Most states require that you supply references vouching for your work history and capabilities. In many states, some or all of these references must be licensed professional engineers. For example, here in Oklahoma, three of the five references must be licensed P.E.'s. If you work in a state that has an industrial or manufacturing exemption (discussed in a previous post) then you may have a problem finding references that are licensed. Or, you may work in a company that is out-of-compliance regarding the requirement to have a P.E. in direct supervision of non-licensed engineers.
How do you obtain a license if you don't have the required number of licensed references? First, contact your state board. They may have a special procedure to deal with this situation. Beyond that, you will need to see if your company is willing to provide the needed P.E. references by one of the options mentioned in the next section. If they are not willing, you should be looking for another job.
Out-of-compliance companies or companies with the industrial exemption
Some industrial companies may operate in states (such as my home state) that still require that engineering work be supervised by licensed engineers. If they aren't adequately audited by the state board, then they may become out-of-compliance with the regulations. Eventually, their employees may not have the needed references to become P.E.'s.
Options for companies with insufficient P.E.'s for either proper supervision or for references
This option could take years to accomplish because they would probably only be hired on an attrition basis.
The consultant option will only work if the consultant has frequent contact with the employees. For example, my previous employer hired a professor to come to R&D on about a quarterly basis to review the active projects. The employees would discuss their work and possibly make presentations of experimental plans and results. The professor would make suggestions, including providing literature citations for appropriate work. That professor, who had a P.E. license, would make an appropriate P.E. reference. It would be appropriate to alert the consultant ahead of time that he/she will be serving as a reference for designated engineering interns.
This option is for large companies that may be out-of-compliance in a portion of the company, such as R&D, but have P.E.'s elsewhere in the company. The P.E. that serves as the reference is obligated to be "knowledgeable" of the employee's work. One way to accomplish that is to include the task of serving as P.E. reference for X, Y and Z employees on the P.E.'s job description or performance review and then including he/she on all correspondence and reports by X. Y and Z employees. In addition, some scheduled meetings with the employees such as mentioned in Option 2 would be useful.
Some combination of the three options can be used to allow employees to apply for a license. It would be prudent for the company to discuss their plan with their state's engineering board to be certain that it will meet their requirement for P.E. references. Eventually, the company will have enough P.E.'s to serve as supervisors and/or references.
If you have a M.S. or PhD
The professor that supervised your project(s) in graduate school may be used as a reference because the work occurred after obtaining your B.S. Undergraduate professors most likely may not qualify since they can only comment on your course work or undergraduate projects, not on engineering work after graduation.
The fine print
The above suggestions are based on a discussion I had with the OK State Board of Prof. Eng. and Surveyors. However, you should consult with your state board if you don't have the number of P.E. references required.
The chemical PE course now comes in only one "flavor". I have selected the option previously called the Premium Course as the only option for the reasons below.
The selected version includes the student/instructor Forum. I believe this forum will make it much easier for me to communicate with all students regarding possible errors and course updates. With the previous Basic Course, I was going to have to use email which is more difficult.
The VIP Private Course involved a couple of web services that greatly increased my cost. Eliminating this option also eliminated a lot of my time devoted to session scheduling and consultation, and web software maintenance.
Comparison with other courses
My course is currently priced at $475. This is ~$50 below the lowest price of the popular courses available. That course
does not have computer-based and timed quizzes and practice exams (none of the other courses have this feature). A student forum is also not available in that course. The course is not computer-based...notebooks are mailed to the clients. Communication with instructors is by email or phone.
The next higher priced course available costs $990. Written materials cost an additional $125. That course includes a student forum as in my course. One disadvantage of this course is the 60 hr. of video you have to watch. Communication with instructors is by submitting questions in writing on the course website.
The highest priced course costs $1616-$1916 depending upon the amount of time you can access the course. This course has 50 hr. of video. It appears there is no communication with the instructors in this course. A more expensive version of this course includes 10 office hours.
Free upgrade to Basic Course
I have upgraded previous purchases of the Basic Course to the new course at no extra charge. The early bird gets the worm!
The Premium Course option includes the student/instructor forum which is not present with the Basic Course option. That forum was actually conceived when the PE exam was given twice a year, not year-around as it will be in 2018 and beyond. With the fixed semi-annual schedule, students would most likely be at similar stages in the course, thereby fostering a helpful, community dialog about the course material. With the year-around exam format, the number of students at the same point in the course might be few, resulting in less participation in the forum. Thus, for individuals, the Basic and Private VIP options might be the best choices.
Companies may wish to enroll a group of their employees. In that case, they will all be starting at the same time, so the forum may have more value to that group of students. If desired, I can make the forum private for company groups. Each company would have their own community in the forum. Thus, for companies, the Premium Course might be the most attractive option. A company wishing to enroll a group in the Premium Course may request a private forum using the CONTACT ME form.
All PE exams are managed by NCEES. They have announced that the normal October exam will not be given for chemical engineers. Beginning in January 2018, the ChE PE exam will be computer-based and it will be available, by appointment, year-around. My course is fully computer-based also, including quizzes and a final exam.
No personal reference materials allowed
The most significant change is that you will not be allowed to bring any references or notes into the test room. Instead, a pdf file of the NCEES chemical reference manual will be on the test computer. You will search it for data, equations, and other information. This change meant that I couldn't provide shortcut formulas unless they could be easily memorized. Therefore, I have modified the lectures accordingly.
The manual is primarily for reference, not as a replacement for a review course. It doesn't provide example problems, so you would not get the practice you need by just reading the manual. As an example, my first module is about heat and material balances. The NCEES manual provides diagrams of a few of the typical problems that appear on the exam for this subject, but it does not provide solution methodology. Also, the manual, at this time has many errors. In the course, I have pointed out the errors that I have found. Many of the errors are due to undefined variables. Without knowing the variables, equations and plots become useless.
According to NCEES, the subject material for the exam remains the same as it has been since 2011. However, in many cases, the reference manual doesn't discuss problems that have appeared on exams in that period. One possible explanation is that the material can be readily derived, so formulas do not need to be provided. I have provided lecture material and example problems that better represent the typical exams.
My course also integrates with the NCEES manual by providing search terms for finding key information. Granted, you won't have a list with you in the exam, but you may be able to remember many of them, thereby saving some time.
The Course is now available
I just published the PE Exam review course to my website. If you have not tried the Free Trial, please register now. To purchase the full course, go to COURSE PRICING.
Let's assume that a manufacturing company operates in a state that has no exemption for manufacturing companies. What are the consequences of being discovered by the regulators that they are out-of-compliance?
If the company were an engineering service company, they would probably lose their corporation papers from the state, preventing them from doing business. However, that would probably not happen for a manufacturing company. Instead, that company may receive a small fine. But there is possibly an even greater penalty.
Suppose the out-of-compliance determination is made because of a planned construction of a new process or manufacturing plant. That plant may be prevented from being built if all of the engineering tasks were not performed by or supervised by a PE. The company might be forced to repeat the research and pilot studies under proper supervision. Since the patent "clock" has already gone through a couple of development years since the catalyst or process was first published, further delay can be costly.
Out-of-compliance companies also may suffer when they are recruiting. If you, a recruit, understand that the laws regarding engineering licensing are designed to protect everyone's safety, would you choose to work for a company that disregards those laws? Would you choose to work for a company that doesn't value or recognize your profession in the same manner that it values and recognizes the professions of other employees, e.g. doctors, nurses, lawyers?
The following is excerpted from the definition of practice of engineering in the Oklahoma statute:
"...any of which embraces such services or work, either public or private, in connection with any utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, work systems, projects, ....". [underline by me]
And further in that paragraph:
"...insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health or property..."
Notice it doesn't say public life. The safety of employees is also of concern.
What do your state's regulations say on this matter?
This myth is just Myth 2 in a different form. But to further explain, let's look at a typical design process.
Assume your company, "A", has developed a new process and contracts with an engineering firm, "B", to provide the final design. The first thing that is needed is the design basis. Company "B" will ask "A" to provide that basis, or to answer questions that will help define the basis. The information that is provided will be based on results of the research and development program conducted by your company (by you). Your company may also provide results of preliminary design studies conducted by your company (by you). The information provided will most likely mean that the engineering company won't be involved in making many of the design decisions, such as reactor type, pressures and temperatures.
It should be clear from the above scenario that research and development work done by engineers in "A" will affect the design of the plant. Thus, the engineering firm can't shoulder all of the responsibility for the safety of the final design. The state regulators know this too and therefore they expect all engineering work to be done by, or directly supervised by a professional, licensed engineer.
Requiring "B" to review the design basis data and reports provided by "A" does not satisfy the law. Every document related to a design, including reports from "A", must be stamped by the professional engineer in responsible charge of that specific work. Again using Oklahoma law as an example (OK Administrative Code Title 245),
"The intent of the law shall not be met if an unlicensed person independently performs engineering work, to then be reviewed, signed and sealed by a professional engineer. An unlicensed person may only be used if the professional engineer is personally directing the unlicensed person and the work is performed concurrent with the supervision." (Underlines are by me.)
Clearly, you may conduct your engineering work in company "A" without a license, but you have to be directly supervised by a licensed professional engineer. If that is not the case, then both you and your company are probably not in compliance with the law and are subject to fines and penalties. And, as I stated in the previous blog, the requirement that a direct supervisor have a PE license can have a major impact on promotion potential. Basically, without a PE license, you can't be legally in charge of unlicensed "engineers.
This is a common belief. However, it is not true in most cases. To help dispel this myth, let's look at the Oklahoma law regarding the licensing of engineers (O.S. Title 59, Section 475). This statute defines the "practice of engineering" as follows:
"...any service or creative work, the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training and experience in the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to such services or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning and design of engineering works and systems, planning the engineering use of land and water, teaching of advanced engineering subjects or courses related thereto, engineering research, engineering surveys, engineering studies, and the inspection or review of construction for the purposes of assuring compliance with drawings and specifications; any of which embraces such services or work, either public or private, in connection with any utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, work systems, projects, and industrial or consumer products or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, chemical, environmental, hydraulic, pneumatic or thermal nature, insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health or property, and including such other professional services as may be necessary to the design review and integration of a multidiscipline work, planning, progress and completion of any engineering services."
Granted, your state may have a different definition, but my guess is that the above is fairly representative for the country.
I underlined some tasks to emphasize that research and other studies are not exempt if they eventually lead to structures, processes, systems or products (i.e. final designs). It makes perfect sense that the engineering decisions made during the final design process are dependent upon the engineering studies and research that was used as reference data and recommendations prior to the design. I know this might be a stretch, but I could make a case that even studies that have "negative" results might be considered as part of a design basis. For example, if a design option was excluded due to an experiment with a negative outcome, that research and outcome had an impact on the design. If the research was conducted improperly, or the results were interpreted improperly, the best design option might have been excluded. That in turn might have an adverse effect on safety. Bottom line: final design includes everything that came before. If your work was involved in the "everything that came before", you should have a PE license.
You may think that because you work for a manufacturing company that you don't need a PE license. That is true in some states, but by no means all states.
The National Society of Engineers keeps track of the exemptions to the requirement of a PE license for persons performing engineering tasks. A summary they produced in August of 2016 showed only two states with no exemptions. However, a closer look provides a much different picture.
Many of the exemptions are for federal, state and municipal employees. Other exemptions are for special corporations such as telecommunications companies and public utility companies. Some states exempt employees involved in manufacturing operations but not in the development and design of the processes and facilities.
After a closer examination, about half of the states have no exemption for employees of manufacturing companies that might involve the employment of chemical engineers.
Your status will most likely change
Even if your state does exempt employees working for a manufacturing company, you still should consider obtaining your PE license to increase your promotion potential and job mobility. With the current practice of outsourcing many job functions, including engineering, your next job may likely be in an engineering service firm. There you will be required to either have a PE license, or you will have to be directly supervised by a PE engineer with a license in your discipline. As you can see, that "directly supervised" requirement greatly limits your entry level and advancement opportunities in the service company.
I have completed all of the study material and practice problems for the course. Currently I am creating the timed, online quizzes for each module. This progress means I am still on schedule to release the course for sale on July 1.
The myths surrounding the PE license
I am going to start a series of blog posts about the misconceptions regarding the need to have a PE license. Although these misconceptions may not reach the status of a myth, for the purpose of abbreviation, that's what I'm going to call them.