1. HOW THE PROFESSION IS ORGANIZED IN ILLINOIS
REGULATING CIVIL ENGINEERS
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) regulates the practice of engineering in the state of Illinois. In most cases, you need to be licensed as either a Professional Engineer (PE) or Structural Engineer (SE) to describe yourself as an engineer professionally and to offer engineering and design services in Illinois.
- Professional Engineer (PE): The PE name represents a high level of training, testing and experience and can be associated with civil, electrical, mechanical, and other engineering fields. Still, you can come from a variety of engineering disciplines and become licensed as a PE. Being a PE offers you a wide range of professional practice. However, it does not allow you to design structures.
- Structural Engineer (SE): The structural engineering licensing process is relevant to a minority of civil engineers and will not be looked at in-depth in this topic. However, it is important that you know that Illinois is unique: it licenses structural engineering separately from professional engineering. This means that if you wish to practice structural engineering (the design of structures such as buildings or bridges to manage loads and environmental stresses), you will need to become licensed as an SE. This is true even for PE’s who are licensed to do structural engineering in other states. More information is available on the IDFPR website.
- Exemptions: There are some specific work environments where you do not have to be licensed to work legally as an engineer. There are exemptions under certain conditions for manufacturing, for government, or for military work. These are listed in the Professional Engineering Practice Act, Section 3. One warning: you must be careful, if you leave exempt work, not to continue calling yourself an engineer or offering design services; IDFPR can fine people heavily in these cases.
A LONG PATH TO LICENSING
The PE licensing process is complex and takes years – even for graduates of accredited US engineering schools. However, if your US or foreign engineering school is not accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the requirements are even more demanding. You will need to show an extra 4 years of experience just to get started. Almost all foreign-educated engineering graduates fall into this category. You may, however, be able to use education and work experience outside the US towards this requirement.
Many people choose not to re-license. There are many challenging and well-paid careers in civil engineering that do not require it. Most graduates of US engineering schools go on to work in their fields of study, but never become PEs or SEs. Whatever you decide about future licensing for your career, non-licensed positions are a way to first re-enter the field in the US. If you want to become licensed in the future, a non-licensed position can support you and your career goals during this long-term process. Some employers even support qualifying candidates with training or pay their licensing fees.
EMPLOYMENT IN ENGINEERING
Recently, there has been increased government spending on infrastructure improvement and new projects that will require professional engineering skills. This is good news for engineers in Illinois.
Also, the decline of the manufacturing industry in the Midwest affects overall job prospects in mechanical engineering since many mechanical engineers are employed in manufacturing. Jobseekers who have skills and experience in Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) and other software and communication technologies have better job prospects. Mechanical engineering opportunities in high-tech fields such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and materials science will continue to create new jobs. Nationally, average starting salaries in mechanical engineering for 2010 was $78,160.
Licensed opportunities: PE’s are often employed in design firms that work in both public and private engineering projects. A design firm is a company that also must be licensed under Illinois law in order to practice engineering.
- There is expected to be an increase in regulation and, therefore, in demand for licensed professional engineers and structural engineers. Since there is a limited supply of licensed engineers, it is relatively easy to find a job.
Unlicensed opportunities: many engineering workplaces have a demand for skilled workers who are not licensed as PE’s in Illinois. Common job titles include:
- CADD Technician (Computer Aided Design and Drafting)
- Expert Craftsman
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
Some of these positions are described in more detail in the section Careers Related to Civil Engineering. These and other technical, advisory and management positions provide opportunities for meaningful work, and can have an important impact on engineering projects. However, the overall project must be under the direct and responsible control of a legally licensed engineer.
THE JOB SEARCH
Finding work in your field is probably a high priority for you. The job search can be especially competitive for immigrant professionals in a difficult economy.
- Consider your qualifications for non-licensed jobs and specify target job titles to broaden your search.
- If you expect to become licensed, it is very important that you look for a workplace which has a professional engineer available to supervise you. This will allow you to meet the qualification for licensing that requires supervised work under a legally practicing engineer.
- Also consider expanding your job search beyond direct hiring positions. You may want to consider temporary placement through employment agencies that specialize in engineering-related hiring. They can provide you with contract opportunities in different workplaces, benefiting both you and the employer who has a chance to see your work without making a permanent commitment.
- Increase your competitiveness by updating technical skills and improving your professional communication and marketing skills
- Research small and medium-sized firms who often don’t advertise openings.
- Join networking and professional development groups in your areas of interest to make professional contacts and update your skills.
2. ELIGIBILITY FOR LICENSING
OVERVIEW OF LICENSING CRITERIA
The licensing process has the following steps:
PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER LICENSING MAP:
I. EVALUATE YOUR FOREIGN DEGREE WITH THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF EXAMINERS FOR ENGINEERING AND SURVEYING (NCEES)
If your university degree was in an engineering discipline, you must work with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) to have it evaluated. The cost is $400.
First, NCEES compiles information on your degree, including transcripts that must be sent directly from your university. If your materials are in a language other than English, you should check if your university will translate them and provide copies in English to NCEES. If this is not possible, you will need to have your own copy of your transcript translated and provide this to NCEES from another source. Verify with NCEES before to make sure what types of translation sources they will accept (e.g., university offices, consular offices, American Translator Association members).
Next, NCEES compares your educational materials course-by-course to standards used by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to evaluate engineering programs. It is common for NCEES to identify foreign degrees as deficient in comparison to ABET standards. This is often because of international differences regarding when subjects are taught and the degree of specialization students are expected to have in university. For example:
- You may have finished advanced math courses in high school such as Differential Equations or Calculus I. Most US students only take these courses at the university level
- You may have taken very few humanities and social sciences courses once you began your engineering program. ABET accreditation requires 12 credit hours in such subjects to give students a well-rounded education
It is common for your NCEES degree evaluation to have several important differences from ABET standards. This can mean you will have to go back to school and take the types of classes your evaluation describes before you can move to other steps in the licensing process. You may even have to go back and take a full year of courses! This requirement is strict and there are very few exceptions. However, you may have a few other options that can help:
- If your country has a recognized college-preparatory system such as the US Advanced Placement courses, U.K.’s A-levels, or France’s Baccalaureate, you should consult with NCEES before submitting your transcripts. If you received college-level credit for them, you may be able to have them recorded in your university transcript
- If you completed a master’s degree, the Professional Engineering Board can look at your courses to see if any can satisfy deficiencies in your degree
II. MEET ANY COURSEWORK DEFICIENCIES IN YOUR DEGREE IDENTIFIED BY NCEES AND/OR THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION (IDFPR)
Unfortunately, many of you will need to take additional classes before you can continue licensing. Here are a few strategies to consider:
- Community colleges are often a good option. They are usually more affordable than universities, closer to home, and offer evening and weekend classes
- If you need math courses because your college transcripts only show advanced math such as Calculus II, keep things simple and save study time: take lower-level courses such as Trigonometry, Calculus I, or Differential Equations
- If you need to take social sciences or humanities courses, it may help your mindset to consider this a chance to get to know US culture and society better. You can pick courses and subjects that interest you, or ones you already feel familiar with, depending on the time you have to invest
- If you are studying and working at the same time, you may be able to do steps 2 and 3 together
III. SHOW FOUR YEARS OF QUALIFYING EXPERIENCE UNDER A LEGALLY PRACTICING ENGINEER
The Illinois regulations require any graduate of a non-ABET accredited school to have 4 years of experience under a legally practicing engineer in order to take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE). This applies to all foreign graduates and also affects US graduates of non-accredited schools and graduates of related sciences.
As an immigrant professional who has worked in engineering in your home country, you will need to find out whether your professional experience counts as”qualifying experience” or whether you need to start again in the US workplace.
DOES YOUR PRIOR EXPERIENCE COUNT?
- You must be able to get documentation that shows the number of years you worked under the direct supervision of a legally practicing engineer and actually had certain engineering responsibilities. Do not stop at documenting four years if you have more; there are two four-year periods of experience that need proof throughout the licensing process. You may be able to get a full eight years of credit and actually be found eligible to take the PE exam immediately!
- You must be able to prove that you reported to a person who was legally practicing engineering at the time. This could include someone licensed in your country, or working in exempt positions; it could even include working under a US military engineer
- You cannot certify your own experience – someone has to state he or she was the engineer in charge
- Important: you can also get different amounts of experience credit for activities such as graduate study, participation in a co-op, or for teaching professional engineering courses. More details can be found through IDFPR
If you believe that you have some qualifying foreign experience, you will need to document this information using the VE-PNG (Verification of Employment/Experience) form that is a part of the application you will put together in Step 4. Copy as many forms as you need (if you changed jobs over the years) and send them to the supervising engineer(s). The forms ask the supervisor opinions about your performance. Be careful: a negative review can hurt your case. Use other copies of the VE-PNG for other types of experience activities and provide documents to support the information.
HOW DO I EARN QUALIFYING EXPERIENCE IN THE US?
If you do not have a full four years of qualifying experience, then you will need to earn the rest of the four years in a US workplace or through other activities like studying or teaching. Again, you will need to work under a legally practicing engineer (either a licensed or exempt engineer) and your work will have to include supervised engineering activities.
- Look for employment in a firm or other workplace with a professional engineer on staff and get permission for the engineer’s participation in your program
- You will have to document your work for the PE and receive his or her recommendation to meet IDFPR qualifying experience standards
- Your exact job title is not relevant; you just need to work under a legally practicing engineer with increasing responsibility
- If you change employers and/or supervising PEs over this four-year period, you must have all PEs submit documentation (VE-PNG forms) to account for the full amount of qualifying experience
- Once you have gathered all documentation, submit it together with the application in Step 4 to the IDFPR for approval
IV. APPLY FOR FUNDAMENTALS OF ENGINEERING EXAM (FE) AND ENROLLMENT AS AN ENGINEER INTERN (EI)
This is a 2-step process involving application to IDFPR as well as test registration with Continental Testing Service (CTS).
Your application package should include:
- Four-page IDFPR application for Examination for Enrollment as an Engineer Intern
- NCEES course-by-course evaluation
- Proof that you have passed English language competency exams if your engineering program was not conducted in English and you are not a native speaker of English. (minimum accepted scores: a TOEFL-iBT with 26 on speaking and total score of 88 OR the TOEFL paper-based 550 or computer-based 213 plus a Test of Spoken English score of 50)
- VE-PNG forms (Verification of Employment/Experience). Supervisors will put forms in sealed envelopes. You can also use VE-PNG forms for other experience credit such as graduate study, participation in a coop, or for teaching professional engineering courses
- The IDFPR filing deadline for an April test is November 15 and the filing deadline for an October test is May 15. The application fee is $20.
This application is valid for 3 years; if you have not passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam by that time, you will have to submit a new application and pay the processing fee again. If all of your documents are in order, you will be given a notice of permission to register for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
B. Register for FE Exam:
Once IDFPR has approved you to take the FE exam, you must register online with Continental Testing Service (CTS) for an exam site (there are typically 4 sites in Illinois available at each offering of the FE). The CTS registration deadlines for the April and October tests are typically 1 month before the exams. FE exam enrollment costs $168.00.
V. PASS THE FE AND BECOME AN ENGINEER INTERN (EI)
The fundamentals of engineering exam (FE) is a national test that most US engineering students from accredited programs take in their senior year or shortly after graduation. This test will be discussed in detail in the section Tests Required for Licensing. After passing the test you are designated an Engineering Intern (EI) by the state of Illinois.
VI. WORK FOR 4 YEARS UNDER A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER FOR QUALIFYING EXPERIENCE
At last, you have achieved your first legal designation in engineering in the state of Illinois: Engineering Intern (EI). At this point there is a second four-year experience requirement that applies to all EIs. The goal is to help you continue to develop your skills under the supervision of a legally licensed engineer. If you have additional qualifying experience that was not counted in Step 3, it will be used here towards the four year requirement. You will finish this step by collecting VE-PNG forms for any qualifying activity. These will be included in the application in Step 7.
VII. APPLY FOR EXAMINATION FOR LICENSURE AS A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER (PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF ENGINEERING EXAM, PE)
This is another 2-step process, involving application to IDFPR and test registration with CTS.
If you need assistance with your application, contact the IDFPR at (708) 354-9911 ext. 124. When you have compiled all materials, mail them to the IDFPR.
Your application package should include:
- 4 page IDFPR application for Examination for Licensure as a Professional Engineer. Be sure to show that you are licensed as an Engineer Intern in Illinois in Part IV of the application or it will not be counted towards your licensure as a PE
- Official transcript from your university engineering program (not a degree evaluation, simply an official transcript)
- VE-PNG forms verifying 8 years of Employment/Experience
- The IDFPR filing deadline for an April test is November 15 and the filing deadline for an October test is May 15. There is a $100 application fee
- This application is valid for 3 years; if you have not passed the PE exam by that time, you will have to submit a new application and pay the processing fee again
If all of your documents are in order, you will be given a notice of permission to register for the PE exam.
B. Registration for PE Exam:
Once IDFPR has approved you to take the PE exam, you must register online with CTS for an exam site. The CTS registration deadlines for the April and October tests are typically 2 months before the exams. PE exam enrollment costs $281.00.
VIII. PASS THE PE EXAM AND RECEIVE LICENSURE AS A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER (PE)
The PE exam will be discussed in detail in the next section. Once you have passed the exam, you will be granted licensure as a Professional Engineer in the state of Illinois. Your PE license must be renewed every 2 years. Please refer to the section Beyond Licensing for basic information on requirements to maintain licensure.
FUNDAMENTALS OF ENGINEERING EXAM
The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE) is sometimes still referred to by its former name, the Engineer in Training exam (EIT). The FE tests the knowledge that is expected of recent university graduates for general engineering concepts and other specific engineering disciplines.
The examination is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
- It is offered two times a year, in April and October
- Registration opens several months in advance, but you must first apply to IDFPR for approval to take the test
- The FE exam consists of a full day of testing in one morning and one afternoon session of 4 hours each
- The total cost of the exam is $168.00
The morning session is standard for all test-takers. It has 120 questions in 12 topic areas. These are: math; engineering probability and statistics; chemistry; computers; ethics and business practices; engineering economics; engineering mechanics – statics and dynamics; strength of materials; material properties; fluid mechanics; electricity and magnetism; and thermodynamics.
The afternoon session consists of one 60-question Module. You choose one of seven Modules available. They are:
- Civil engineering: this module has 9 topics: surveying; hydraulics and hydrologic systems; soil mechanics and foundations; environmental engineering; transportation; structural analysis; structural design; construction management; and materials
- Other/general engineering: this module has 9 topics: advanced engineering mathematics; engineering probability and statistics; biology; engineering economics; application of engineering mechanics; engineering of materials; fluids; electricity and magnetism; thermodynamics and heat transfer
- Chemical engineering: this module has 11 topics: chemistry; material/energy balances; chemical engineering thermodynamics; fluid dynamics; heat transfer; mass transfer; chemical reaction engineering; process design and economic optimization; computer usage in chemical engineering; process control; safety, health and environmental
- Electrical engineering: this module has 9 topics: circuits; power; electromagnetics; control systems; communications; signal processing; electronics; digital systems; computer systems
- Environmental engineering: this module has 5 topic areas: water resources; water and wastewater engineering; air quality engineering; solid and hazardous waste engineering; environmental science and management
- Industrial engineering: this module has 8 topics: engineering economics; probability and statistics; modeling and computation; industrial management; manufacturing and production systems; facilities and logistics; human factors, productivity, ergonomics, and work design; quality
- Mechanical engineering: this module has 8 topics: mechanical design and analysis; kinematics, dynamics, and vibrations; materials and processing; measurements, instrumentation, and controls; thermodynamics and energy conversion processes; fluid mechanics and fluid machinery; heat transfer; refrigeration and HVAC
Your background in a specific field of engineering practice such as mechanical or civil engineering may make choosing its module for the afternoon session appear to be an easy decision. However, you may also wish to consider general engineering, especially if your test preparation time is limited. Its topics are an extension of the topics covered in the morning session.
All reference materials for both morning and afternoon sessions, such as formula sheets, are provided by NCEES. However, test takers must provide their own calculators, chosen from an NCEES-approved list.
THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF ENGINEERING EXAM (PE)
The Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam (PE) is an exam for Engineering Interns. It tests the theoretical and practical engineering knowledge you have gained through a minimum of four years of qualifying employment experience under the guidance of a legally practicing engineer. NCEES offers 17 distinct PE exams. We will cover the PE – Civil exam and PE – Mechanical exam below. For more information on the other types of exams, please see the Important Links section.
THE PE EXAM
- The PE Exam consists of a full day of testing in one morning and one afternoon session of 4 hours each.
- The PE exam is offered two times a year, in April and October.
- Registration opens several months in advance, but you must first apply to IDFPR for approval to take the test.
- The total cost of the exam is $281.00.
All reference materials for both morning and afternoon sessions, such as formula sheets, are provided by NCEES. Test takers must provide their own calculators, chosen from an NCEES-approved list. Results of both tests are combined to create your total score.
You can find practice tests, test preparation classes, and study groups that can be great tools to help you pass your tests in the Important Links section.
THE PE – CIVIL EXAM
The morning session, called the Breadth Exam, is standard for all PE – Civil test-takers. It has 40 questions covering the five areas that constitute civil engineering: construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and water resources/environmental engineering.
The afternoon session, called the Depth Exam, is a 40-question exam in which you choose one of the five practice areas covered in the morning session.
THE PE – MECHANICAL EXAM
The morning session, called the Breadth Exam, is standard for all PE – Mechanical test-takers. It has 40 multiple choice questions covering the 3 areas that constitute mechanical engineering: HVAC and Refrigeration; Mechanical Systems and Materials; and Thermal and Fluids Systems.
The afternoon session, called the Depth Exam, is a 40-question exam in which you choose one of the 3 practice areas covered in the morning session.
4. TIME AND COSTS
FACTORS THAT CAN INFLUENCE TIME AND COST OF PROCESS
Evaluating your foreign degree and achieving licensing as a professional engineer in Illinois depends on many factors:
- The completeness of your educational and professional records (the more documentation, the better)
- The size of the gap between your engineering degree and US accreditation standards
- Your performance on FE and PE licensing exams and their timing
- Your access to employment that can bring you necessary qualifying experience
- Your free time and what you can afford to spend on licensing
We provide two hypothetical scenarios to show some of the variety of results that immigrant professionals may find when they seek to become civil engineers in Illinois. Please consider these scenarios as two examples out of many possibilities. Your experience will vary.
TWO POSSIBLE SCENARIOS FOR PE LICENSING:
|Step||More Efficient Scenario|
Approximate Time and Cost
|Less Efficient Scenario|
Approximate Time and Cost
|1 Degree Evaluation||Your university documents arrive to the credentialing organization within one month|
The original documents are in English, so no translation is needed
2 months + $400
|It takes 4 months for your documents to arrive to CPEES|
Your documents must be translated
6 months + $650
|2 Satisfy Education Deficiency||You have a Masters degree in civil or mechanical engineering and documented qualifying professional experience|
You only have to take 3 university courses (9 credit hours) before being eligible to sit for the FE exam
You pass it on the first try
6 months + $2,700
|Your degree equivalency lacks 12 courses (36 credit hours)|
3 years + $10,000
|3 4 years of qualifying experience||You have 4 years of documented qualifying professional experience|
|You are granted only 1 year of qualifying professional experience from your home country|
You work full time while attending classes, completing your qualifying professional experience and coursework in 3 years
|4 Apply for FE Exam||You assemble your documents and apply for the FE exam|
3 months + $20
|You assemble your documents and apply for the FE exam|
3 months + $20
|5 Pass FE Exam||You pass the FE exam on the first try|
6 months + $168
|You pass the FE exam on the first try|
6 months + $168
|6 4 years qualifying experience ||Your current employment is in the your engineering field|
You are able to arrange supervision of your work by a legally practicing engineer
|Changing jobs, you work for 5 years to gain 4 years of qualifying experience for the PE - Mechanical exam|
|7 PE Licensing application||You receive a recommendation from that supervisor for your qualifying experience|
You pass your PE-Mechanical or Civil exam with just a few months' preparation
6 months + $100
|You take the test but fail the first time|
After taking a preparation class, you pass the second attempt
1 year, 2 months + $1,100
|8 Pass PE, receive license||Your employer pays for the exam and license application|
The IDFPR PE Board approves your application 5 months later
|The IDFPR PE Board approves your application 5 months later|
5 months + $281
|More Efficient Total|
About 6 1.2 years + $3,400
|Less Efficient Total|
About 14 years + $12,200
5. OTHER CAREERS AND CREDENTIALS
The breadth of the engineering field and the high numbers of positions that do not require licensing make other careers in engineering very attractive to foreign-educated professionals. Here are just a few notes on in-demand credentials or job titles to start you in your research. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Important Links can give you a better idea of the responsibilities in these and other careers in engineering.
Preparing for licensing takes a significant amount of time, money, and effort. Some professionals choose to seek lower-level positions in engineering to help them meet longer-term licensing goals. If you take a job with fewer responsibilities but with access to a supervising PE, you may find some distinct advantages. These include the ability to build job security, polish technology skills and adapt to the US workplace culture in a lower-pressure environment, and to have more energy left over to focus on preparing for licensing exams. You should be honest with your employer about your long-term plans and be sure that they understand how you can contribute to their company’s objectives.
DETAILER/DRAFTER – COMPUTER-AIDED DESIGN AND DRAFTING
- Typically, knowledge of CADD software is a prerequisite for this position, which involves the preparation of detailed drawings for manufacturing or construction
- 2 years of college typical
- 2010 median earnings nationally: $47,880
MECHANICAL ENGINEERING TECHNICIAN
- This position applies engineering principles narrowly, usually to solve specific problems in RD
- 2 years of college typical
- 2010 median earnings nationally: $50,110
PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION
If you have prior experience of project management and particularly strong communication and organizational skills, you may want to consider qualifying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute. The PMP is a widely-recognized credential that can complement an engineering background, as many large engineering projects require both project skills and mastery of technical specialties. Again, if your soft skills prepare you for this kind of work, it is a way to work actively in the engineering field without having to hold professional licensure.
Construction management certificates also offer a way of differentiating you in the medium term and saving resources while still maintaining a critical role in the civil engineering field. Construction management is a viable option if you have excellent communication and organizational skills and have already worked in this capacity in your career.
LEED CERTIFICATION PROFESSIONAL
Green building and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification depend, in part, on systems that fall to mechanical engineers, such as heating and cooling. Given trends towards large-scale investment in environmentally-friendly building and rehabilitation, getting certified to assess projects for LEED can be an interesting credential for an engineer with the right transferable skills.
6. BEYOND LICENSING
SETTING UP YOUR BUSINESS
If you plan to have your own engineering business, it is important to know that you may have to register as a Professional Design Firm. This is not required if you plan to do business under “Your Name, PE” and work alone (in what is called a sole proprietorship). However, if you plan to do business by another name or to include others in your practice you will need to license. Information is available on the IDFPR Professional Engineer.
Once you are licensed as a professional engineer you must maintain your Illinois licensure by renewing it every 2 years with the IDFPR. The license expires November 30 of every even year. You will be notified in the mail and can renew on the IDFPR website using online payment or via mail. You must state that you have taken 30 hours of continuing education or professional development courses in order to renew. For PEs these hours are called PDH (Professional Development Hours). You must meet specific criteria for subjects studied and approved providers.
RENEWAL VS. RESTORATION
be careful to observe your renewal notices and keep your address updated, or your licensing may be moved from “renewal” status into “restoration” status. Restoring your expired license requires more documentation, fees and, sometimes, coursework. To keep informed of regulation requirements and update your skills, consider joining a professional association (see below).
JOINING A PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION
State and national associations for professional engineers and structural engineers provide opportunities for professional development and networking. They also help set acceptable working conditions for the industry and give information and opinions on policy in Illinois and across the US. Their websites may offer useful orientation to the licensing and examination process, including test preparation. Their employment networks, however, are typically restricted to licensed professionals. Once you have progressed in the licensing process you may want to join a professional engineer or structural engineer association.
- Illinois Society of Professional Engineers
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers: has several regional chapters in Illinois
- SAE International: aerospace, off-highway/heavy duty vehicles, trucks, buses, or passenger cars
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, Inc.
Even if you are not seeking licensing, you can find a large variety of professional associations with membership based not on licensed status but on specialty discipline, job type, sector, ethnicity, gender, or religion.
LICENSING MOBILITY (RECIPROCITY)
Some people with PE or SE licenses from one state want to practice engineering in another state. The autonomy of each state’s professional regulation creates differences that complicate licensing mobility. The state of Illinois does not participate in any agreements with other states and its approach to licensing mobility for newcomers is conservative: licensing by endorsement.
If you are a recognized PE from another state and are seeking to practice civil engineering in Illinois, you must:
- Show that your education and experience meet all Illinois eligibility criteria for licensing as a PE or SE (making up courses or experience if gaps are found)
- Apply for and receive an Illinois license in addition to your existing license
Conversely, when Illinois PEs or SEs want to work in other states, they must research and meet the licensing guidelines of their destination state, which can sometimes be less stringent than Illinois regulations. In either case, some employers see the value in helping their engineers with licensing mobility when their business crosses state boundaries.
(BS for Bachelor of Science or BA for Bachelor of Arts): in the US, a four year university degree. An equivalent degree in another country may take either 3 or 4 years.
Items like medical insurance, paid days off, and retirement savings plans that some employers offer workers in addition to salary.
The granting of reciprocity to decisions or laws by one state or jurisdiction to another. Since it is based upon respect and deference rather than strict legal principles, it does not require that any state or jurisdiction adopt a law or decision by another state or jurisdiction that is in contradiction, or repugnant, to its own law.
Documents that authorities accept as proof that you have learned specific skills (from courses, study, or practice) and are qualified for certain types of job responsibilities. Examples of credentials are a university degree, a certification, or proof of participation in training.
Licensure by endorsement is the method used for engineers in Illinois. When a person licensed in another state seeks to practice in Illinois, their application for licensure by endorsement is approved if the state of Illinois determines that the licensing requirements for the person’s initial licensure meet or exceed Illinois licensing standards.
An agreement between states in which the licenses and credentials of one state are accepted for professional practice in another state. For example, a nurse in the state of X can also work as a nurse in the states of Y and Z without any new training or tests.
Your university’s official record of the subjects you studied and your grades.
A special-case exception to the general rule
7. IMPORTANT LINKS
FOREIGN DEGREE EVALUATION:
- The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is the credential evaluation service for foreign-educated engineers accepted by the state of Illinois
- The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) must review your foreign degree if your degree was not directly in engineering
- The IDFPR (Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation) is the department that grants and regulates professional engineer and structural engineer licenses.
- The IDFPR Professional Engineer and PE Intern main page, complete with links to forms and applications
- The IDFPR Structural Engineer and SE Intern main page, complete with links to forms and applications
- Exemptions to licensing, such as manufacturing, military, and governmental work are explained in the Section 325/3 of the Professional Engineering Act under “Application of the Act- Exemptions”
- The Professional Engineering Rules describe accepted experience, degree programs, professional conduct, and other important standards in detail
- The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) has a wealth of information about exams including test preparation materials
- NCEES Exams Section with important site links to both FE and PE exam information
- NCEES Official information on the PE Exam, with details for both the Breadth and Depth sessions
- NCEES Official information on the FE Exam, with details for both the Breadth and Depth sessions
- FE and PE testing dates and registration information
- FE Supplied-Reference Handbook contains equations and data you will need for the exam
- Study materials for sale online
- Illinois Society of Professional Engineers
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers has several regional chapters in Illinois
- SAE International is an association for mechanical engineering in aerospace, off-highway/heavy duty vehicles, tricks buses, or passenger cars
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, Inc.
PROVIDE COMPLETE DOCUMENTS
Foreign degree evaluation services for professional engineer licenses require that your university sends transcripts directly to them. Invest the time and money early in this process. Providing additional documentation about your program of study, such as syllabi or course descriptions, can help CPEES and AACRO make the most of your degree evaluation. Effort here can result in significant savings of time and money by minimizing the gaps in comparing your degree to its US equivalent.
Be your own advocate throughout the licensing process. Seek clarification about questions and concerns directly from official sources. For example, if you feel your degree has been misinterpreted or you do not understand a fine point of the state regulations, organize your questions, contact CPEES or IDFPR, and ask for assistance. IDFPR can answer specific questions on an individual basis through an email link on its Professional Engineering main page.
TAKE EASY COURSES
If you have to take additional college math classes to qualify for the FE exam, consider taking math courses that you mastered in high school; often these are equivalent to US college subjects and will make your studying easier. Examples: Calculus I, Trigonometry, Differential Equations.
CHOOSE TOPICS FOR BEST RESULTS
Your FE exam includes a general engineering test in the a.m. and your choice of a general or specialized engineering topic for the p.m. Look at NCEE exam descriptions and study materials to decide which choice will be the best for you. Some people prefer to take General Engineering in the afternoon because all of the day’s material will require similar preparation. Others with significant experience in a specialization may prefer to take the afternoon test in the discipline they know the best.
BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR JOB SEARCH
Build professional networks; consider temporary or contract employment in your field to build your reputation; be prepared to start at lower levels and prove your competence. To compete successfully you should work to keep up to date in workplace technologies such as CADD and Excel; perfect your communication skills for professional emails, reporting, and client contact; learn how to discuss your past work experience in terms of skills you can transfer to new projects, and develop a portfolio of work that highlights your skills without compromising the intellectual property of your former employers. If you seem overqualified for a position, be prepared to explain how the position will help you become established in a way that shows long-term benefit to the employer.