Engineering is an extensively regulated profession that needs professional licenses in the state of Virginia. This is because not only do engineers need technical knowledge, but also their work is substantially critical.
The professional engineer license symbolizes a high standard of competence, achievement, and assurance of quality. The professional engineer is an engineer licensed by Virginia Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyor, Certified Interior Designer, and Landscape Architects to practice engineering.
Basic standards for professional engineering licensure include education, passing the required tests (including fundamentals of engineering, and principles and practice of engineering test) directed by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), experience, and application for licensure through a state engineering board.
Definition of Terms and Abbreviations
‘Board’ means Virginia Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, and Landscape Architects.
Application means completed application with required documents and appropriate fee.
Licensed means a person who holds a valid license issued by the board.
ABET stands for Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
EAC stands for Engineering Accreditation Commission.
TAC stands for Technology Accreditation Commission.
EIT stands for Engineer-in-training.
Why Should You Become a Professional Engineer?
A professional engineer license is a substantial achievement and broadens career options. This is because most projects require a professional engineer license to work as a senior engineer, advertise to provide engineering services, carry out patent work, work in public safety, and testify as an expert witness. Generally, licensed professional engineers receive higher compensation in comparison to unlicensed engineers.
General Application Requirements
Applicants need to meet the general application requirements; otherwise, they cannot apply for a professional engineering license in Virginia:
1. Applicants must be of good moral character.
2. Applications need to be completed on time and per the instructions provided by the board.
3. The required test results shall be received by the board before the deadline established by the board. Applications and accompanying materials and references become the property of the board upon submission.
4. All required documents and fees shall be submitted to the board within three years, beginning from the date of initial application fee. If the candidate fails to do that, the board will not process the application, and the applicant has to submit a new application.
5. The board may carry out further examination and inquiries regarding the submitted documents and qualifications of the applicant to verify the provided information.
6. If an applicant fails to submit additional documents or information required by the board within 60 days of receiving written notice, the application will be eligible for disapproval. However, if the board does not set a deadline, the application will not be subjected to rejection.
7. After considerations, the board may accept applicants who have not met the general application requirement based on the provisions of the Virginia Administrative Process Act.
Steps to Become Professional Engineer or Structural Engineer
Commonly, professional engineer licensing starts with a four-year degree from a program certified by ABET.
2. Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam
Applicants must pass the written exam for the Fundamentals of Engineering. The exam covers basic engineering principles, and in some instances, elements of engineering specialty. The NCEES provides FE tests in various disciplines, namely civil, chemical, mechanical, industrial and systems, environmental, electrical and computer, and other disciplines. Table-1 provides requirements that applicants need to meet to be eligible to appear for FE.
|No.||Educational requirements||Required number of years of qualifying engineering experience|
A. Be enrolled in ABET-accredited undergraduate EAC or TAC curriculum, have a maximum of 12 months before completing the degree, and have a certificate of good standing from the engineering school dean or his designee.
B. Be enrolled in ABET-accredited graduate or doctorate EAC or TAC curriculum, have a maximum of six months before completing the degree, and have a certificate of good standing from the engineering school dean or his designee.
C. Be registered in a graduate curriculum that is ABET-accredited EAC or TAC at the undergraduate level at the institution where the graduate degree is being pursued, have a maximum of six months before completing the degree, and have a certificate of good standing from the engineering school dean or his designee.
|2||Graduated from an approved engineering or an approved engineering technology curriculum||0|
|3||Dual degree holders:|
A. Graduated from non-ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering curriculum of four years or more, and
B. Graduate from a graduate or doctorate engineering curriculum that is accredited at the undergraduate level
|4||Graduated from a non-approved engineering curriculum or a related science curriculum of four years or more.||2|
|5||Have obtained, by documented academic coursework, an equivalent of education that meets ABET-accreditation requirements for baccalaureate engineering technology curricula. The board judges whether education is assumed to be equivalent or not.||6|
*The board’s office should receive the application no later than 60 days before the scheduled exam. However, other documents should be submitted to the board’s office no later than 130 days before the scheduled exam.
The applicants can request Engineer-in-trainee certification after passing the FE exam. The EIT must complete four years of qualifying experience, generally under the supervision of a professional engineer. The EIT certification remains valid for an indefinite amount of time.
The applicants cannot appear for the ‘principles and practice of engineering exam’ before a minimum of four years of satisfactory and verifiable work experience in the industry.
Experiences and training requirements are evaluated based on a minimum application rate of working of 35hrs/week. Any training and experience achieved at a working rate of fewer than 35hrs/week will not be accepted.
Nonetheless, years of experience required before sitting in the PE exam may change based on the candidate's education. Table-2 presents requirements before appearing for the PE exam.
4. Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam
The candidates need to pass the principles and practice of the engineering exam. The exam tests the knowledge and skills of applicants in specific disciplines. The applicant is permitted to have a maximum of three attempts every 12 months. The NCEES provides PE exam in the following fields:
- Architectural and biology
- Architectural engineering
- Control systems
- Electrical and computer
- Fire protection
- Industrial and systems
- Metallurgical and materials
- Mining and metal processing
- Naval architecture and marine
|No.||Educational requirements||Is EIT needed or not?||Number of required years of qualifying engineering experience|
|1||Graduate of engineering curriculum of four years or more, or graduate engineering curriculum approved by the board||Yes||4|
|2||Dual degree holders:|
A. Graduated from undergraduate engineering curriculum that is ABET-accredited, and
B. Graduated from a doctorate engineering curriculum that is ABET-accredited at the undergraduate level.
|3||Graduated from an unapproved engineering curriculum of four years or more, a related science curriculum, or an approved engineering curriculum.||Yes||6|
|4||Graduated from an unapproved engineering technology curriculum of four years or more.||Yes||10|
|5||Have achieved, by documented academic coursework, an equivalent of education that meets ABET-accreditation requirements for baccalaureate engineering technology curricula. The board judges whether education is assumed to be equivalent or not.||Yes||10|
|6||Graduated from an engineering, engineering technology, or related science curriculum of four years or more.||No||20|
Application for Professional Engineer License
The candidate can apply to the state board of engineers for a license when general standard requirements are met. All the steps should be cleared successfully in order to be eligible to get the professional license. Usually, the PE exam is the final step for applicants. After that, the board will process the papers and issue the license. The time required to process the papers is based on the meeting of the state licensing board. The fee includes an application fee and a fee for processing exam applications.
In addition to the exams and qualifications, applicants need to submit the following documents:
References submitted to the board shall meet the following requirements:
- The written reference should not be more than one year old when received by the board office.
- The person who provides the reference must have known the candidate for at least one year.
- The individual providing the reference is not eligible to verify experience.
- The person who provides the reference must have known the candidate within the last five years from the date of application to the board.
- The applicant of the fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam needs to provide one reference that shows their integrity from a professional engineer, immediate work supervisor, or the dean or his designee of the school attended by the candidate.
- The applicant of principles and practices of engineering (PE) exam shall provide three references from a professional engineer licensed in a state or other United States jurisdiction. The professional engineer should be aware of the applicants' integrity and competence concerning his engineering experience.
Language and Comprehension
If English is not the applicant's first language and they have not graduated from an institution with English as the language of instruction, he/she will need to submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT) result to the board.
The score report should not be more than two years old at the time of application, and the score should be within the board's limits.
Applicants for licensure or certification should be able to speak and write in English to the board's satisfaction.
The fees is not returned to the applicants:
|Application for Engineering-in-training||30|
|Application for an initial professional engineering license||60|
A professional engineer is an engineer licensed by the state board to practice engineering.
The general steps to become a professional engineer are presented below. The details of deadlines and required documents may vary from one state to another:
1. Graduate from ABET-accredited engineering program.
2. Pass the fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam.
3. Work as an engineer and gain experience of four years under the supervision of a professional engineer.
4. Pass the principles and practice of engineering (PE) exam. The applicant cannot appear for the PE exam before passing the FE exam.
Engineers should pass the FE exam to achieve an engineer-in-training (EIT) certificate, an essential requirement to appear for principles and practices of engineering (PE) exam and finally become a professional engineer.
The PE exam is a vital requirement to become a professional engineer in the United States. The exam tests the knowledge and skills of applicants in specific disciplines.