P.E.s, Diplomates and Fellows

Not many people know what the letters P.E. stand for when associated with the practice of engineering.  No, they have nothing to do with physical education. The letters stand for “Professional Engineer”. The letters are placed after an individual’s name and are an indication that the individual has been examined and found competent to practice in their respective engineering discipline.   The letters are a legal designation much like MD is for doctors.  It is illegal for anyone to advertise themself as an engineer without having fulfilled the experience, reference,  and examination requirements.  Specific requirements are established by each state board but are generally the same across the  country. Diplomate and Fellow, on the other hand, are titles that are bestowed by engineering organizations on individuals that have made exceptional contributions in their field. These titles are honorary in nature and do not entitle the recipient to engage in private practice.  While these titles are a tremendous honor for the recipient, they are not a measure of an individual’s competence. You would think that the bestowing of such an honor would take into account competence, and for the most part, someone who is honored is seen as competent in their field. But, state registration laws for engineers do not consider titles in the process of evaluating one’s competence.  Lastly, no matter how many titles an individual has after their name, unless the letters P.E. are included, that individual has no right to advertise him or herself as an engineer. If  in doubt about someone’s legitimacy, contact your state board that governs the practice of architecture and engineering. If that board has no record of the individual in question, then, that person is most likely practicing illegally.

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