In Canada, the title “professional engineer” is restricted by law. When you hold a P.Eng., you are licensed to practice engineering in the province or territory where it was granted.
The license also gives you the right to use the letters P.Eng. after your name.
According to PEng.ca, the P.Eng. tells both employers and the public that you:
- Are legally and ethically responsible for your work, and hold public safety paramount;
- Maintain the highest levels of competence, as judged by your peers;
- Continually upgrade your knowledge; and
- Adhere to a strict code of ethics
There are four basic steps to obtaining your P.Eng.:
- Obtain a degree from an accredited engineering program
- Register as an engineer in training with your provincial or territorial engineering licensing body
- Two to four years of internship experience, depending on your province
- Write the professional practice exam or professional examination
When you’ve completed all those steps, you receive your licence to practise and a seal to stamp the designs and drawings you create.
But not everyone who has completed an accredited engineering program is anxious to take the P. Eng. test. Tommy Zhang, 26, is currently working as a product development engineer after obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degree in applied science. “Most companies don’t care that you’re not technically a professional engineer, so it doesn’t really factor into being hired.”
“One reason is to become part of a larger organization … There should be good opportunities for networking as well as opportunities to gain technical knowledge that you wouldn’t necessarily get in class.” —Brian Paiva, software developer
Already employed, Zhang doesn’t see the benefit in a P.Eng. licence for his own career. While there may be some inherent advantages such as being able to certify plans, to Zhang, the time and effort spent on getting licensed in addition to guild fees doesn’t translate into a serious career benefit.
“I don’t think taking the P.Eng. test makes you any better of an engineer. I think most engineers have the common sense to not attempt a solution that is even potentially dangerous. I think an engineer’s skill set is developed mostly through courses and professional experience.”
However, recent grads like Zhang should keep in mind that although you can work in engineering without a licence, you must work under the supervision of a P.Eng. who takes responsibility for your work. You cannot take public or private responsibility for your own work, or be in charge of the engineering work you do, until you have been licensed as a P.Eng. by the engineering licensing body in the province or territory where you work.
You are not legally an engineer or a professional until you have the P.Eng.
Brian Paiva, 25, works as an embedded systems software developer and is working toward earning his P.Eng. by studying for the exam. “One reason is to become part of a larger organization … There should be good opportunities for networking as well as opportunities to gain technical knowledge that you wouldn’t necessarily get in class.”
The benefit of being in a large organization has a certain appeal to Paiva, and many of them are directly related by his desire to use networking to further his career. Although this isn’t essential to working as an engineer, it does pose a specific advantage for anyone who wishes to follow a career path that can offer a wider range of advancement options.
Paiva says studying for the exam has had little impact on his job performance and, in his opinion, offers no real drawbacks to working as an engineer.
So for those wondering whether or not to take the P.Eng. test, it really depends on what sort of career you’re looking for. If you’re focused more on finding your area of expertise and starting your career right after school, you may not need to worry about the P.Eng. test. However, if you’d like the ability to sign off on your own projects and work within a larger set of options, you should consider become P.Eng. certified.
If you’re still unsure about whether it’s right for you or not, keep in mind that after completing your degree, there’s no rush to become licensed. There’s no limited window of opportunity and you can always apply when you feel you’ve become experienced enough to hold a position which might involve serious health and safety responsibilities.
To learn more, visit the website of the licensing body in your province or territory:
- Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC)
- Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA)
- Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (APEGM)
- Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick (APEGNB)
- Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS)
- Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia (APENS)
- Association of Professional Engineers of Prince Edward Island (APEPEI)
- Association of Professional Engineers of Yukon (APEY)
- Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of the Northwest Territories (NAPEGG)
- Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ)
- Professional Engineers and Geoscientists Newfoundland and Labrador (PEG-NL)
- Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO)