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What Is the Difference between the FE Exam and the EIT?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Amanda L. Wardle
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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The FE exam and the EIT are the first rungs on the ladder to becoming a Professional Engineer (PE). FE stands for Fundamentals of Engineering, while EIT is short for Engineer in Training. Once an individual passes the FE exam, he or she becomes an EIT. The FE exam and the EIT are followed by the Principles and Practices (PP) exam. EITs need to pass the PP exam in order to become a PE.

Certain graduates in the U.S. are eligible to take the FE exam and the EIT program. To qualify, students must have studied engineering or a related area of focus, or be part of an Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) credited degree program. There are more than 3,000 ABET programs in 21 countries throughout the world. Some areas allow individuals with engineering-related work experience to take the FE exam and the EIT.

The FE exam takes place on the same day across the U.S., and material covered in the exam includes such topics as circuits, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, and materials science. The exam lasts for eight hours and is divided into two four-hour sections. Questions are in multiple choice format, and a reference book is provided to test-takers.

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There are 120 one-point questions in the first half of the exam. Students choose from seven specialized subject areas in the second half of the exam, and answer 60 two-point questions in this portion. Specialized subjects include chemical, civil, electrical, environmental, general, and mechanical or industrial engineering. The total possible exam score is 240 points.

In order to complete and pass the FE exam, candidates must have already completed three to four years of study or engineering-related work experience. Typically, American students in their final year apply to take the FE exam. This test, as well as EIT certification, is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

Completing the FE exam and achieving the EIT title are marks of distinction for engineers. Once an EIT, a student is an engineer but is not yet a fully qualified one. There are no formal training programs for EITs. Each will begin to accumulate experience under one or more PEs. Therefore, the EIT is more of an apprenticeship than an exam in itself.

In order to become a PE, an EIT must gain a certain amount of professional experience as an engineer. This amount of experience required varies, but is typically eight years. Four of these years can be accumulated during college study and two more through postgraduate studies, such as a Master's or a PhD. This leaves two years of actual on-site experience.

Once an EIT has acquired the total experience required, he or she can apply for the Principles and Practice exam. In addition to experience, the NCEES requires EITs to acquire several letters of recommendation, at least three of which should come from PEs. The PP exam is divided into two sections, but the content and the passing scores vary between states. After passing this exam, the EIT becomes a fully qualified PE.

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