News & Events

DECOUPLING: MAKING LICENSURE FLEXIBLE FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS

MAKING LICENSURE FLEXIBLE FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS

Because professional engineers are held to the highest standards in understanding and executing the principles of engineering, we take licensure very seriously.

There are four steps to getting an engineering license: 

  1. Obtain a four-year degree in engineering from an accredited university
  2. Pass the fundamentals of engineering exam (FE)
  3. Accrue four years of engineering experience
  4. Pass the Professional Practice Exam (PE)

Since the beginning of professional licensure in the early 20th century, engineers were required to complete the above steps in the exact order shown. The four years of engineering experience had to be completed to be eligible to take the national PE exam. In 2005, the forward-thinking Nevada Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors took a bold step to change that process to increase Nevada’s talent pool by decoupling the PE Exam from the required engineering experience.

What Decoupling Means

Decoupling is simply separating the requirements of professional experience from the PE Exam. Essentially, engineers who have completed the FE and have graduated with a relevant degree from an accredited university can sit for the PE Exam whenever they feel ready to do so. This means engineers no longer have to complete their relevant experience prior to sitting the exam. What this really means is we are helping engineers to work the exam around their lives instead of scheduling their lives around the exam.

Why It Matters

One of the biggest deterrents to passing the PE Exam is time; the more time that passes between an engineer obtaining a degree and sitting their exam, the more challenging it becomes to pass. While this doesn’t necessarily apply to the four years of experience (which will likely reinforce much of their education), it definitely matters with life events like getting married, starting a family, or obtaining a different degree in the meantime.  So, for example, let’s say an engineer gets his or her degree and begins their professional experience and also starts a family at the same time. If that engineer decides to stay at home to raise children, this could disrupt their professional experience for a period of time. Decoupling allows these families to plan their test-taking so it fits into their life plan instead of scheduling their life plan around their test. And it’s not all about starting families (for men or women). Sometimes engineering grads decide to obtain a secondary degree (such as law or medicine) or they want to join the Peace Corps or engage in other volunteer work. Regardless of the reason, decoupling the experience from the exam allows much more freedom for engineers to pursue additional life goals without having to forego licensure because they delayed taking and are unable to pass the exam.  

Highest Chance for Success

Anyone who has graduated with a degree in engineering should be able to sit and pass the PE. Having relevant experience Is beneficial but not strictly necessary for a successful exam outcome. In fact, diving deep into a certain field within engineering can mean that an engineer might not remember the breadth of knowledge required for the PE Exam. Nevada’s statistics show that two years after graduation is an ideal time to sit the exam. Decoupling has made this a possibility.  

Blazing Trails

Nevada led the way as the first state to take the bold step of decoupling. We realized that the paired requirements were creating an unnecessary barrier for talented and smart individuals who simply couldn’t make the schedule work as it was previously structured. The initial fear that engineers wouldn’t be able to pass the exam without four years of experience has been proven false. There is no statistical significance in pass rates between those who take the exam prior to or after their four years’ experience. The Nevada Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyor’s Executive Director, Patty Mamola, successfully persuaded other states to follow the success of the Nevada decoupling initiative.  Decoupling was officially adopted as NCEES model law in 2013.  To date, 16 states have followed suit, and more are working to follow Nevada’s lead to change their laws to decouple.  

The Nevada Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors ensures that we are able to promote licensure to the best engineering talent pool in Nevada. That means developing the right processes to ensure Nevada’s citizens are protected when retaining licensed engineers and that those engineers meet the necessary standards of excellence while providing enough flexibility to make the licensing process accessible to as many engineers as possible.

ABOUT NCEES

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying is a nonprofit organization founded in 1920 by US engineering and surveying licensing boards.  Currently all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands comprise the membership of NCEES.  NCEES helps its member licensing boards carry out their duties to regulate the professions of engineering and surveying. It develops best practice models for state licensure laws and regulations and promotes uniformity among the states. For more information, please visit ncees.org.