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"Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

"Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

"Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

A lot is written about whether the industrial exemption from PE licensure in the US is a good thing. Regardless of whether licensure should be required, the requirement that applicants in industry have three references from PEs to sit for the exam makes it difficult even if they wish to. PE licensure isn't required to work in industry, thus few get it, thus there are few opportunities for people like me to meet potential references.

The conventional wisdom is that if you submit the required number of references, even if enough aren't from PEs, your application will be considered. Setting aside the ethical implications of this (aren't the members of the state engineering boards, PEs all, breaking the law by doing this?), it's asking a lot of engineers to apply without knowing their application won't be discarded by the screeners. It takes substantial effort to prepare the application; requires that you impose on managers and peers for references; and costs $100 (in Vermont) to file. In addition, if you wait til you hear from the board before studying and buying reference materials, you'll likely be underprepared. A significant investment in time and money is required.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a PE, so the first PEs must not have had three PEs as references. If the NSPE and others want to be promote licensure in industry, they should lobby for a "reference amnesty" for a number of years; other requirements would remain unchanged. References would still be required, but would not need to be from PEs. The goal would be to develop a self-sustaining number of PEs in industry.

This is the free market approach to promoting PE licensure in industry. If there are enough PEs in industry, it can be a meaningful criterion in hiring. Today, if you'll only hire a PE, you're not going to fill the position.

I'm taking the PE exam in mechanical this Friday. I had my three PE references. The first was a manager I worked with seven years ago. The second a professor I wrote research paper with three years ago. I was introduced to the third by a current manager this year. I would have applied to take the test long ago if not for the reference requirement.

Rob Campbell

RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

A friend of mine ran into a similar problem when he went for his New Jersey PE License. The board took issue with the fact that he had not worked under the supervision of PEs. They relented however, once he explained the type of work that he did and the fact that there were no PEs in his industry since the employers that he had were within the "Industrial Exemption". I would recommend that any applicants in similar situations contact the board directly. Do not assume that the board knows what goes on in industry.

RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

I'll soon be in the same boat.  I'm trying as best I can to become involved in societies where I'll find some PE's.  They simply do not exist in my company.  As a matter of fact, most engineers in my company were not trained as engineers, but as scientists (chemists, biologists).  Though I do see a benefit for credible endorsements, there should be some sort of reevaluation of acceptance criteria.  

Aaron Spearin, EIT
ChemE, M.E.
"The only constant in life is change." -Dan Andia; 1999, Chemical Engineering Progress

RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

Read your state's requirements.  In AZ (and WI if I remember correctly), your references do NOT have to be PEs.  If they are not, then AZ (where I take the PE exam in 2 days) requires that the referencer attach his/her resume to "prove" that they can recognize engineering potential.

From the time I got all the forms and other application information to the time I was ready to submit my application, I went back to the board and they didn't even require the resume anymore.  They still prefer that your references are PEs, and PEs within the state, but they do accept non-PE references.

So, to restate, check the requirements posted by your state board.


For some pleasure reading, try FAQ731-376

RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

Well, I guess the board’s question would be “Who can vouch for the candidate that the board can trust?”.  In the board’s eyes, I would guess it would be their own “members” (PEs).  Under an ethical understanding between the board and PE, he/she has to give an unbiased evaluation of your engineering ability.  This is versus a friend who will give you a glowing recommendation even though your work was not up to par.  Another reason would be that (well ideally) that one was trained under a PE, that the PE has bestowed his knowledge and ethics onto you so that you can serve the public.  

Here in Massachusetts you have to have 3 PEs, 2 coworkers, and 1 current manager referrals.  Just doing the application is half the battle.

<<<In addition, if you wait til you hear from the board before studying and buying reference materials, you'll likely be underprepared.>>>
In Massachusetts you can take the exam 6 months later, but if you feel unprepared, you can take the next exam.  Not sure it that is true in Vermont.

I myself will be taking the PE Mech in Oct.  If you can still stomach it, can you give some insight to the PEMech exam and post it to this thread?  I’m using PPI’s MERM as a study guide and I was wondering if that was enough.

Good luck with the exam!

RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure


FYI--Wisconsin requires 5 references, 3 of which must be PE's.

RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

hee hee, more fuel to the fire.

I got my PE out of TN in 1989, at the time required three bona fide PEs for references, with verifiable license numbers.  Luckily, I was young enough so that at that point in my career I actually knew some bona fide PEs.

Just recently a buddy asked me to be a reference (another Southeastern state).  I was shocked at the reference form.  It basically said "do you know this guy?  Yeah?  Well, that's good enough for us!"  That's good, because I could not vouch at all for his technical ability.  But the sad thing is that IT DID NOT MATTER AT ALL.

Yowch.  No wonder the value of my two engineering degrees and engineering license is being diluted to the point of uselessness by shenanigans of the engineering "profession" and corporate hacks who have assigned the tag of "commodity" on years of technical education and experience.

"Would you like fries with that?"


RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure

Tygerdawg, Michigan's reference forms are the same way.  Arizona is similar.  Looks like WI cracked down since last I lived in the state.

But in any state, as Tobalcane put it, filling out the application and meeting the deadlines is half the battle.  After talking with several PEs in several states to get the references I needed, the overwhelming consensus was made that each state board is so overworked with applications that they judge you based on application completeness and timelyness.  They don't have time to verify every little thing you put on there.  That doesn't mean cheat or lie, that goes against our ethics.


For some pleasure reading, try FAQ731-376

RE: "Reference amnesty" for engineers in industry seeking PE licensure


I understand your point, and I aggree that it can be difficult to find PE's to put on the application if you work in an industry where PE's are not required.  I was in the same situation last year.

However, I believe that if you really want the PE you can, and will, find a way to do it.  I asked everybody and their brother for three weeks straight if they new any PE's.  This included emailing old friends, professors, co-workers, etc.  In the end, I had to make some "cold calls" to some distantly associated PE's and explain my case.  All of the PE's I talked to were very understanding of my situation and allowed me to add them to my application.  To my knowledge, no one was ever called to verify how well they knew me or my abilities.

Just my experience, your actual mileage may vary...


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