Can You Become a Professional Engineer Without a Degree?

Get PE license without degree

So, you got a degree in a field other than engineering or have no degree at all and want to become a Professional Engineer (PE)? Well, you may be in luck, because you might be able to make it happen. It just depends on which state you’re in.

Some states allow you to become a Professional Engineer without a degree as long as you pass the FE and PE Exams and fulfill some additional requirements. In most cases, this means having many additional years of work experience, but it depends on the rules of your state engineering board.

In other words, the states that will let you get a PE license without a degree require a lot of additional work experience as an engineer, sometimes up to 12 years or more!

Let’s dive in and figure out how to find out what your board requires and if you have a shot at becoming a Professional Engineer without a degree!

How to Find Out If Your State Will Let You Become a PE Without a Degree

The first step for finding the details of your state’s requirements is to get onto your state engineering board’s website. You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Head to this page on the NCEES website, click on your state, then scroll to the bottom to find the link to your state board’s website. You do not have to select the exam type to find your state board.
  2. Do a Google search for “[your state name] engineering board.” If I type in “Utah engineering board” the first hit is the right one.

Once you’re on the right site you’ll have to do some additional searching for the information you’re looking for. All of these sites are organized differently and some are easier to navigate than others. 

You’ll want to search for either the application to take the PE exam or the application to get your Professional Engineer’s license. On the Utah engineering board’s website, for instance, this is under “Licensing” and “Apply for a License” as seen here:

Your state’s website will look different but the idea is the same. Keep searching around until you find the application either in online or PDF format and go into that application.

Once you’re in the application you want to hit CTRL + F on a Windows or CMD + F on a Mac to search and then type in “education” to find the right section. This will take you to the part of the application that outlines your state’s education requirements to get licensed and will tell you whether or not you can get licensed without a degree.

Here’s what that section looks like for the application to become a PE in Utah:

The first two requirements include having a four-year ABET-accredited engineering degree, so that won’t apply if you don’t have a degree.

But if we look at that third requirement we’ll see that you may get your license in Utah if you completed an engineering degree in a foreign country or if you’ve “been licensed as an engineer and practiced as a principal for 5 of the last 7 years in another state in lieu of having met the education requirements for licensure.”

What that means is that you’d need to find another state that will let you get licensed without a degree, get your license there and practice as a principal for at least 5 of the last 7 years if you want to get your PE license in Utah but don’t have a degree.

Sounds complicated! At this point, it may just be easier to go back to school to get an ABET-accredited engineering degree if you really want to get licensed. 

But how hard is it really to get licensed without a degree in other states?

Can You Just Take the PE Exam and Get Licensed in Another State First?

Sometimes, it may work to just get licensed as a PE in a state with less strict requirements and then get what’s known as a comity PE license in your state. That’s essentially when a state will let you fill out an application and get a license there because you have a license in a different state. 

So, for instance, I’m licensed in Utah, so if I wanted to get a comity PE license in Arizona I may be able to. It just depends on the state’s requirements. 

Some states have stricter requirements, so they will only let you get that comity license under certain circumstances. Utah’s rule that if you don’t have a degree you have to have been a PE and practiced as a principle for 5 of the last 7 years is one example. 

So to make this work you’ll have to do some digging. First, you’ll need a state that will let you get your PE license without a degree. Next, you’ll need to look into your own state’s requirements (or any other states that you want to become a PE in) to see if they’ll let you get licensed there by comity. Usually you can still take the PE Exam in the state you live in.

I’ve done some research and already discovered that Washington is one state that will let you get licensed without a degree. Although they do require 8 years of experience as an engineer, so you’ll have to decide if that’s worth it. If you think you can get a job as an engineer in Washington without a degree then go for it, but that might be tough. If that doesn’t work for you then do your research to find other states that might allow you to get your PE without a degree.

Wrapping Up

When all is said and done it’s a lot easier to get licensed as a Professional Engineer if you have an ABET-accredited engineering degree. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get licensed as a PE if you don’t have a degree.

All you have to do is head to your state engineering board’s website, find the application to become a PE or take the PE exam, and read through the education requirements. If your state won’t allow you to get licensed as a PE without a degree, check into other states that might have less strict requirements to see if you can get licensed there first. 

You may have to get more work experience if you don’t have a degree, but if that’s what’s for you then go for it! 

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