The PE Exam costs $375 in most cases, but that’s just the fee to take the exam. You’re going to have a lot of other costs if you want to have a shot at actually passing the test.
I’ve done the research for you so you can get an idea of how much it will cost you and included everything I learned when I took the test myself.
The NCEES PE Exam Cost
Let’s talk about the cost of the exam itself as this is the first and most vital. According to the NCEES website:
“The cost to take the PE exam varies from state to state (or foreign location). Depending on where you register, fees may be paid directly to NCEES, a state licensing board, or a designee of the board. Visit the engineering licensure section, and select your exam location for more information about your registration fees and payees. You may be prompted to contact your state licensing board (or foreign entity) directly.”
Here in Utah where I took the exam, I paid $350 just to take the test. If you want to know the PE Exam cost for your state, just click here to go to the NCEES engineering exam registration page. Here’s what it looks like when you get there:
You then want to click on your state on the grey map of the United States. In the image above, I’ve clicked on Utah because that’s where I took the exam. Below, you’ll see a section where you can select your specific exam:
I chose PE, then Civil: Structural for my discipline. Once you make this selection, you’ll see the following information appear at the bottom of the page:
I’ve highlighted the next place you need to go to find the fees for your specific state. The other information about results and refunds is important to know also, but for now, we just want to know what it costs to take the test itself. After clicking on “Exam sites and fees,” this is what I see for Utah, but your state may be different:
Exam Locations shows you the general area within your state that you can expect to take the test. When you register for your test, NCEES will notify you of the exact building in which you’ll take the test a few weeks before the exam.
Exams Offered is just the types of tests offered, based on your previous discipline selection. I know they offer the FE exam for my state as well, but because I selected PE, that’s what shows there. PE (Paper) is different from the Structural (Paper), as we’ll see next.
Registration Fees is pretty self-explanatory, but let’s talk about each of these tests and what they mean:
- FE (CBT) – FE is the fundamentals of engineering exam, which you have probably already taken or will before taking the PE exam. CBT stands for Computer-Based Test, which means no scantrons.
- PE (CBT) – This one surprised me, but after some research I discovered that NCEES is changing all Paper exams to CBT over the next few years. Click here for the list of when each PE exam will become CBT and scroll to the middle section. For now though, CBT for the PE exam isn’t an option, as you’ll see back in the “Exams Offered” section.
- PE (Paper) – This is the test that I am taking, and you see the cost of $350 in the screenshot above. Paper means the format is scantron with fill-in bubbles for each exam question.
- Structural (Paper) – This is not the same as the PE Civil Structural depth exam. The Structural Engineering exam, or SE, is what you take to become a licensed Structural Engineer. You can do this only after successfully becoming a PE and fulfilling all the requirements.
Now we’ve covered just the cost if you only want to take the test, with no reference materials or calculators. Let’s also talk about other PE exam costs that you’ll need to be aware of if you want to have a fighting chance at passing.
The cost of materials for the exam
What you might not think of initially is the cost of everything else that you need to take into the PE exam. Because the test is open book, you will want to buy all the right reference materials. And don’t forget your calculator, because NCEES isn’t going to provide you with one. You may also want to bring earplugs and snacks as well.
Here is a list of all of the materials I purchased and used to prepare for the PE, along with their costs:
Cost: $54.19 (at the time I purchased it)
Benefit: 80 practice questions for the breadth (morning) session of the test. This helped me familiarize myself with the morning exam, which felt like a breeze by the time I took the test. Here’s the link to check it out on Amazon and purchase it for yourself.
Cost: $21.95 (at the time of purchase)
Benefit: You have to have a calculator for the test, and it must be one of the NCEES approved calculators. I had to buy this one because my TI-84 Plus wasn’t on the list of approved calculators. Having one of these is just a no-brainer, you cannot pass the test without one. Here it is on Amazon.
Cost: $8.59 (at the time I bought them)
Benefit: Tabbing your references is critical for accessing specific sections when you really need them in the test. If you have to leaf through pages to find what you need, you lose vital time during the exam. Tab everything you think you’ll use on the exam. Click here to see their current price and buy them on Amazon.
Cost: $86.87 (used 15th edition from Amazon)
Benefit: You have to have this book if you want to pass the PE. It’s 1600+ pages have everything you need to know for the exam, minus some depth material. Use this when studying and tab it well. Check it out on Amazon right here.
Benefit: This isn’t a necessary purchase. With a lot of practice questions, this book seems like a good idea. But the questions are just too difficult and other resources have questions closer to the actual exam. This is an important cost to factor in though, because not all of your books will be effective. You may end up throwing away money on some of these, but that’s okay. Click here to see it on Amazon right now.
Total Cost: $86.91
Benefit: I had access to many PDF versions of books and codes, for which I used printMe1.com to get physical copies. The cost above is for a few different books and codes that I printed.
Benefit: The Steel Manual is necessary for the structural depth test, and I had to purchase it for a class I took for my master’s degree. Pay close attention to which version the current iteration of the PE is using. You can see the prices of this on Amazon by clicking here. I recommend buying used, there’s no need to have a brand new one.
Cost: $1,290 (at the time I took it)
Benefit: I failed the test the first time I took it because I tried to study on my own. The topics and questions on the exam can seem mysterious, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what to study. With this course, I know exactly what sections to focus on to pass. Without this course, the average pass rate is around 60%, but with this course, the pass rate jumps up to roughly 90%! I’m glad I invested in this and I recommend you do too!
If you want to check out the School of PE for yourself, click here.. I highly recommend it, I do not believe I would be licensed right now if it weren’t for this course. Just a heads up I am an affiliate for the course, which means that if you purchase after clicking on that link, I do get a commission at no extra cost to you. It’s simply a nice way for you to support a fellow engineer! And I only recommend it because I’ve used it and it worked, so I mean it when I recommend it!
Conclusion & Cost Breakdown
While I’ve not included some additional costs like snacks, earplugs, or something to help you carry your books into the test, here is a breakdown of the total PE Exam cost for me, including the materials:
|NCEES Exam Fees||$700 ($350*2 for taking it twice)|
|School of PE Review Course||$1,290|
|Civil Engineering Reference Manual||$86.87 (used)|
|Civil Engineering PE Practice Exams||$54.19|
|Practice Problems for the Civil Engineering PE Exam||$24.03|
|PDF’s of Books and Codes||$86.91|
|AISC Steel Manual||$135|
My Total PE Exam cost: $2,407.54
For comparison, here are the total costs for another couple of scenarios:
Total PE Exam cost without course: $1,117.54
Total PE Exam cost passing on the first try: $767.54
While my cost is higher than the other options, it’s worth it to me to become a licensed engineer. I hope you will see the benefit in investing in yourself to help make sure that you pass!