I studied Civil Engineering at the University of Brighton having been born and bred in Brighton. As is standard in the UK I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in three years.
While I was at university I met and fell in love with an American who lived in Florida (her name is Martina by the way). Since I was a little more easy-going than her I made the trek to the US rather than the other way around so I now found myself, recently graduated, living in the States.
Work permit and green card issues aside I finally got a job working as a Civil Engineer with Black & Veatch. It wasn’t long before I started investigating what needed to be done to become a professional engineer in Florida. After all, in order to get anywhere in your career it’s somewhat expected/required (as is becoming Chartered in the UK).
As I have a foreign degree the Florida Board of Professional Engineers makes you get your education evaluated, which as I recall, cost about $250. It required getting my university and even my A-level exam boards to send transcripts of all my results directly to the evaluator (they cannot come through you). Several weeks later, I got a letter from them describing all the courses I had taken and how they compare to an ABET degree, which requires 32 credit hours in higher mathematics and basic sciences, 48 credit hours in engineering science and engineering design, and 16 hours in humanities and social sciences.
As is typical in the UK, when you go to university, you strictly study the course you enroll for. So as a civil engineer, I studied engineering. Not philosophy. Not English. Not history. And certainly not religious studies.
So my evaluation essentially noted that I had more than enough hours is mathematics and engineering but that I was slightly deficient in basic science (this is the stuff we learnt in secondary school, which doesn’t count in your accreditation) and deficient in humanities and social sciences. Apparently history is a really important aspect of becoming an engineer!
After doing some research I found out that you can take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (otherwise known as the FE exam, or EIT – a prerequisite to taking your PE exam) if your only educational deficiency is in the social sciences and humanities area.
So I bit the bullet and took the three classes in basic sciences that I needed to at least make myself eligible to take the FE and thankfully I passed first time around.
I had looked at other states, particularly Texas – and you’ll see why in a minute – to see whether they also required you to have all of these education requirements in place, but most states did. Texas did have some workarounds, but for some reason, you need to be a resident of Texas to take the FE in that state, so I just gave in and took the stupid classes.
With my EIT designation I was now hell-bent on getting my PE out of the way. With the appropriate work experience under my belt I started looking at all different states and how I could skirt the rules to take my exam in their state. Florida will not let you take the PE exam unless you fully meet their educational requirements including the humanities and social sciences which I really wanted to avoid having to do.
Then I stumbled upon Texas. For a state that most of us might see as relatively archaic they’re actually quite forward-thinking thinking when it comes to their board of Professional Engineers. The Texas rules have educational requirements just like every other state but the difference in Texas is that, if you don’t have a US degree, they abide by the Washington Accord which recognises degrees from accredited engineering programs in each signatory’s respective country – one of which is the UK (the others are Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Japan, Sri Lanka, Taipei, India, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey and Singapore, with more being added as standards improve). That means that any engineering course accredited by the Engineering Council in the UK is as good as a US degree in the eyes of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. Result!! Since my course was accredited (you can check your UK degree here) I was then eligible to sit for the PE in Texas having met all of the other application criteria (this was the only real hurdle – everything else is relatively standard including 4 years of work experience).
With that I immediately applied to the Board and did a little dance when the email came in telling me that my application had been approved. I set about booking flights, a hotel and a car and preparing for the exam.
While I probably didn’t study as much as I should have and I wasn’t as confident as I would have liked, after a 6 week wait I finally got the good news that I had passed. As of that moment, I was a Professional Engineer registered in the state of Texas. For me that’s kind of the end of the story: my main motive for getting the PE was advancement in my career – I couldn’t get promoted any more without getting my PE and my company didn’t care that my PE was from a different state than the state that I work in so I have no particular need to go any further at least for now.
For others they may still need to get registered in their own state so that they can actually sign and seal documents and I can tell you that as far as Florida goes they don’t care how much work experience you have, if you’re a PE in another state, or if you designed the Aswan dam: you cannot apply for a PE in Florida unless you meet their educational requirements. This is something of a joke: I had a colleague who was a Chartered Engineer in the UK for 20 years and was a respected heavy-civil engineer, but none of that mattered: he had to go to back to school to pass stupid classes like trigonometry, take the FE and then take the PE. The system really is broken and while mine could have been made worse by having to take the humanities and social sciences in order to get licensed in Florida, it still was quite an effort to get licensed at all.
I remain eternally thankful to the Lone Star state.
Update: July 18th, 2013
This article caught the eye of one of the editors at Professional Engineer magazine and he asked if he could publish it in an upcoming edition. So I was only too happy to oblige.
Since then, I’ve had a number of emails come in from various people, but I was most intrigued to receive one directly from the executive director of the Florida Board of Professional Engineers, Zana Raybon.
She indicated that despite everything I had been told by FBPE up to this point there is in fact a way to get licensed in Florida in my situation. According to her (and I haven’t looked into this too much yet) once you have had your license in another state for two years you can apply for endorsement which is similar to reciprocity but does not include the need to have the humanities hours.
So it seems as though I will be able to apply for a Florida PE by endorsement next December. Not sure if I’ll still be in the state by then or if I even want to bother pursuing this option at this point given how much I feel messed around by FBPE but we’ll see what happens I suppose.
Update 2: June 15th, 2015
Per the update above I was eligible to apply for licensure by endorsement in Florida after holding a PE in another state for at least 2 years. With my company’s support I filed the application in February this year and about 3 months later the Board approved my application for licensure in Florida so I am now officially a Florida PE (and a Texas PE).
I will likely give up the Texas PE as it was a means to an end and doesn’t offer up any professional benefits since I don’t perform work in the state of Texas.
I graduated 9 years ago, started working as an engineer more than 8 years ago and I’m finally licensed in my state as a Professional Engineer. It’s been a long road but I have finally arrived.