Most ICE members in the Americas are expats who have relocated from the UK. Many hold senior positions in government, academia and industry with a heavy bias towards infrastructure.
One of the biggest issues for members in the Americas is “reciprocity” or local recognition of Chartered Engineer status. Most engineers relocating to the Americas are disappointed that there is no real local recognition of equivalency, and the process to become licensed locally can be long and frustrating.
In the US we have made a recent unexpected breakthrough. To give some background; the main difference with the licensing process in the US is that a Professional Engineer (PE) is exposed to more personal liability than in the UK. Construction documents must be signed and sealed by a named individual who is personally liable for its contents. This responsibility is one reason why salaries are higher in the US, but it also means the process for registration is complicated and is administered locally by individual states to local laws.
Some requirements are common across all states. These include an eight hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which is normally taken by students in their final year of study and an eight hour Professional Engineer (PE) exam which is taken after obtaining the required experience, which is typically four years of responsible design, not site experience.
Some states have additional requirements. For example California and Alaska have additional technical exams and most states have additional ethics exams. To further complicate matters, the majority of states do not automatically recognise Washington Accord degrees from outside the US, and the number of those that do appears to be decreasing each year.
Faced with this complexity and these differences, PE applicants focus on persuading states to recognise some parts of their CEng qualification, but the reality has been that most applicants need to sit both exams and submit details of their degrees for detailed evaluation.
We were therefore pleased when the Engineering Council was approached by Idaho State Board representatives wishing to award PE status to CEng applicants without the need for the exams. We assisted the Engineering Council and produced a briefing explaining the CEng requirements. This was presented to the state board and was accepted for applicants with eight years’ experience after attaining CEng. A number of members have been through the process and have successfully become PEs in Idaho, based on their CEng status and without having to sit the PE or FE exams.
We are optimistic that other states will adopt similar approaches and will continue to support the Engineering Council in working with other states and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) to help members. The NCEES administers exams and credential evaluations for the states and is a good source of information: www.ncees.org
ICE members can also obtain information about working in the US at: www.ice.org.uk/near-you/north-america/usa
- Richard Giffen is ICE Council member for Americas