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First a little background, I've been working in Michigan as an engineer since getting my BSME in 1998 (I graduated with my MSME in 2010). I've worked for a number of companies in a variety of industries as an engineer, but never under the direct supervision of a licensed PE since all of the work I've done has been considered under "industrial exemption".

Now however, I'm becoming less interested in simply being an employee and more interested in working for myself and being a PE would be advantageous. I'm reasonably sure I can pass the exam (with copious amounts of studying, naturally), but my concern is getting my experience verified. The PE's that I know, I've never worked with, either as a subordinate or as a peer.

Has anyone had difficulty finding enough PE's to verify their experience when getting licensed? If so, were you successful in getting your experience verified? How do you recommend finding PE's to verify engineering work experience?

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  • $\begingroup$ Aren't the exact application and verification processes dependent on your state of residence? I feel like I remember applying to the state board of engineering (or whatever it is called) before applying to NCEES when I took my SE. I seem to remember the OK to take the exam came from the state, NCEES simply facilitates the exam (i.e. they don't do any credential verification). My point being, this question may be dependent on your state's specific requirements. $\endgroup$ – William S. Godfrey- S.E. Mar 21 '16 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @WilliamS.Godfrey Yes, the requirements do vary from state to state, while the precise details may be different, all of them require some manner of experience verification by existing PE's, which is the crux of my question. $\endgroup$ – DLS3141 Mar 21 '16 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @WilliamS.Godfrey - In the US, both the NCEES and the NSPE have done an amazing amount of work in order to bring about a higher degree of consistency from state to state regarding professional engineer licensing expectations. It's a dramatically different landscape from where things were 20, 15, or even 10 years ago. $\endgroup$ – user16 Mar 22 '16 at 0:09
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How can I verify my engineering work experience without having worked under a PE?

Many states offer the ability to substitute sufficient / substantial work experience for directly supervised work experience. The key difference here is that the obligation is upon the applicant to demonstrate how the in lieu of work still meets or preferably exceeds the expectations of the professional board with regards to the quality of the work produced. In other words, because you can't produce a PE to vouch for direct supervision then you have to demonstrate why the work ought to qualify.

From what I can tell of Michigan's work experience requirements, you ought to be able to substitute sufficient work experience.

Work Experience Requirements
All applicants must provide verification of at least 4 years of acceptable engineering work experience obtained after having received an acceptable bachelors degree. Work experience must be verified by five persons, three of whom must be licensed professional engineers.

The devil is obviously in the details, and it would behoove you to contact that board for exact details. But at first glance, it would appear that you'll be fine.


To be a little more prescriptive in what you specifically need to do:

  1. Contact the PE's that you've worked with before. Find as many that you can that are willing to vouch for the quality of your work. It's important to keep in mind that they are vouching more for your character and their perception of you following a particular process as opposed to direct supervision. Some states call these "character reference" recommendations.

    Michigan expects at least 3 PE's to vouch for your work, you would be better off getting more than that if you can. There's no harm in submitting more than 5 verifications as well, especially if they all hold PE's.

  2. Start documenting the work experience that you've already completed. Some states count a Masters of Engineering as an equivalent to one year of work experience. In that documentation, call out the processes that you followed and make sure to note the review portion of those processes. The state board is interested in work that demonstrates the full engineering process showing the beginning of the work through till the end and including the review to potentially improve the process itself.

  3. Finally, really start studying the law and regulations surrounding the particular field of engineering that you wish to advertise your services within. And let me be straight-up brutally honest for a moment: Sealing a document merely means that you're willing to accept liability for a project should something that was reasonably foreseen go wrong. That means you can personally be civilly or criminally held liable should there be a significant problem on a project. Make sure you're comfortable with reasonable standards of care for the projects you want to engage so you can demonstrate due diligence in your offerings.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @glenH7's train of thought. I was going to answer similarly based on my reading of laws in other states, but Michigan lacks some of the specific wording that appears elsewhere. In other states I have seen it more explicitly stated that work that falls under the industry exemption can still count. $\endgroup$ – hazzey Mar 22 '16 at 1:19
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know the US system, but based on the UK equivalent, item 2 is a critical one here. If you haven't done so already, start a "log book" of your work experience, with entries at a month-by-month or even week-by-week level of detail, stating what you are doing and how it is relevant to meeting the requirements. A PE who doesn't know you personally but is used to mentoring applicants should be able to use that logbook (plus an "interview" with you to confirm it is a fair description of your work) to vouch for you, or to tell you what further experience you need to meet the requirements. $\endgroup$ – alephzero Mar 22 '16 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7 Thanks for that comprehensive answer, If I could upvote it twice, I would. To your point number 3, I do understand the implications of placing my seal on a document. One of my "hobbies" is studying failure, in particular the Hyatt Regency incident in Kansas City where the fact that the engineer had placed their seal on a few key prints led to them being found liable for not just the structural collapse, but also the injuries and deaths that occurred. $\endgroup$ – DLS3141 Mar 23 '16 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ @DLS3141 - You may find another question of mine of interest then. There's an interesting degree of nuance behind that particular failure, especially with respect to who was liable for what and what actual communications occurred. $\endgroup$ – user16 Mar 23 '16 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7 I saw that question last year and gave an answer. I think it was shortly after I joined. The case is of particular interest to me since I'd been to that hotel before as a kid and I had an uncle that was there when it happened who could give me a first hand account of the event and the chaos that came after. $\endgroup$ – DLS3141 Mar 23 '16 at 3:08

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