The PE Exam: How to Measure a Professional

This article shows why the PE Examiners compile the PE Exam in its current format and how the exam strives to serve as a filter for those aspiring to enter the Civil Engineering profession.

The Professional Engineering Exam for Civil Engineers and why it differs from all those college tests you took!

The American Society of Civil Engineers adopted a Code of Ethics on September 2nd, 1914. Like the Constitution, it has been amended with the latest as recently as July, 2006. Canon 7 is one of the seven fundamental components of the Code. It states:

“Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers, and shall provide opportunities for the professional development of those engineers under their supervision.”

This means that a degree in Civil Engineering marks the beginning of your learning, not the fulfillment. An accredited degree in Civil Engineering is a passport to board the good ship profession. The degree is not a destination.

So when the examiners compile the Professional Engineering Exam, they have the concept of a profession in mind. This means that as a professional engineer, you are expected to uphold its ethical values. Canon 7 identifies that professional engineers should continue to learn. It goes further:

“Engineers should keep current in their specialty fields by engaging in professional practice, participating in continuing education courses, reading in the technical literature, and attending professional meetings and seminars.”

Sometimes the PE exam will require you to simply know something, or more commonly, know where to find it. As a professional engineer, you are expected to be able to access information.

This goes some way to explaining why in the professional engineering exam, there are often obscure questions that require you to dig into some heavy reference and simply look something up. So prepare carefully, and take that exam because it will open the door to you becoming a real professional.