SFPE Credentialing

In a field where the main focus is health, safety, and welfare of the public, it is important to make sure that the professionals practicing fire protection engineering are actually qualified to do the job.  One of the ways this can be accomplished is through credentialing.  This typically involves a body that reviews the candidate’s education, experience, and breadth of knowledge in the field.  Following or as part of that review there may be an interview or examination to assist in determining if the candidate is competent to practice fire protection engineering.

Professional Engineer (PE)

One of the credentials noteworthy of discussion is the professional engineer license in the United States (US).  In order to practice engineering, a PE license is required by most states in the US.  Each state is permitted to have their own requirements in order to obtain a PE license, although the requirements are similar from one state to another. 

Education is the first component needed to become a professional engineer.  Depending on the state, some require an engineering degree, while others also permit an engineering technology degree or other related degree.  The difference between each of these is the amount of experience needed to complement the degree.  Typically, with a bachelor’s degree in engineering 4 years of experience would be required, while a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology will require 5 to 8 years of experience.  Also, for those who have a master’s degree in engineering, it usually counts for 1 year of experience.

In addition, to education and experience, there are tests to confirm a minimum level of knowledge.  NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) is the organization that oversees the development and administration of the tests. The first of these tests is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.  This exam is typically taken at the end of one’s 4-year engineering or engineering technology degree program or as near as possible.  The exam covers a wide variety of fundamentals related to many aspects of engineering.  The general nature of this exam is why it is encouraged to take it following a students’ coursework.  The second exam is the Principals and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, which is the one that requires a board to approve candidates before sitting for the test.  The PE exam tests the candidate’s knowledge in a specific engineering discipline.  There are currently 16 disciplines, one of which is fire protection.  Upon passing the exam, and previously having complied with the education and experience components, a PE license would be issued from a state.