Decoupling of PE Exam and Experience Requirement
It is critical to point out that this change would not result in a reduction of the requirements for
licensure. All three components for licensure (Education, Experience and Exams) must be completed
prior to a license being granted.
So, "decoupling" passed. What do I do now?
The rules for decoupling were put in place on May 2, 2016. The only requirement to be eligible for the decoupling process is to be a Texas EIT. So, if you are a Texas EIT right now, you were eligible as of May 2, 2016. If you aren't an EIT, you should become one. We encourage you to register for your EIT using our new Online EIT registration system. It streamlines the EIT application process and allows for online payments.
I am already a Texas EIT. Do I have to do anything to be eligible to register for the PE exam after the May 2016 start of the program?
If you are a Texas EIT and have never been approved to take the PE exam in Texas, no, you do not need to do anything else. We will automatically grant permission to anyone that is already a Texas EIT.
I am a current EIT and I registered for the PE exam but my NCEES status is displayed as "Pending Board Approval". What does this mean?
Examinees must have approval to sit for the exam in Texas. Current Texas EITs that have not previously taken a PE Exam will be automatically approved. All approved examinees will have specific limitations on the number of exam attempts remaining and the time period allowed in which to take them. When you register for the PE Exam, the NCEES system will temporarily display your status as "pending Board approval" until an automated confirmation is received from Texas.
I am a Texas EIT but I'm not sure if I'm ready to take the PE exam yet. Do I have to take it "early" at all?)
No, you do not. The 'decoupling' program simply grants you the option of doing so. You should review the content of the exams and only take them once you are ready. This program gives you the option once you are ready.
Are the PE exams easier now?
Absolutely not. The "decoupling" program simply lets you take the PE exam before gaining the required amount of experience needed for licensure. The exams are exactly as they were before 'decoupling' was approved. The content and difficulty level have not changed. They are designed based on specifications set by engineering practitioners to evaluate the knowledge of an engineer with at least four years of practical experience. So, if you want to take them "early", you can, but the difficulty level is still the same.
In the standard application system, I get 4 consecutive attempts to take the exam. If I start taking them early, will that still be the case?
No, the system of accounting of permitted exam attempts has changed. Previously, once approved for the PE exam, an applicant received four consecutive exam attempts to pass the exam. If a person was sick, was late to the exam, opted to not take the exam, or had another issue, that counted as one of the four attempts.
The new model is that each approved applicant / EIT will receive three total attempts to take the PE exam. That means three times that you actually sat for the exam and received some sort of result (pass / fail / invalidated, etc) So, if you are sick or miss an exam, that will not count against you. However, once you have taken the first exam, you must use the three attempts in a four year window.
I'm an EIT and I just passed the PE exam, what does that make me? Do I get another kind of certificate?
Passing the PE exam puts you one large step closer to obtaining your license, but it doesn't change your official status. You will continue to work as an EIT until you have the required engineering experience to apply for a license. Your current EIT certificate will remain in effect.
Once I pass the PE exam, will I become a PE?
No. If you took the exam "early" - prior to completing the required amount of experience for licensure - you will need to complete the experience requirement and then apply for licensure. For example, if you have an ABET engineering degree and took and passed the PE exam with three years of experience, you would have to gain the additional year of experience. Then you would apply for licensure as a PE. Once that application was reviewed and approved you would be granted a PE license in Texas.
The system of licensing and regulation of Professional Engineers is intended to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public by ensuring the technical competency and professional and ethical behavior of practitioners. The public is better protected if more practicing engineers are licensed under this framework. Therefore, it is critical to consider ways to encourage and facilitate engineering students and new engineers to pursue licensure without reducing the requirements for licensure.
Many engineering graduates start on the path toward licensure but do not complete the process. Recent NCEES data for graduates of six of the largest engineering programs in the US (2011-2013) indicates that only 45% of civil engineering graduates actually take the PE exam for licensure. That number decreases sharply to only 15% for Electrical and Mechanical graduates and is even less for other
disciplines. This may be due to the combination of waiting to take the PE exam as the "final hurdle" of the licensing process and other factors such as industrial exemptions. Promoting licensure of qualified engineers at early stages of an engineering career will keep a larger number engaged in the process.
At its May Strategic Planning meeting, the Texas Board of Professional Engineers identified increasing the number of licensed engineers across industry sectors and demographic categories (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.) as a primary goal for the next year.
The PE exam is one of the essential qualifying credentials for licensure. While experience records and professional references support an applicant's professional practice, ethics and character, the PE exam measures technical competence in a given field. PE exams are discipline‐specific and are designed to assess a minimum threshold of practical engineering knowledge across all aspects of a particular field of engineering for an engineer that has a solid educational background and has worked in the field for some period of time. Even though exam candidates have been working in the field and gaining practical experience, preparation for the exam requires, in most cases, dedicated study, exam materials, and review courses. The exam format is a combination of academic topics and practical application. NCEES policies expect and allow examinees to use technical reference materials such as text books and code manuals during the exam itself. Even in the more traditionally licensed engineering fields (civil, electrical, mechanical), engineering experience generally becomes more focused over time and is not as broad as the initial scope of the engineering degree programs.
Due to the time and effort to refresh and prepare for the licensure exam, the examination process itself can sometimes be a hurdle for those engineers that are beginning their careers and considering pursuing licensure. Allowing the process to be more flexible so that potential licensees can take the PE exam at the optimum time (when they are ready) instead of only after a set period of time (4 years
minimum), should keep more engineering graduates and Engineers-In-Training engaged in the process and result in more qualified licensed engineers.
At the February 11, 2016, Regular Board meeting, the Board approved rules to allow for the "decoupling" of the experience requirements for licensure and the approval to take the PE exam. These rules were officially implemented May 2, 2016.
This change allowed a Texas Engineer in Training (EIT) to register for the PE exam prior to meeting the full experience requirement. The May implementation date meant the new system is in effect for the upcoming October 2016 PE exam.
"TBPE is pleased to offer flexibility for taking the PE exam in passing the 'decoupling' provision," said TBPE Chairman Daniel Wong, Ph.D., P.E. "Decoupling does not change the current requirements for PE licensure or the PE exam itself but just offers a more flexible time line to accommodate different career and life paths of our future engineers".
From as early as 2000, NCEES member Boards have been discussing decoupling experience and exams. Changes were made in 2001 and 2003 that resulted in Model Rule changes, but experience was still required prior to the PE exam until 2014. At the August 2014 annual meeting, NCEES approved a change to its Model Law to de‐couple experience and timing of the PE exam. Several other state Boards have or plan to implement the change to allowing the PE exam to be taken prior to the completion of the experience.
- Currently done in Nevada, New Mexico, Kentucky, Louisiana, Illinois, South Carolina,
- California (allows PE exam and licensure at 2 years now)
- Oklahoma, Oregon and North Carolina (pending legislative changes)
- Tennessee and Maine considering