The engineer profession in the US is substantially different from Spain or other Latin American countries. The requirements to exercise as an engineer are different since a ‘license’ is needed to sign projects. These licenses are granted by the administrations of the States and therefore the role of professional associations is different than in other countries. Nor is the visa of the projects necessary, since the license validates or guarantees that the engineer who signs it is competent, since it also assumes all civil and criminal liability.

In addition, the industrial term Engineer is not a good translation of what is understood in Spain by industrial engineer.The specialties of an industrial engineer in Spain, are in the US more differentiated.There is Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Industrial Engineer and several more specialties, but there is no generalist engineer who can deal with several types of projects as usually happens with Spanish industrial engineers.Industrial Engineer resembles the competitions that an industrial engineer would have with the specialty industrial organization.

First of all, the difference between the engineer license (PE) and the work permit must be made clear.They are totally independent and work permit is necessary to work, or not.To learn more about work permit, visit this other post: how can I work in the United States?

Organization of the engineer profession in the US

A little over a century ago, to act as an engineer, no professional competence test was needed.To protect public health and safety, laws on engineers began to be established.The first site was in Wyoming in 1907. Now all states regulate the practice of engineering to ensure public safety by granting only the professional Engineers (PES) the authority to sign projects.

To act as an engineer for a company, it is not necessary, in general, to have the license, since there will be degree professionals who will be responsible for assuming responsibilities and signing the projects.However, being ‘licensed’ adds professional validity to the engineer and makes him more attractive to hiring.However, it is estimated that only about 30% of graduates in engineering obtain certification.

On the other hand, if the company is going to offer engineering services, you must have at least one engine engineer, and in many cases, this must be part of the Board of Directors.This is sometimes an important barrier for foreign companies (or another state) that want to be implemented.

To sign projects, it is therefore necessary to obtain the ‘license’.This license is called Professional Engineer (PE) and are issued and regulated by each State.Once obtained, it allows the Name of the engineer to add the acronym PE, for example David Gómez, Pe.In general, being licensed implies:

Only a licensed engineer can prepare, sign, seal and present any engineering level before a public authority, and seal any engineering work for private or public clients. Graduate engineers have the responsibility of their work and also of the lives that are affected by their work and must follow the high ethical values that their profession requires. Many states require teachers to teach engineering. The institutions that grant the licenses are state, for example the Texas Board of Professional Engineers ( in Texas or California Board of in California.

Although each State has its exceptions, in general, to obtain the license you have to follow the following steps:

  • Graduate in a university in an engineering program, and especially that it is approved by Abet (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).This non -profit institution proves the quality of the educational program and the center where it is carried out.ABET is willing to certify programs of centers outside the US and is involved in numerous international agreements with various institutions, to ensure engineering quality.In fact, a Memorandum of Underestanding has signed with the Quality, Accreditation and Prospective Agency of the Universities of Madrid.Looking for programs accredited in Spain, only three universities and seven programs appear: the Polytechnic of Madrid (with industrial engineering, which I did), the Polytechnic of Valencia and the Ramon Llull University.(
  • Become a practical engineer (Engineer Intern or Engineer-in-Training, EIT) after approved the exam called Fundamentals of Engineering (FE).See entrance to this blog Gain professional experience.All states require at least four years of professional experience as an engineer, especially under the supervision of another professional Engineer before being able to submit to the PE license exam.
  • Approve the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam in the state where you want to work.This exam, as well as that of fundamentals of Engineering (FE) are managed by another non -profit society, NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying), which develops, manages and scores the exams. Then the license must be maintained according to the requirements of the State through continuous training, courses or seminars.(and the corresponding fees)

Most states recognize the licenses of other states, as long as they have very similar or more demanding requirements when acquiring said license. It is not necessary to be a American citizen or have a work or residence visa (such as the Green Card) to be able to opt for the PE license.However, for identification purposes, the Social Security number (Social Security Number - SSN) or the Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is usually requested.For the Social Security, it is necessary to have a visa that allows working in the country, unlike ITIN, which is granted by the internal Revenue Service (IRS) to anyone.

Next, the procedures and exams to obtain the license in California will be discussed in more detail, although, as explained, it is similar in the rest of the country.

Continue reading to approve the fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and be Engineer in Training (EIT) in California

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