You might be surprised to learn that not all engineers are licensed professionals. While many people graduate with engineering degrees, they cannot claim the title of “Professional Engineer” (PE) unless they have completed the multiple necessary steps to earn this designation as competent and well-trained engineers.
Engineers were not required to become licensed until the early 1900s. The Wyoming Legislature passed the first-ever law mandating that professional engineers become licensed. While the bill was met with opposition, it ultimately was passed and signed into law in 1907 with other states soon following suit.
According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, PE licensure is the engineering profession’s highest standard of competence, a symbol of achievement and assurance of quality. In South Carolina, PEs are licensed through the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors, which is under the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Why does it matter if engineers are licensed? Engineers are responsible for most everything around us. There are not many people who would knowingly drive over a bridge, enter a commercial or public building, or drink from a public water supply designed by an unlicensed professional. These projects require the highest level of quality and competency in the practice of the profession as lives depend on it. Likewise, people would not want to purchase, sell, or dedicate rights to real property without the work having been performed by a licensed surveyor. In South Carolina, the statute states, “In order to safeguard life, health and property and to promote the public welfare, the practice of the profession of engineering and surveying in this state is subject to regulation.”
Once the certification is earned, it also must be maintained through continuous professional development throughout the PE’s career. It is certainly beneficial to the engineer to do so. Many private companies and federal, state, and municipal agencies require that higher-level engineering management positions be filled only by licensed PEs and, while regulations vary from states to state, many also require individuals be licensed in order to teach higher education affiliated with a particular practice.
When working with engineers, take the time to confirm they are licensed professionals. It could save your project time, money, and potentially lives.