1. HOW THE PROFESSION IS ORGANIZED IN NEW YORK
The New York Education Department’s Office of the Professions and its State Board of Engineering and Land Surveying regulate the practice of engineering in the state of New York.
Note: Unlike in many other states, New York does not use the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) to evaluate credentials and work experience. If you have already completed a NCEES record in another state, check the Office of the Professions to learn how it can be used as part of your application. The NCEES does however create both engineering exams used for licensing in the state: the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE) and the Principles & Practice of Engineering exam.
PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER (PE):
The PE licensing process is the main focus of this topic. The PE name represents a high level of training, testing and experience. Being a PE offers you the full range of professional practice in New York, including being able to bid for contracts and sell engineering and design services in the state.
A Professional Engineer licensed in the state of New York can practice in the engineering discipline or disciplines in which he or she is competent: there are no specialized licenses given by discipline area (such as civil, mechanical, or agricultural engineering).
There are some specific work environments and job roles that are exempt from having to have the Professional Engineer license in order to use engineering skills. These conditions are sometimes found in product manufacturing or in types of government or military work.
In fact, only a minority of graduates of US engineering programs become PEs; most use their training in positions that do not require licensing. A link to New York exemptions can be found in the Important Linkssection.
One warning: you must be careful, if you leave exempt work, not to continue calling yourself an engineer or offering design services. This can result in fines or criminal action.
CONSIDERING LICENSING OR ITS ALTERNATIVES
The PE licensing process is complex and takes years – even for graduates of accredited US engineering schools. It combines education, work experience, and performance on exams. Your education and experience before immigrating can count, at least in part, towards New York licensing requirements if you can provide proper qualifying documentation.
Many people choose not to re-license. There are many challenging and well-paid careers in 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. 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
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 New York law in order to practice engineering. Full engineering work for local and state governments also usually requires a PE license.
There is expected to be an increase in regulation and, therefore, in demand for licensed Professional Engineers. Since there is a limited supply of licensed engineers, job prospects can be better in some industries for a PE than for an unlicensed engineering graduate.
In any workplace involved in engineering there is a demand for skilled workers who are not licensed as PE’s. These are called “exempt” individuals and they are described in detail in the laws, rules and regulations of the state which you can find in the Important Links section. If you find work in these areas you may have “Engineer” in your job title without having to have the PE license. However, when changing jobs you must be sure that you are still practicing engineering legally, and are not moving into a job that requires licensing.
In many cases, unlicensed roles exist working with Professional Engineers to facilitate their work. These technical, advisory and management positions can also provide good opportunities for meaningful and well-paid work. Job titles can 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 Engineering.
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
- 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
- Join professional associations for professional engineers if they allow licensing candidates as members
2. ELIGIBILITY FOR LICENSING
OVERVIEW OF LICENSING CRITERIA
The Professional Engineer licensing process in New York has the following steps:
I. SUBMIT PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING APPLICATION AND CREDENTIALS
The time and resources you will have to spend in order to license in the state of New York depend to a great degree on your existing education and qualifying work experience that you can document fully. The state evaluates these through your application process, verifies the information directly with schools and employers, then awards you Credit units that are required to advance you through the licensing process.
The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam requires 6 credits, while the PE exam, sometimes referred to by its full name of Principles & Practice of Engineering requires 12 total credits for eligibility. The Office of the Professions calls the FE exam “Part A” and the PE exam “Part B”.
Links to application materials are found in the Important Links section at the end of this article.
- Form 1 – Application for Licensure and First Registration
- Fee of $377 (for licensure)
- Fee of $70 (to process your request to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam)
Make checks payable to the New York State Education Department:
New York State Education Department
Office of the Professions
P.O. Box 22063
Albany, NY 12201
The state of New York evaluates degrees through its Bureau of Comparative Education and it only accepts official copies that your educational institution sends the Office directly.
Use Form 2 – Certification of Professional Education to send a request for official transcripts to your school. Fill out Section I and mail the form to the Registrar or student records office; the office should fill out Section II and prepare transcripts according to the instructions, then mail the documents directly to the address that is listed for the Office of the Professions.
If your documents are not in English, then you can supply a translation yourself and send it separately, or have a translation included by your university.
A graduate of a foreign engineering school with the equivalent of a bachelor degree can earn up to 6 credits for this education, which could automatically qualify him or her for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
QUALIFYING PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE
If the Office of the Professions approves you for taking the FE based only on your education, you will be able to do Steps 2 and 3 at the same time. Step 2 involves preparing the paperwork that can document any foreign or US experience you have had in your field that may qualify you for experience credits to use towards meeting the 12 credits required for your PE license.
According to its 2012 website, the state judges the eligibility of your total work experience based on the following 5 factors:
- Demonstrate the intensive application of engineering principles in the practical solution of engineering problems
- Demonstrate a knowledge of engineering mathematics, physical and applied sciences, properties of materials, and the fundamental principles of engineering design
- Be broad in scope
- Develop and mature the applicant’s engineering knowledge and judgment
- Include at least two years of experience working on projects requiring knowledge and use of codes and practices commonly used in the United States
You must document this experience using 2 forms:
- Form 4 – Report of Professional Experience: this form goes directly to the Office of the Professions
- Form 4A – Verification of Professional Experience: this form goes to your employer or other person qualified to comment on your work, who mails it directly to the Office of the Professions
You can use several copies of these forms if you have had more than one job in your field.
These forms require very detailed information about your experiences which you will need to document very carefully and consistently. Keep in mind that Form 4A asks for opinions about the quality of your work, and asks the respondent to confirm your statements about your work responsibilities. Since any negative or contradictory information can hurt your case, it is a good idea to discuss the form first with the reference to be sure you agree on the type and quality of the work you performed so that the Office of the Professions can evaluate your experience using the most complete documentation you can give.
Their evaluation will be returned to you, telling you how many credits you have been granted. At this time you will be able to add the credits from your education to your work experience credits and see how many credits you have still to earn. Each missing credit represents a year of full time work that satisfies the 5 factors listed above.
II. DOCUMENT 6-12 YEARS CREDIT THROUGH EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
The Office of the Professions will return their evaluations of your education and experience.
If your credits do not total 6 credits, you will need to find professional work that fits the requirements – each credit represents one year of documented, qualifying work.
If you have earned a minimum of 6 credits, you will receive an examination eligibility letter that explains how to register for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
In the rare case that you are granted a full 12 credits at this time, you will also be eligible to take the Principles & Practice of Engineering exam (Step 5).
III. PASS FE, EARN INTERN ENGINEER STATUS
The Office of the Professions refers to the Fundamentals of Engineering exam as Part A. When the Department
determines you are eligible for Part A, you will be sent an examination eligibility letter.
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. It is offered in April and in October each year.
Your eligibility letter will refer you to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying website where you will register for the exam. There, you will be directed for scheduling the exam to the company that administers exams for the state of New York – Castle Worldwide, Inc., where you will need to pay a scheduling fee (in addition to the $70 for test administration services that you already included in your licensing application).
After passing the test you will receive an identification card from the state indicating that you are an “Intern Engineer” for the state of New York (this status is also commonly referred to as “EIT”, which stands for “Engineer in Training”). This is often well-regarded by employers since it demonstrates both your mastery of fundamental engineering principles and your ambition to earn your PE license.
The FE exam will be explained in detail in the Tests section.
IV. COMPLETE FULL 12 YEAR CREDIT REQUIREMENT
Depending on the credits you received before taking the FE, you may have anywhere from 1 to 6 credits left to earn before you qualify to take the final licensure exam, the Principles & Practice of Engineering exam. Remember that the credits represent a year of qualifying full time work; it can take longer than a year to earn a credit if, for example, you work part-time.
Continue to earn and document your experience using Form 4 – Report of Professional Experience and Form 4A – Verification of Experience until the Office of the Professions sends you notice of acceptance of your 12 credits and an eligibility letter to register for the P&P exam.
V. PASS PE EXAM, RECEIVE LICENSE
The PE exam will be discussed in detail in the next section.
Once you have passed it, you will be granted licensure as a Professional Engineer in the state of New York. Congratulations! Please refer to the section Beyond Licensing for basic information on requirements to maintain licensure.
FUNDAMENTALS OF ENGINEERING EXAM (“PART A”)
The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE) tests the knowledge that is expected of recent university graduates for general engineering concepts and other specific engineering disciplines. It is sometimes still referred to by its former name, the Engineer in Training exam (EIT). The examination is created by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and you register for it on its website, but the state of New York contracts with Castle Worldwide, Inc. to schedule and administer the test itself.
- The FE exam is offered two times a year, in April and October – with applications due about 5 months in advance (check the state website for current deadlines)
- It is offered in 4 sites in the state: Brooklyn, Buffalo, Cicero, and Schenectady
- The FE exam consists of a full day of testing in one morning and one afternoon session of 4 hours each
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) (“PART B”)
The Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam (PE) is an exam only Intern Engineers can qualify to take. The PE exam tests the theoretical and practical engineering knowledge you have gained as you have earned and documented the 12 credits required by the state of New York. NCEES, which administers the exam, offers many distinct PE exams for various specialties. A passing grade in New York is 70 on each part of the exam.
In New York, PE exams are given two times a year, in April and October, with deadlines for applications coming about 5 months earlier (please check the state website for the latest dates).
The PE test is 8 hours long – a morning and afternoon session of 4 hours each.
Breadth Exam: the morning exam is called the Breadth Exam, and covers major practice areas or sub-specialties within an engineering discipline.
For example, the Breadth Exam for Civil Engineering has 40 questions covering five areas: construction; geotechnical; structural; transportation; and water resources/environmental engineering.
Depth Exam: the afternoon session, called the Depth Exam, is an exam that focuses in on just one of the major practice areas that are covered in the morning session. You are free to choose the area you want to be tested in for the Depth Exam – even if you have more than one specialty, you only need to be tested in one discipline – when the state of New York gives you your PE license you are allowed to practice in any field in which you are competent, not just those fields in which you have taken the PE exam.
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.
The Important Links section has links to online documents and test preparation resources for all tests used in New York Professional Engineer licensing.
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 New York 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 Professional Engineers in New York. 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 File an Application for Licensure||Your Application for Licensure and first registration go smoothly|
|Your Application for Licensure and first registration go smoothly|
|2 Prerequisites and completion of international dentist program, Including NBDE I, TOEFL, credential evaluation, and 2+ years study||You do not need to take the TOEFL; getting your credentials evaluated is quick and not very expensive; you take the NBDE I in 6 months and pass on the first try|
You apply for a few programs, and are accepted in a 2 1/2 year program 6 months later, costing $100,000 after scholarships and financial aid
$100,800 + 3 years
|You pass the TOEFL on the first try; getting your credentials is difficult and costly; you take NBDE I in 10 months but fail one section and retake it 6 months later|
It takes you a year and a half to be accepted into a 2 1/2 year program, which costs you $120,000 after financial aid
$121,000 + about 4 years
|3 Education records to Office of the Professions||Gathering your credentials for the Office of the Professions is not difficult and the process takes just 2 months|
|Gathering your credentials is somewhat difficult and there are issues in review that delay your time to 4 months|
|4 Child Abuse and Infection Control training certificates||It takes you 1 week to complete the Child Abuse and Infection Control trainings. You complete them while you finish your education requirement|
|It takes you 1 extra month once you have finished your education requirement to complete the Child Abuse and Infection Control trainings.|
$60 + 1 month
|5 Limited Permit + Residency Program||You obtain the Limited Permit immediately after you apply and it takes you 1 1/2 years to apply for and complete a residency program.|
$105 + 1 1/2 years
|It takes you 4 months to obtain the Limited Permit after you applied and it takes you 2 years to complete the residency program. You have to renew your permit after the first year.|
$210 + 2 years
|6 Examination Part I and II||t takes you four months to prepare for the NBDE and you pass parts I and II on your first try. You receive your license two months later.|
$735 + 6 months
|You pass the NBDE Part I once you are eligible to take it. After two and a half years you graduate and take NBDE Pt. II, which you pass.|
$7350 + 1 year
|More Efficient Total|
About $102,500 and 5 1/2 years
|Less Efficient Total|
About $122,500 and 7 1/2 years
5. OTHER CAREERS AND CREDENTIALS
The diversity of jobs in engineering and the high numbers of positions that do not require licensing make non-licensed 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 engineering projects. 2 years of college typical. 2010 median earnings nationally: $47,880.
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.
People trained in civil or structural engineering may find that earning construction management certificates offers a way for you to specialize in the medium term and save resources while still maintaining a critical role in your 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 once you are a Professional Engineer in the state of New York, you will need to research the process for filing the paperwork that will register your business.
Once you are licensed as a Professional Engineer your registration with the state is good for 3 years without any new requirements.
After your first 3 year registration period, you will need to register with the state every 3 years to maintain the right to practice as a PE in New York. You are also required to take 36 contact hours of continuing education each 3-year period.
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 New York 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.
- New York State Society of Professional Engineers
- National Society of Professional Engineers
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 AND RECIPROCITY
Some people with PE 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.
New York does not have any reciprocal agreements with other states where PE licenses are automatically granted. PEs from other states can qualify to practice as Professional Engineers in New York only through endorsement, which means that the Office of the Professions reviews all of your documentation and determines that you have met the standards for the state of New York.
When New York PEs want to work in other states, they must research and meet the licensing guidelines of their destination state, which can sometimes be less restrictive than New York regulations. In either case, some employers see the value in helping their engineers with licensing mobility when their business crosses state boundaries.
LIMITED NEW YORK PERMITS
For PEs whose business is based in another US state or even in a foreign country, there are two special short-term permits available that can authorize your legal practice of engineering in New York state for a limited time. These have very specific conditions which are explained on the Office of the Professions site.
(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.
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.
A school or university office where student records are kept.
7. IMPORTANT LINKS
REGULATION AND EVALUATION:
- The NY Education Department Office of the Professions processes and regulates licensing for Professional Engineers in the state. It includes specialized offices where you can get assistance:
- Office of the Professions basic contact information for phone assistance and mail:
Office of the Professions
Division of Professional Licensing Services
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234-1000
- Office of the Professions, Professional Engineering Unit – for questions about very specific questions about your licensing application and case file
Phone: 518-474-3817 ext. 250
- Bureau of Comparative Education, for questions about foreign credentials evaluation
Phone: 518-474-3817 ext. 300
- State Board for Engineering and Land Surveying, for questions about engineer practice
Phone: 518-474-3817 ext.140
- Office of the Professions basic contact information for phone assistance and mail:
- New York’s full Licensure application packet has easy-to-follow instructions for licensing and includes forms, an education credit chart to anticipate education credit, and an application checklist
- Exempt activities or roles for engineers are listed in New York regulations
- You can read the full Laws, Rules and Regulations that affect the practice of engineering in New York
- New York continuing education requirements
- The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) has a wealth of information about exams including study materials for sale online
- Castle Worldwide, Inc. processes and administers the FE and PE exams for the state of New York
- Exams Section with important site links to both FE and PE exam information
- FE Supplied-Reference Handbook contains equations and data you will need for the exam
- List of Accepted Calculators
Be your own advocate throughout the licensing process. Seek clarification about questions and concerns directly from official sources – be specific in any request you make by mail, email or phone and document your follow-up.
DON’T START FROM ZERO
Carefully document any foreign experience that may qualify to meet requirements for PE licensing
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 NCEES 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.