How Many Licensed Professional Engineers are there in the US

How Many Engineers are Licensed in the United StatesHow Many Licensed Professional Engineers are there in the US

If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered how many people with engineering degrees have become professional engineers (PEs).

As of 2022, there are 931,640 PE licenses in the United States, with 494,542 licensees and 437,098 non-resident licenses, indicating multi-state licensed engineers.

According to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, (NCEES) there were almost one million PE licenses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This number is greater than the number of engineers who are licensed because many engineers hold licenses in more than one state.

The NCEES notes that there are 494,542 resident licenses in the US. A resident license is the same as a licensee – so this number is the number of people who are PEs.

The remaining 437,098 are non-resident licenses, meaning licenses held by individuals in states other than their primary state of residence.

Keep reading to learn more about the significance of these numbers and what they mean for the engineering profession.

The Significance of PE Licensure in Engineering

Professional engineering licensure is more than a mere credential — it’s a marker of proficiency and commitment within the engineering community. We’ve identified seven advantages that a PE license has on your career, credibility, and overall standing.

  1. Credential of Professional Competency: A PE license is widely recognized as a symbol of technical competence. It is an outward symbol that you have achieved a minimum level of education, experience, and technical knowledge in your profession.
  2. Legal Requirement for Public Safety: In many cases, especially in civil, structural, electrical, and mechanical engineering, a PE license is legally required to prepare, sign, seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval.
  3. Career Advancement: Holding a PE license often opens up advanced career opportunities. Many senior-level engineering positions and government roles require a PE license, and it is often seen as a significant advantage when it comes to promotions and leadership roles.
  4. Higher Salary Potential: On average, licensed engineers can expect higher salaries compared to their non-licensed counterparts. Engineers who have a PE license are generally considered to have greater expertise and often command higher compensation.
  5. Professional Autonomy: Licensed engineers have the autonomy to sign off on projects and take legal responsibility for their work. This autonomy also allows for the establishment of a private practice.
  6. Commitment to Ethics: Engineers who earn their PE license are also pledging to uphold a stringent code of ethics, emphasizing their dedication to the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
  7. Continued Professional Development: To maintain a PE license, engineers must fulfill continuing education requirements, which encourages lifelong learning and staying current with industry advancements.

The prevalence of PE licensure across the United States is not just a number; it’s indicative of the robust network of professionals dedicated to upholding the standards and integrity of the engineering profession.

Statistics: How Many Licensed PEs Are in the U.S.?

The landscape of licensed Professional Engineers (PEs) in the United States presents a fascinating picture of the engineering profession’s commitment to legal and ethical standards. Here’s a breakdown of the most recent data:

Current Number of Licensed PEs

As of 2022, there is a total of 931,640 PE licenses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

  • Understanding the Numbers: It’s important to note that many engineers hold licenses in multiple states. Therefore, the number of licenses (931,640) does not directly correspond to the number of individuals. Out of the total licenses, 494,542 are resident licenses, which means they represent individual licensees. The remaining 437,098 are non-resident licenses.
  • Resident vs. Non-Resident Licenses: A resident license refers to a licensee’s primary registration within their home state. The non-resident licenses account for engineers who are also licensed to practice in additional states beyond their principal place of business or residence.

Ratio Analysis: Licensed Engineers to Engineering Degree Holders

  • Trends: The ratio of licensed engineers to those holding engineering degrees offers insights into career trajectories in the field. With technological advancements and changing industry requirements, not all engineering roles require licensure. For instance, engineers in tech-focused industries like software or biotech may not seek PE licensure as frequently as those in civil or structural engineering.

Possible Reasons for the Gap

  • Industry Demands: The need for a PE license is often dictated by the nature of the work. Industries that affect public welfare directly, such as civil and structural engineering, have higher percentages of licensed professionals.
  • Career Choices: Engineers may opt for career paths that do not require a PE license, such as research and development, education, or industries like software engineering, where certification is less common.
  • Barriers to Licensure: The process of becoming licensed is rigorous, requiring passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, gaining relevant work experience, and passing the PE exam. These steps can be barriers to entry for some.
  • Economic Factors: Economic cycles can influence an engineer’s decision to pursue licensure, with downturns possibly delaying or reducing the perceived need for a PE credential.
  • Shift in Work Nature: As engineering work increasingly involves global teams and projects that may not fall under the jurisdiction of a single state’s licensure laws, the push for individual licensure might diminish.

The discrepancy between the number of engineering graduates and licensed PEs underscores a dynamic profession where the value of licensure is measured against a backdrop of evolving industry needs and individual career goals.


The Future of Engineering Licensure

The trajectory of engineering licensure is at an interesting crossroads, shaped by both traditional industry standards and the rapidly evolving technological landscape. Looking ahead, several factors will likely influence the growth or decline in the number of licensed Professional Engineers (PEs).

Influencing Factor Potential Impact on PE Licensure Growth or Decline?
Technological Innovation Could reduce relevance of PE in fields where rapid innovation occurs outside traditional engineering sectors. Decline in certain sectors
Regulatory Changes Might expand or restrict the scope of licensure depending on adaptation to contemporary practices. Growth or Decline depending on the changes
Sustainability and Public Safety More stringent regulations for environmental projects could increase the demand for PEs. Growth in specific sectors
Globalization of Engineering Services The complexity of international projects might influence the push for universally recognized licensure. Growth or Decline depending on global policies
Educational Pathways More accessible educational models could streamline the licensure process, potentially increasing PEs. Growth if pathways are optimized
Value Proposition The PE license’s value in career advancement will strongly influence the pursuit of licensure. Growth if value is  recognized

Ultimately, the future of PE licensure may not be a question of simple growth or decline but rather a redefinition of what it means to be a licensed engineer. As the profession continues to adapt to new challenges and opportunities, the criteria and incentives for obtaining a PE license will likely evolve in tandem, potentially reshaping the landscape of engineering licensure altogether.

Final Take

The number of licensed professional engineers reflects a profession deeply rooted in expertise and public responsibility. With over 494,542 resident licenses active in 2022, the PE credential remains a respected testament to an engineer’s dedication and skill.

Moving forward, the profession faces the tides of technological progress and evolving industry needs, suggesting a possible increase in licensure’s value and necessity. As engineering continues to shape the world around us, the significance of the PE license is set to grow, cementing its role as a benchmark of excellence and a beacon for aspiring engineers.