Working As An Engineer In Texas
Engineering is a very broad field, and requirements for meeting individual career goals will vary widely. Following are some important possible actions for foreign-trained engineers who wish to pursue a career in Texas.
Register to take: fundamentals in Engineering Exam
Passing this exam will allow you to apply for certification in the State of Texas as an EIT (Engineer in Training). You can register to take the exam at https://account.ncees.org/register.
Once you pass the exam, you will go to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers website to apply for your EIT: https://app.engineers.texas.gov/auth/login
Should you eventually decide to apply for a Professional Engineer license, you will need to accumulate 4 – 8 years of qualifying work experience as a certified EIT. Since building that experience is something you will do over the next several years anyway, it makes sense to be sure it will contribute to your qualifications if you decide to pursue your P.E.
Verify/Evaluate Your Degree
(See below, TEXAS-APPROVED CREDENTIAL EVALUATORS)
You may choose to have your education verified and evaluated. Some engineers find they are able to meet their goals without this step, and your evaluation and transcript do not have to be submitted prior to taking the Fundamentals in Engineering Exam (see above). However, if you decide that you ultimately want to earn licensing as a Professional Engineer (P.E.), this will be a necessary step. (See below, DO I NEED A P.E. LICENSE?)
Take and Pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Exam
This exam tests for a high level of proficiency, and you may need to take classes or commit considerable time to preparing for it on your own. There are numerous online practice tests, some of them free, but a good place to start is with the study materials posted by ETS (Educational Testing Service), the company that writes and administers the test: https://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/prepare/quick_prep/
Apply to Take the Professional Engineering Exam
Whether or not you ultimately apply for your P.E. license, you may wish to work toward passing this exam while the material from the FE is still fresh in your mind. (See box, DO I NEED A P.E. LICENSE?)
You will need to have passed the FE and the TOEFL (if applicable), and have had your education verified and evaluated in order to register for this exam. You can register to take the exam at https://account.ncees.org/register.
TEXAS-APPROVED CREDENTIAL EVALUATORS
The following is a list of evaluators approved by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE, https://engineers.texas.gov/lic_eval_toefl.htm):
- NCEES Credentials Evaluations Web Site: http://ncees.org/records/ncees-credentials-evaluations/
- Foreign Credentials Service of America Web Site: http://foreigncredentials.org/
- SpanTran: The Evaluation Company Web Site: https://www.spantran.com/
- Josef Silny and Associates Web Site: http://www.jsilny.com/html/foreign.htm
- Educated Choices, LLC Web Site: http://educatedchoices.com/
Document Your Work Experience in a Supplementary Experience Record (SER) With Supervisor’s Signature for Each Job/Project
If you elect to apply for P.E. licensing, you will be required to provide a detailed description of all relevant work experience. Before you can apply, you must have four years of qualifying experience with an accredited degree, or eight years with a non-accredited degree. Instructions for the SER can be found at https://engineers.texas.gov/downloads/serinfo.pdf.
Even if you are not sure you want to pursue your P.E., you should familiarize yourself with this requirement and consider using the SER form to help you track your career. It is a very good idea to use the SER form and get supervisors’ signatures at the end of each project or job to avoid having to track people down later should you elect to apply for your P.E., or even just as references in future job searches.
Apply for Licensing as a Professional Engineer
Once you have passed the PE exam and accumulated your qualifying work experience, you may apply for your P.E. license. Besides your thorough and meticulously completed SER with signatures of references, you will submit a four-page application, a translation of your degree (if applicable), proof of English proficiency, and various legal and identifying documents, along with a fee (currently $80). You will also have to take and pass an ethics exam as part of the application process. The official TBPE P.E. Application Checklist can be found at https://engineers.texas.gov/downloads/checklist.pdf.
Pursue U.S. Citizenship
You will likely have many reasons of your own for either wanting or not wanting to pursue U.S. Citizenship. As an engineer, one factor you may wish to consider is whether you will ever want to work in a job that requires security clearance. If so, becoming a U.S. citizen will be a prerequisite to applying for that clearance.
Consider Further/Other Qualifications
Again, engineering is a very broad field, with an enormous array of possible career paths. Once you have your EIT Certification and you are working, you may want to consider enhancing your value in the marketplace with more training. If you don’t already have one, you might consider pursuing an advanced engineering or a business degree. You might also consider certification in various kinds of software used widely in the industry, such as SAP (Systems Applications Products); or you might pursue PMP (Project Management Professional) Certification. Bear in mind that while all these credentials will elevate your prestige as an engineer, they all require an investment of time and money. You should research your options very carefully before committing your resources to any of these undertakings.
DO I NEED A P.E. LICENSE?
This answer to this question depends on your particular field of engineering, and on your long-term goals. Earning a P.E. is a lengthy process that requires very thorough documenting of your work experience over several years. You will also have to invest time and probably some money on study materials in order to prepare yourself to take the exam, as well as going through the process and expense of verifying and evaluating your education and demonstrating English language proficiency. Given the cost and the time commitment, many engineers in the U.S. do not pursue a P.E. license. In many industries, you may never need it unless you want to reach a very senior position.
However, there are some good reasons to consider pursuing your P.E. license:
1.) Only a P.E. can sign and seal documents. This could be important to you particularly if you are a civil engineer.
2.) If you think you might one day want the option of becoming an independent contractor, you will only be legally allowed to use the word “engineer” if you are a P.E.
3.) Earning your P.E. could increase your prestige and/or your confidence and pride in your qualifications.
4.) There is always the possibility that future legislation will result in licensing being required for more kinds of engineering jobs.
5.) In Texas, you do not have to wait until you have accumulated your work experience/SER before taking the PE exam.
Therefore, it may make sense for you to prepare for and take it as soon as possible after you take the FE exam, while the academic knowledge is still fresh in your mind. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to forget content areas that you do not use in your daily work. Whether or not you choose to pursue your P.E. license in the end, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and take the FE and look into having your education evaluated. In the worst case, you will find a job that does not require these things from you, but you will still be able to include them on your résumé to help you build your career going forward.