My Road to the US Professional Engineer License as a Filipino

TEXAS PE SEAL
TEXAS PE SEAL https://engineers.texas.gov

 

What’s your reason?

After 5 years of enduring Chemical Engineering and years of work, you would think I have had enough. But that scenario, from years ago, fuels my passion to pursue this US Professional Engineer license. It happened when I was assigned to Yokohama by my Philippine company on a 6-month stint as a Process Engineer. We had a meeting with the Client  then, I cannot remember much of the details now, and after that everyone was handing out business cards. A Client asked for mine. I couldn’t hand him any because business cards were not a standard issue. It was given only to a chosen few in our company.

Since then, I wondered how I can be seen as an equal – in skill, not in height 😝 . Apart from that experience, I really find the skill levels of the US PE I met inspiring and would like to improve until I reach their level too.

When I was assigned again in Yokohama, I caught myself transfixed in a poster. This poster encouraged everyone in the company to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. Since nobody from my company in the Philippines ever took this exam and I knew of no one else who took this path, I decided to research about it on my own.




What is the FE Exam?

Passing the FE exam is a prerequisite to taking the PE exam. There are exemptions, which is state-dependent, but I don’t want to wait until I qualify so I opted to take the FE exam. A video below (credits to NCEES) from Youtube will explain all about FE (far better than I will).

The FE Exam costs almost half of my, then, salary. Given how much I earn and the fact that I have to support my brother to go to university, I didn’t have that much. Lucky for me, I was able to ask my colleague to lend me her credit card. We bought this exam in NCEES for USD 225. After downloading the FE Reference, I started to study for an hour after work and more hours during the weekends.




Is FE more difficult than the Philippine ChE License Exam?

For all Filipino engineers out there, who are wondering about the exam’s degree of difficulty, I still find our licensure exam far more hellish. If you studied hard for the Philippine ChE License Exam, the FE exam will seem like a breeze. The only difference is that, for FE, you have to study more about P&ID development; safety, health, and environment; and process control. I encountered these topics at work so my background sort of helped me. Otherwise, I would have to spend more time in reviewing these topics.




What’s the FE exam coverage?

These were the exam specifications when I took my exam (this is updated every now and then so please check with NCEES):

FE-Specification-1
FE-Specification-2FE-Specification-3

 

The approximate number of questions per knowledge subject will tell you which you will have the spend more time on. Apart from that, I had to assess my weaknesses and strengths. I had one year to prepare for the exam so I didn’t really push myself to study much until three months before the exam.




Where do I take the FE exam?

Unfortunately for us, Filipinos, the exam is only available in selected testing centers and the nearest testing center is located in Guam. That means that, apart from studying to pass, we need to pass the ordeal of getting a US visa. You could read more about getting the US visa here. The application would cost another USD 160 (Why US?! We never charge you as much! Isn’t it ironic that 3rd world countries have to pay to get in yet 1st world countries enter Philippines for free?).

All you have to do is register for a non-immigrant visa, fill up the DS-160, get the proper ID photo, visit the embassy for the interview, and cross your fingers that they would grant you your visa. Otherwise, you will have to re-schedule your exam and re-apply for the US Visa. Lucky for me, I got a single entry B1/B2 visa. Luckier for my friend who took the exam after me, he got a 10 year multiple entry visa.




How’s the FE exam-day experience?

The Youtube playlist below will tell you more about the exam experience.

What I missed out from the video is they would take a photo of me with terrible lighting. I can never show my Pass certificate without feeling ugly. The testing center in Guam accommodates other exams (english speaking/GRE/medicine) so without the issued ear plugs, it would have been totally distracting. Moreover, the center was really cold. I had to pee in the middle of the second section of the exam and, since I already took the scheduled break, this additional break is counted under my exam time. Hence, I had to move fast. It was frustrating that I cannot enter the exam room again without going through another round of handprinting and body examination when I had to move fast.

Moreover, the solutions pad is huge but the pen is the size of a fine sharpee. My handwriting is humongous so a single problem would accommodate a page or two that I had to ask for solutions pad over and over again. At some point, the lady was probably busy she didn’t notice me until 30 seconds or so. As a tip, ask for a solutions pad before running out of it.




What were your FE study references?

Since the FE Reference handbook is shown side by side with the questions, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the handbook. For some of the knowledge subjects listed in the FE Exam Specification, I found that the FE Reference handbook is adequate and there was no need for me to study using other references. Other than that, I just used the books we used in college. I noticed that Americans construct problem sets in a different tone/writing style compared to their Philippine counterparts so I worked through 1001 Solved Engineering Fundamentals Problems for common engineering subjects, and Chemical Engineering: FE Exam Preparation 3rd Edition by Dilip Das (Author), Rajaram Prabhudesai (Author) for Chemical Engineering subjects.

 

What happened to your FE Exam?

Fortunately for me, I only had to take the exam once – because I told myself I cannot fail this expensive endevour. LOL. No, you may not see my result notice. That picture is not something I’ll share unless absolutely necessary.

Here’s a snapshot sans my photo:

 

What about the PE Exam?

I took the FE exam under the Board of California. To apply for the EIT certification in California, I had to go through the trouble of getting FBI-worthy fingerprints, pay a set amount, and get my ITIN. I found out later that I cannot get my certificate because I am not qualified for a US ITIN. Nor do I have a US SSN.

After a year of almost giving up, I finally tried searching for other states where I can register. My friend and I found that Texas will accept my EIT certificate application with only my passport number (or so we think). Non-accredited and foreign degrees will also have to comply with Texas’s documentation requirements. Since I belong under that classification, I will have to comply with these requirements first.

Acquiring the Texas PE license would mean that I should complete 8 years of experience. I only have 6 years. The good news is that Texas decoupled the PE exam and experience requirement, which means that I can take the exam ahead of time before applying for the license. The prerequisite is that I need to obtain EIT status.

If I accomplish something meaningful, I’ll update this post.  😜



UPDATE:

Hi guys! As you may know, I have moved to Japan to pursue my MS degree and might take me a while to pursue the PE. 😉

I wrote this article to look for like-minded individuals who can share their tips with the Filipino community and for that here’s our forum: https://theharmlessdragon.com/forums/forum/pe-and-fe-exam-q-and-a/. See you there!

 

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Paula Lapizar

Chemical Engineer. Daughter. Sister. Lover. Tree-Hugger. Bargain Hunter
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Paula Lapizar

Chemical Engineer. Daughter. Sister. Lover. Tree-Hugger. Bargain Hunter

25 thoughts on “My Road to the US Professional Engineer License as a Filipino

  • August 27, 2018 at 12:19 AM
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    Hi, Im an Aeronautical Engineering fresh graduate from Holy Angel University, Angeles Pampanga. I did not take the licensure exam here in PH and my school is not ABET Accredited. I am moving to California (as a Permanent Resident) in a few weeks, I was thinking if would it be possible for me to get a job (related to my degree) in California given that I am a fresh graduate from PH and had no work experience at all? Aeronautical Engineering is not covered at California’s Board for Licensing Engineers, so would that mean that I can work as aeronautical engineer in California without taking FE, PE, and without having license? Would the companies recognize my PH bachelor’s degree?

    Reply
    • September 19, 2018 at 8:10 AM
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      Hello J. first of all congratulations for obtaining a BS degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Its ok if you weren’t able to obtain the license in PH. Well, that license is for PH only not in US.
      I’m not sure but i guess Aeronautical and aerospace Engineering in US should fall under “Mechanical and aerospace engineering” check UCSD http://maeweb.ucsd.edu/

      Its still ok to get FE exam and EIT cert. but…

      Well not to discourage you from working as an Engineer… in reality, most PH Engineering graduates who are here in the US are having a hard time getting a job that is exactly or even related to their undergraduate degree. There are a few who are lucky.. probably those who got the job as a working visa or (network /connection and EXPERIENCE) But as an immigrant its even harder due to competition. (best universities in Engineering are here like MIT, CIT, UCB to name a few….)
      well.. MOST BS degrees in the Philippines are recognized in the US whenever you get it evaluated but the value or I mean the reputation of it to employers are not that high. (except health care degrees such as nursing because of high demand) due to what i mentioned earlier. Best universities in Engineering are located here.

      But if you really want to work for an engineering job or even just related….

      here are a few tips..

      – find a connection
      – get an entry level job
      – get most of the EXPERIENCE

      – Well another option is to go back to school and get MS degree here in the US (but choose a better university. Public is fine but make sure it has a good reputation in engineering)
      if you have a high GPA or just about a minimum of 3.0 from your undergraduate
      also take GRE and TOEFL as required for getting an MS degree who graduated from outside the US.

      life is not as such… but don’t give up on your dreams!

      Godbless..

      -jeypz- ateneo

      Reply
    • November 24, 2018 at 12:14 PM
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      J,
      Most engineering program taken outside US are not ABET accredited but don’t worry because if your engineering degree meets the ABET criteria it you will be allowed to sit for the FE Exam.Check with NCEES or other Education Evaluation company such as Spantran (this was my evaluator).
      I have a degree in engineering BSECE from Philippines,took and passed the FE in October 2014 and PE Electrical in 2015.
      If you have any question or whatever you have in mind about licensure here in the US feel free to shoot me an email.I will be more than happy to help.
      tagailog92@gmail.com

      Reply
  • August 11, 2018 at 10:13 AM
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    Hi! ECE grad ako recently from PH. I just want to ask if need ko ba ipa-evaluate sa NJ state board since hindi siya ABET accredited? I’ve recently checked the NCEES requirements and they are doing evaluation as well, tama ba?? Pwede bang solely NCEES na lang mag evaluate ng TRANSCRIPTS/CREDENTIALS ko if pwede akong magtake ng EIT-FE exam! Thank you and Mabuhay!

    Reply
    • August 11, 2018 at 12:07 PM
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      From what I understamd, NJ allows you to sit in for the FE exam without board approval so register directly at ncees.org and take your exam. If you pass, you can refer to this for more information about NJ. Good luck!

      Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 6:13 AM
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      Hi There! ECE grad here as well! there is no need YET to get your credentials evaluated to be able to sit for the FE exam as it is just a requirement for EIT. What you can do is to register for the FE exam through NCEES. From the application, you need to search for your university. If in case its not on the list, contact NCEES to add it. Once everything is set pay the fee.

      Credential evaluation through NCEES is needed when its time for you to sit for the PE exam. OR if you want to register for EIT reciprocity from other states. Like what i did. I am an EIT in the following states: California, Maryland, Texas, Oregon and Ohio.

      Tip: Like us, being an ECE (electronics engineer).. its NOT necessary to be a State Licensed Engineer unlike Electrical, Mechanical or Civil.
      but if you just want to fulfill the dream of being registered.. then go for it..

      – JPG – Ateneo –

      Reply
  • July 4, 2018 at 4:39 PM
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    hi miss paula, i am a fresh grad of mmsu (chem eng). i don’t have any working experience and never take the board exam in ph. i am now here in hawaii, and i dont know if i can take the FE. and also i’m not sure kung meron bang company na tatanggap sakin dito. my question is, can i take the FE even if i graduated at a school not accredited by US? becausewhen i search, only mapua engineering is accreditedby US in the Philippines. thank you po.

    sincerely,
    redenson

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 6:00 PM
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      Hi Redenson! You can take the FE! If you want to work in Hawaii, you have to check their board for requirements which seems to not have anything special from ncees requirements: http://cca.hawaii.gov/pvl/boards/engineer/application-deadline-examination-dates/. If your school isn’t accredited, you can just apply for credential evaluation which is also offered by ncees after you pass the exams I’m not from mapua so I just asked ncees to add my school in the choices (online form) via chatting online with support and I was able to take my exams. 🙂 P.S. check the state requirements for the state where you want to find work because each state differs. Best of luck and thank you for dropping by the website. 🙂

      Reply
  • June 7, 2018 at 10:38 AM
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    Hi, Electrical Engineer ako dito sa Pilipinas. Sooner or later, I will be joining my husband sa California. I’m planning to have a review as early as now so I can take FE when I got there. I am working for 5 years now. Any suggestions sa mga review materials? Thanks a lot! 🙂

    Reply
    • June 14, 2018 at 10:08 AM
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      Ung tip ko lng po is to familiarize the official reference book. Tapos po supplement nyo po ung kulang based sa exam coverage (inside the reference book) sa typical textbook. 🙂

      Reply
  • March 9, 2018 at 4:22 PM
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    Hi Paula congrats! Congrats to all pinoy engineers! ECE graduate in PH..
    I noticed that we passed the FE exam at the same year. Im just a month earlier 😊.. now im a california EIT and planning to take my PE exam this coming october… if anybody can share tips or suggestion about which field in Electrical Engr. Is the best way to take… i heard that among the electrical and computer is more difficult than the electrical power exam?

    Thanks Paula for this article!!

    Jeypz

    Reply
    • March 15, 2018 at 8:33 AM
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      Congrats Jeypz! I shared this article in the hopes of finding like-minded people. 😉 Looking forward to more comments from readers so we can share tips and tricks.

      Reply
    • April 14, 2018 at 9:38 AM
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      Hi sir! Pwede po i-ask how you got accredited as EIT sa California? You have an SSN po or ITIN? We’re looking to get accredited din po kasi sa CA but we got rejected by IRS for invalid reason for filing. Baka you can help us properly file for it po 🙂

      Reply
      • April 22, 2018 at 3:19 PM
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        Hello… Pwede nyo rin po ako tawaging sir pero mas accurate po ung miss. Hehehe. Actually I had the same problem. Better switch to Texas po kasi passport is accepted as an alternative to ITIN and SSN.

        Reply
      • May 12, 2018 at 4:28 AM
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        Hi Jona. I have SSN
        I’m not sure if there are any other ways when applying for an EIT in California when you dont have SSN.

        Reply
    • April 27, 2018 at 11:54 PM
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      I think the level of difficulties are the same across the board be it in Power,Electronics or Computer.Initially wanted to take the Electronics portion of the PE Electrical since I’m an ECE grad but when I started acquiring study / test materials,did not find many out there.PE Power however has tons of materials and aside from that most PE Reviews places like Testmasters’ only offers PE Electrical Power.
      The only caveat is that especially if you were an ECE grad,you will have to study and learn about motors,per unit,power protection,NEC Codes and so many other things about electrical engineering which were not part of the ECE curriculum we had taken during our days back in the old country.
      Good Luck in your preparations.
      Mabuhay!!!

      Reply
  • February 23, 2018 at 10:09 AM
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    Hello Mga Kabayan,
    ECE ako sa atin pero nung dumating kami dito sa US (Texas) at nagsimula na ako magtrabaho nagtanong ako kung papaano magkaroon ng engineering license.
    Ito ang proseso :
    1.kumuha ng FE exam through NCEES.di muna kailangan ang evaluation.
    2.kung pasado na,ipa-evaluate ang engineering course sa NCEES or any accredited evaluation company (ito ay depende sa State Board of Professional Engineers) sa Texas my engineering course evaluation was done by Spantran.Kailangan ay my EIT certificate ka para maka take ng PE Exam.
    3.Apply to sit for the PE.Dito ay kailangan mo ng 8 years of verifiable engineering experience signed by at least 3 Professional Engineers.You need to submit also to a finger printing for background investigations.

    Sa awa ng Panginoon,I passed the FE Exam in Oct.2014 , took and passed the PE Exam- Electrical Power In Oct. 2015.
    I graduated BS ECE in the Philippines in 1999.I was 15 years out of school when I started hitting the books again.If I was able to do it and passed, you can do it also.
    Mabuhay ang Pinoy.

    Reply
    • February 23, 2018 at 10:42 AM
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      Congratulations Sir! So happy to hear about you! Sa lahat po ng fellow filipinos, tulungan po tayo iangat ang sarili! 😘😘😘

      Reply
    • May 12, 2018 at 5:48 AM
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      Hello taga Bukid or to any ECE’s that passed the PE exam..

      any tips, materials or best resources that you can give/ suggest about electrical power and on how where you able to pass the PE exam?

      your’re right. there’s not a lot of materials that I can find for electronics.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  • December 30, 2017 at 11:28 PM
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    Hi Paula,

    Is it necessary to have education evaluated by WES?

    thanks,
    som

    Reply
    • December 30, 2017 at 10:29 PM
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      requirements are state-dependent. ☺ best to check your state requirements.

      Reply
    • February 5, 2018 at 10:04 PM
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      By WES did you mean by World Education Services? I am not sure but the requirements of credential evaluation depends per state. Commonly they accept the NCEES credential evaluation, though.

      Reply
  • December 29, 2017 at 7:38 AM
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    Hi Rowell, if you meant the certificate, they do reply. My friend already got his EIT certificate. I have not pursued mine yet because I focused my resources in getting to a Japanese MS program and here I am now. Perhaps next year, I will when I have the extra dough. For now, passing the NCEES exam is enough for me since I am not yet searching for a job in the U.S . 🙂

    Reply
  • December 29, 2017 at 4:57 AM
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    Did texas BE get back to you?

    Reply

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