Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

August 2013    |    Volume: 45    |    Number: 8

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Member Forum by Joe Michels

Industrial Engineer’s column for IIE members to share their perspectives (August 2013) 

Professional licensure – it’s important

Engineering is the only learned profession that does not require professional licensure to practice unless the engineer is involved directly with the safety, health and welfare of the public.

The history of professional licensure goes back to A.D. 1140 when Roger of Normandy required doctors to prove competency. Wyoming, a Wild West frontier state, was the first state to require professional engineering registration in 1907. Clarence Johnston, the first Wyoming state engineer, decided that the only way to ensure protection of public health, safety and welfare was to require licensure of all individuals involved with engineering.

After the engineering registration laws were enacted, Johnston noted, “A most astonishing change took place within a few months in the character of maps and plans filed with permits.” Significantly, licensing led to a higher degree of standard and care ascribed to the work products of engineers.

Fast forward from 1907 to today. Industrial engineers perform systems integration in hospitals, manufacturing plants, airports, retail distribution centers, financial institutions and power distribution facilities. But the question remains, “What benefit does professional registration give the industrial engineer?”

Professional preparation is one facet of career growth that cannot be taken for granted. Professional engineers are the only individuals who can practice engineering in a public environment. The characteristics of professional engineering practice can include owning an engineering firm, providing professional consulting, signing/sealing engineering designs, procuring public works projects, advertising your services as a “professional engineer,” and calling yourself a “professional engineer.”

Candidates for professional engineering licensure may take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam during their junior or senior year of college. People out of college will have to apply to their state professional engineering registration board and pass the FE exam before sitting for the PE exam.

The licensing process is standard in all states. You must:

  • Review the website for applicable dates, fees and other requirements for the FE examination.
  • Take and successfully complete the FE exam.
  • Successfully gain four years of creditable engineering experience.
  • Take and successfully complete the Principles and Practices Discipline Specific Engineering exam.
  • Practice professional engineering.
  • Maintain licensure currency by attaining 15 professional development hours each calendar year.

In January, the FE exam is moving to a six-hour, 110-question, computer-based exam. Go to to learn more about the FE exam.

The professional engineer’s license recognizes the holder as being at the pinnacle of his or her profession. The license attests that the holder of the license has successfully completed a national exam and has been deemed “minimally competent” to practice the engineering profession.

With the changing world dynamics that we find ourselves in today, being a professionally licensed industrial engineer is a step that should be completed at the earliest opportunity. Preparing for and passing the FE exam is the first step.

Joe Michels is a principal in the Fort Worth, Texas, office of Solomon Bruce Consulting LLC and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. He is a licensed professional engineer in Texas and Montana and a 30-year senior member of IIE. Michels can be reached at 


To submit an opinion for this column, e-mail the text to Michael Hughes at Columns must be 500 to 600 words in length. All submissions are subject to editing. Include a brief bio that includes your IIE membership status.