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I'm in school for electronics engineering. Would someone lay out the high level steps in becoming a professional engineer (PE) in the state of California?

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There are slight variations in requirements between individual states. Please check with the respective State Board of Professional Engineering for those exceptions. At a very high level steps are:

  • Obtain a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) from an ABET accredited engineering program
  • Successfully complete the Fundamentals in Engineering exam to obtain Engineering in Training (EIT) status
  • Gain professional experience (typically four years minimum)
  • Learn about California state's licensure requirements
  • Successfully complete the Professional Engineer exam

The above is also detailed by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE):

How To Get Licensed (NSPE)

If you're a graduate from an engineering program approved by your state's licensure board, you can become classified as an "engineer intern" or "engineer-in-training" by successfully completing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Achieving EI or EIT status signals that you have mastered the fundamental requirements and taken the first step toward earning your PE licensure.

All states require that candidates complete four years of qualifying engineering experience, typically under the supervision of a professional engineer. ...

Each state (as well as the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories) has its own licensure board, administering its own exam and required qualifications. To find out more about your state's licensure requirements, visit the Web site of your state licensing board state-by-state summary.

In most cases, the final step in attaining licensure is successfully completing the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam in your state.


References:

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California has a few notable exceptions - they try to favor graduates from the in-state schools, but are very picky on structural engineers. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • You do not need to have 4 years of experience if you are a resident and graduated from a California School. 2 years is acceptable.
  • For all licenses except Civil, working in industry (v. studying under a guiding engineer) is considered acceptable experience, so long as the test score is high enough
  • The ethics examination needs to be completed by hand and submitted. You do not know if you passed until you get your information back.
  • Feedback isn't done by e-mail, it's done by postcards. Always include 2 self addressed post cards in your packet when you mail it in.
  • Reviewers are assigned based upon last name. Redoing the packet will mean that it will get reviewed again by the same reviewer.
  • Electrical, Mechanical, and Civil have some interesting rules on personal recommendations. Civil can only have other Civil. Mechanical can have Civil or Mechanical. Electrical can only have Civil or Electrical. Anything else (besides structural!) can have any recommendation desired.
  • To gain a structural license, you have to have a Civil license. Then another 4 years of additional experience studying as a licensed Civil engineer under a structural engineer. Then you have to get Structural Engineer recommendations, then take the 2 part structural examination. It's very complicated for structural engineers.
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