6 Things every Engineering Student should know – Part 3: Take the FE Exam

The FE Exam (Fundamentals of Engineering Examination) is the single most beneficial test that any engineering student can take.  Passing this exam gets you the EIT (Engineer in Training) Certification – the first step on the road to becoming a PE (Professional Engineer).

Every engineering student should take this exam, and you’ll probably have multiple opportunities to do so before you graduate. It’s worth it, and here are a few reasons why:

More Money
PEs earn an annual salary $5,000 higher than Engineers without the PE Certification.  That translates to a $200,000 increase in lifetime earnings*.  To get the payday I just described, you only need to take two exams: The FE Exam (6 hours) and the PE Exam (8 hours).

Think of it like this: After passing both exams, the market gives you a $200,000 payday.  Where else can you legally make that kind of money from 14 hours of work? That’s over $14,000 an hour! Do I have your attention yet?!

Image Credit: wecometolearn (Flickr)

The FE Exam is the most lucrative test you’ll take

Let’s think about that for a second. We’ve already covered how 7 of the top 10 highest paying majors are in the Engineering field.  Now I’m telling you that there is an easy way to boost your salary even higher within that bracket.  What more can you ask for?

More Respect
In political circles, there is much discussion about the one percent, but I can do you one better.  Members of the PE club make up about ¼ of one percent of the US population.  If you’re looking to stand out among Engineers, look no further: Only 1 out of 5 practicing Engineers are licensed Professional Engineers.

PEs are respected within the engineering profession, and for good reason.  Being a PE gives you greater exposure and awareness to the impact of engineering on society at large.  All engineers must take responsibility for the safety of the products we create, but PEs are considered licensed professionals and as such are held to higher standards.

Feeling distinguished yet?

More Options
Some jobs require a PE license for consideration, so it goes without saying that becoming a PE opens you up to more career options.  Even earning the EIT certification itself is a competitive advantage: Simply being on track to become a PE sets you apart from your peers.

In addition to having the authority to sign and seal engineering documents, being a PE allows you to be the principal in charge of an Engineering firm, giving you more options for career advancement.  Alternatively, if you want to start your own Firm with a few buddies from Engineering School, you can do that, too.

Let’s say that your ambitions aren’t as grand — you just want to consult as an Engineer to make extra money in your spare time.  Being a PE allows you to do that.  A PE can even be called on as an expert witness to testify in court – another way to earn extra income.

The list of options goes on and on.  No one knows what the future holds.  Why limit yourself?

How to do it
There are multiple ways to become a PE (this varies by state), but the fastest is to:

  1. Graduate from an ABET Accredited Engineering Program
  2. Pass the FE Exam
  3. Gain 4 years of acceptable work experience
  4. Pass the PE Exam
Image Credit: Wikimedia Foundation

Once you’re a licensed PE in one state, you can get licensed in them all – take the test once.

As an engineering student, you’re already working on the hardest part: graduating.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not mandatory that you work under a licensed PE to gain the required experience.  What constitutes “acceptable work experience” may vary from State to State, as determined by each State’s Licensing Board.

Find your state on this list to discover the details.  In many cases, Intern and Co-Op experience count as well, so you can take the PE Exam as soon as 3 years after graduating.

Imagine the benefits of being a licensed PE only 3 years into your career!  The sky truly is the limit.

Do it now
I know – it’s another test.  That’s the last thing you want to do right now – I’ve been there, and I understand.  I think we’ve established, though, that this is the single most lucrative test you’ll take in your entire undergraduate career.  What’s more, the longer you wait, the harder it is to take:

If you take it now, you’ll have to get a formula book and prepare for several nights.  It will be a sacrifice, as you’ll have to take time away from studying for tests that you actually get graded on.  But if you wait a few years, you’ll have to re-learn everything that you’ve already worked so hard to learn.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Don’t wait to take the FE Exam — time is not on your side.

Right now, you’re using your Engineering education every day.  It’s your life.  You know the most important formulas off the top of your head.  You know the basic principles cold.  You can do unit conversions in your sleep, and you know exactly which tables in which book contain everything else you need to know.

Thing is, once you start working, you won’t use all of this knowledge every day.  You’ll no longer need to know all of this information, and the sharpness you have right now will quickly leave you.

I can attest to this from personal experience.  I’m preparing to take the FE Exam, and I really wish I took it while I was in school – It would be one less thing to worry about.  You don’t have to make the same mistake.

To sum up, it is in your best interest to take the FE Exam now.  You’ve only got to pass it once, but your career, bank account and family will thank you for the rest of your natural life.

This concludes the half of the series focused on undergraduate life.  Next week, we’ll cover the first of 3 things that every Engineering student needs to know when you get a real job.  See you then.

*Calculations are based on a graduation age of 22 with no Co-Op/Internship experience, a starting salary of $55,000, a 40 hour work week, passing the PE Exam at age 26, retiring at age 65, and an annual investment return of 3%.

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