How to Get Licensed in Electrical Engineering in the US

by Jeffrey Joyner

Electrical engineers are involved in the design, manufacture and testing of a variety of devices and systems. Some electrical engineers focus on navigation systems, including radar systems. Others concentrate on the electrical systems used in airplanes or automobiles, while others prefer to work with electric motors or equipment used to generate power. Although licenses for electrical engineers are not universally required, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed engineers may have better employment opportunities.

State Licensing Boards

There is no federal law requiring licensing for electrical engineers. Instead, each state decides whether to require a license and, if so, what criteria the engineer must meet to be eligible. So, the first step in becoming a licensed electrical engineer is to determine the requirements in your state. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, in Resources, provides links to the state licensing boards.

Basic Requirements for Licensure

Virtually all state licensing boards require candidates to have earned an engineering degree from a university certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET. Once an engineer has earned his degree, he may immediately take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam offered by NCEES, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Most states require a passing grade on this exam. The engineer must then work as an engineering intern or engineer-in-training for the number of years specified by the state. Once the required experience is obtained, he may take the NCEES Professional Engineering exam.

Continuing Education and Licensing Reciprocation

Education may not end with licensing. Some states require electrical engineers to take continuing-education courses if they want to retain their license. Licensed electrical engineers who move to another state may find that they need to earn a license in their new state. However, if the licensing requirements in the former state are at least as stringent as those in the new state, such steps may be unnecessary.

The Value of Licensure

Licensing is one method by which states attempt to protect the public safety and health. Licensure demonstrates the engineer's competency and commitment to professional responsibilities and ethics. Many employers prefer licensed electrical engineers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, especially those employers who have government contracts to supply services or goods.

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