Becoming certified as a Professional Engineer is not mandatory for engineers. However, it is frequently asked if the time and effort that goes into the certification is worth the result.
Despite the benefits of the certification, it is often criticized for being a long, time consuming process. It includes a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam that is often taken before graduating from a four-year engineering program at a college. After passing the FE exam, you then need to practice under a Professional Engineer for a length of time that varies by state, usually around 4 years. After this time, you can then take the PE exam. Additionally, both of these exams are very long. The FE and PE are six- and eight-hour exams respectively.
The benefits of the exam include a higher median salary (about $4,000 higher) and respect from peers. This could seem like a small payoff for the five years of hard work that goes into achieving this certification. The certification can definitely help in finding a job, but many companies and states no longer require it.
The Professional Engineer Certification really does remain an optional process for engineers across the country. To some people, the costs outweigh the benefits and they are still able to lead a fulfilling career without the certification and title.