canadian provincial or territorial engineering association.

Professional Licensing Associations in Canada

(Click on each Association for background and contact information)

Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador (PEG-NL) Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia (APENS)
Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick (APEGNB) Association of Professional Engineers of Prince Edward Island (APEPEI)
Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO)
Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (APEGM) Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS)
Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA) Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC)
Association of Professional Engineers of Yukon (APEY) Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of the NWT and Nunavut (NAPEGG)

In the United States, registration or licensure of professional engineers and engineering practice is governed by the individual states. Each registration or license is valid only in the state where it is granted. Some licensed engineers maintain licenses in more than one state. Comity, also known as reciprocity, between states allows engineers who are licensed or registered in one state to obtain a license in another state without meeting the ordinary rigorous proof of qualification by testing. This is accomplished by the second state recognizing the validity of the first state’s licensing or registration process.(National Society of Professional Engineers. 2008)

Here are some more resources if you are interested in knowing more about the basics of an engineering career or finding out about the Top Engineering Schools 2024