Like all engineers, professionals in the civil engineering field can obtain certification through the National Society of Professional Engineers. However, before becoming certified, you must make sure you meet the criteria. The most common method is to earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or something similar that can directly translate into the field. To gain licensure, you must hold a degree from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, have four years of work experience, and have completed a state examination. Each state has different licensing board where you can find out more about your state's requirements.
If someone wants to build a bridge, they need a licensed engineer to sign and seal the project.
Lawrence JacobsonExecutive Director of the National Society of Professional Engineers
Getting Civil Engineering Licensure and Certification
While there is no specific certification or license for civil engineering, there is one significant license that all engineers can, and should, earn. The Practice of Engineering (PE) license from the National Society of Professional Engineers is important because they are rapidly becoming required for engineers who work in most government agencies, educational institutions, and private industries. A PE license is also a must if you plan on working as a consulting or privately practicing engineer, as they are legally required for those who are responsible for work output and employee management. This certification is particularly important for civil engineers because civil engineers are often commissioned for government projects and PE-licensed engineers are the only ones who can prepare, sign, seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval.
"If someone wants to build a bridge, they need a licensed engineer to sign and seal the project," said Lawrence Jacobson, the executive director of the NSPE. "When a [licensed engineer] works on any project, his or her license number gets stamped on it. For time and eternity, you want that to be on the project so it can be evaluated to see what worked, and what didn’t work, over time."
In order to gain your PE license, you must first become an engineer intern. This designation, also offered through the NSPE, is open to graduates of engineering programs approved by your state’s licensure board before passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. This exam awards you the Engineer Intern or Engineer-In-Training status and is the first step toward earning a PE license. Once you have your EI or EIT status, you must accumulate four years of qualified work experience. To meet NSPE guidelines, work experience should come from a major branch of engineering, be supervised by qualified engineers, be challenging enough to develop personal responsibility, and progress into higher levels of responsibility as it goes on. While working to complete your four years of high-quality work experience, we highly recommend researching your state’s license requirements to begin preparing for the state PE exam. In most cases, once you have gained four years of work experience and passed your state exam, you have completed your final step towards licensure. However, some states may require additional work.
Maintaining Civil Engineering Licensure and Certification
For dedicated civil engineers who plan on staying in the industry long-term, it is essential that you maintain your certification. In addition to maintaining your PE, most states require that engineers improve their skills through continuing education courses and other professional development. The NSPE has put together a helpful state-by-state guide for professionals to understand the requirements for maintaining their certification. Most states require the completion of at least 30 hours of continuing education every two years; however, there are several states that have varying mandates.
"The first thing to maintaining your license is integrity. If you mess up ethics-wise, you will have your license pulled. It doesn’t just have to do with engineering, but could be with money," Jacobson said. "The second part is continuing education. Most states require anywhere from eight to 40 hours of continuing education per year, depending on which state you are licensed in."
The NSPE provides help for busy, working PEs with continuing education through 90-minute webinars regularly offered on their website. Additionally, participating in any seminars and college or university courses will also count towards maintaining your PE licensure.