The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is typically the first of two intensive competency exams needed to qualify for a professional engineer license (PE). In general, the process of becoming a PE is as follows:
- Earn a four-year degree in engineering from an accredited engineering program. The BSME from Michigan Tech has met this criterion since 1936.
- Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Complete four years of progressive engineering experience under a PE (most states)
- Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam
Earning a PE license is similar to passing the bar exam for attorneys after law school or the medical board exams after medical school for physicians. The National Society of Professional Engineers provides an accurate and concise definition of a PE here.
A mechanical engineering student should consider taking the FE (with an eye toward becoming a PE) if their career plans include work that requires the authority to prepare, sign and seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval, or seal engineering work for public and private clients. Students should inquire with prospective employers to determine if becoming a PE is desired for possible positions and how the credential may affect upward (or lateral) mobility in a particular company/organization.
The individual decision to prepare for and take the FE will depend on a student’s desire to keep the option open to take the PE exam after gaining the required work experience. The FE exam is not a degree requirement to graduate or an entrance exam for further education (i.e. it is not similar to the MCAT, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, etc).
The FE exam is appropriate to take for students who are close to finishing an undergraduate engineering degree. Most students take this exam during their final semester as an undergrad, but it can be taken earlier or post-graduation, if desired.
The FE exam is not state-specific and is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Even if you are not a Michigan resident, you could plan to take the FE here on campus and use the Michigan registration link. In Michigan, you do not have to apply for approval or submit any documents to take the FE. Once you create an account and log into ncees.org you will be able to register for the FE. You will be prompted to select a test (choose FE), discipline and state to take the test. After selecting, FE, mechanical and Michigan, a list of testing centers will be displayed. The testing center within the VanPelt and Opie Library is a local option. Once you select your testing location a list of available exam dates will be displayed. The FE exam is now online and has a certain number of slots available in certain date ranges throughout the calendar year.
Additional information about exam content, format, preparation, registration, fees and scoring can be found on the NCEES website.