careertrend article image
Jupiterimages/ Images

How to Become a Professional Certified Engineer

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Engineers transform scientific discoveries into commercial applications that help consumers and society in general. They use science and math to find solutions to technical problems by developing new products and testing existing components. Many engineers specialize in such fields as aerospace, chemistry, electronics, the environment and civil engineering. To become a certified professional engineer, an individual must complete a rigorous course of study accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Take a course of studies in high school to prepare for admission to an undergraduate program in engineering. Admissions requirements include math courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus; science courses including biology, chemistry and physics; and English, social studies and humanities courses.

Research engineering programs at colleges and universities and find one that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. A four-year bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level engineering positions. The undergraduate engineering program typically includes coursework in general engineering along with courses in math, physical and life science. Some programs offer a concentration in an engineering specialty along with design courses that are accompanied by computer and/or laboratory classes. Many engineering programs also have a social sciences and humanities requirement.

Obtain a license to become a professional engineer (PE). Licensing is required in all states for engineers who offer their services to the public. To become licensed, the candidate must receive a degree from an engineering program accredited by ABET, have four years of relevant work experience, and complete a state exam. A recent graduate can take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam to become an EIT (Engineer in Training) or EI (Engineer Intern). The Principles and Practice of Engineering exam is taken after completing the requisite number of years of work experience.

Obtain certification to become a professional certified engineer in your field by meeting the requirements of one of the 17 engineering specialties recognized by the government’s Standard Occupational Classification system or a subdivision of the category. Numerous certification programs are offered by professional societies listed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.


Look into the curriculum of the engineering programs you are considering, since programs with the same name may vary in the courses they offer. Some might emphasize industrial practices, while others are theoretical and prepare students for graduate school. If the engineering program does not offer the opportunity to take a concentration of courses in an engineering specialty, you may be able to specialize on the job or in graduate school.


Some colleges offer a two or four-year degree program in engineering technology to prepare students for practical design and production jobs. This type of degree program does not qualify the graduate to register as a professional engineer and obtain certification.

2016 Salary Information for Nuclear Engineers

Nuclear engineers earned a median annual salary of $102,220 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, nuclear engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $82,770, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $124,420, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 17,700 people were employed in the U.S. as nuclear engineers.