There was a time —many years ago in my state—when you did not need to have a college degree to get a Professional Engineers license. You only needed a recommendation from three PE-licensed engineers to take the fundamentals of engineering test and pass it to prove that you understood the basics. Then, after about four or five years of on-the-job experience, you could take the test that covered your discipline, such as electrical or mechanical engineering. If you passed, you were awarded the PE license.
I remember this because after I graduated from a technical school and received an Associate Engineering degree, I decided to study for a PE license. But, instead, I went on to college and earned a BSEE. After graduation, I thought about getting the PE license again, but was convinced that my degree and experience were more than sufficient to qualify me to do my job. And they were. I never had a desire to work for a state government or company that required their engineers to have a PE license. To me, that was a political issue, and I wanted to stay far away from everything political.
Now, the situation may be changing. It may be that the politicians in your state will pass laws that will force your employer to hire only engineers with PE licenses. The argument is that even if you do not work for a government on public-related projects, you are still likely designing and making products for public consumption. Of course, I understand that. But my argument is that the PE license does not make you a better engineer. It only says that you can pass PE-sponsored tests. Lawyers and doctors have to pass a “professional” test, but does it guarantee they are smarter for having passed the test? That would be our hope, but that is definitely not the way life is.
Here is an example. My subdivision had a history of water flooding problems. I was one of the few that had no problem, principally because decades ago when I moved into my house, I hired a landscaper to work with me and plan an effective drainage system. Using his practical knowledge and my engineering knowledge of hydraulics, plus previous experience, we designed what proved to be a great flood control landscape including underground piping. But two years ago, some of my neighbors who continued to have serious problems forced the city to make some changes to divert runoff differently during heavy rains. So what did the PE-licensed city engineer do? He dug a wider and deeper ditch on my property under the assumption that it would better handle the water from down the street. He also changed the pitch, and plugged the drain under one neighbor’s driveway using concrete so I could not unplug it! I argued with him that what he was doing was wrong, even appealing to his sense of hydraulics, which he seemed to lack! The city engineer went against all common sense and engineering principles; so guess what? I got flood damage big time after the first rain. The city engineer came out after I called him and he took photographs, but I never saw him again. So after two years of this flooding, I ended up having my garage floor and basement foundation replaced. It cost me more than what I paid for my first house. So try to convince me, Mr. Politician, that getting a PE license makes us smarter engineers.