Engineering Licensure Outside of the United States

PE Exam Licensure in Canada

In Canada, the title "P.Eng." designates the status of a professional engineer. This is analogous to the title "PE" in the United States. Approximately 160,000 professional engineers are registered in Canada.

There are ten provinces and two territories in Canada, each with its own licensing body, commonly called "the engineering association." Engineering in Canada is self-regulated, which means the Canadian government has delegated the responsibility for administering engineering legislation to the profession.

All Canadian undergraduate engineering (B.Eng., B.E.Sc., and B.A.Sc.) programs are accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), a standing committee of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE). The CEAB uses volunteer professional engineers from across Canada, with members from both industry and academia. CEAB performs functions in Canada that are parallel to those performed by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) in the United States.

Each association has an Academic Review Committee (ARC) or Board of Examiners that reviews the academic qualifications of licensure applicants. Applicants from CEAB-accredited programs automatically meet the academic licensure requirements. All other applicants are reviewed by the Board of Examiners (or ARC) and are required to take one or more technical examinations covering all traditional subjects in engineering curricula. Therefore, it is possible for engineers who were educated outside Canada, scientists, and technologists to become Professional Engineers in Canada. Almost 8% of all Canadian professional engineers have obtained their licenses by taking technical examinations.

In part because of CEAB's close monitoring, candidates for the P.Eng. title who are graduates of Canadian B.Eng. programs are not tested in engineering principles after graduation. However, to receive the P.Eng. title, the provincial engineering associations have additional requirements beyond the B.Eng. degree. These typically involve additional work experience past graduation, letters of reference, and an examination (known as the Professional Practice Examination, PPE) covering ethics, intellectual property protection, and provincial law. This "law and ethics exam" is based on a national syllabus established by the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, but it is administered by each province. For example, applicants in Quebec must be familiar with aspects of Napoleonic law, while applicants in English-speaking provinces must be familiar with elements of English common case law. Applicants must be fluent in the language of business used in their province or territory.

Recently, several of the associations have introduced structured Engineer-In-Training or mentoring programs. These programs require new graduates to keep log books and, in some associations, to be interviewed by the licensing body during their four-year internship.

Six of the twelve associations have implemented mandatory continuing competence or practice review requirements. The remaining associations either have established voluntary systems or are in the process of developing other competence evaluation systems.

In 1999, the Canadian Professional Engineers achieved internal mobility with the signing of an Inter-Association Mobility Agreement. Essentially, this agreement allows members in good standing expedited admission into the other associations.

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Reciprocity with the United States

In many states, the Canadian licensing process does not satisfy the state requirements for examination. Because of this, Canadian engineers will find themselves pursuing the same examination process as US citizens: taking the FE and PE exams in the states where they desire to perform consulting services. An example of an exception to this rule is the state of Nevada, where Canadian P.Eng licensees can receive PE licensure without having to pass the FE and PE exams, as long as they are listed in the Engineers Canada Mobility Register. In addition, approximately half of the US states have provisions for issuing "temporary engineering licenses" to non-US engineers. The best way to find out the requirements of the state you wish to be licensed in is to contact the state board.

A six-nation mutual recognition agreement (the "Washington Accord") signed in 1989 recognized the essential equivalence of the accreditation processes for engineering education in these countries. This makes it easier for Canadian engineers to prove that their degrees are "ABET equivalent."

The effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has not been significant.

Description of the Law and Ethics Exam

The law and ethics exam typically contains short questions on legal definitions and key precedent- setting cases, professionalism and professional practice, regulation of the profession, and the Engineers Act. The exams are usually two to three hours in length. Within a province or territory, all engineers take the same law and ethics exam, regardless of discipline.

Passing rates are usually high--70% and above. Language is often a cause of failure.

Many provinces use a machine-graded, multiple-choice exam--the so-called "National Professional Practice Examination" developed by the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA). This examination is closed book and two hours in duration. There are 100 multiple-choice questions. All questions are common to the professions of engineering, geology, geophysics, and geoscience. The examination is graded as pass/fail. A detailed report indicating areas of weakness is available to candidates who fail. There is no penalty for wrong answers (i.e., for guessing). The minimum passing score is 65%, although psychometric adjustments may be made by APEGGA to ensure that, over time and among groups of candidates, pass/fail decisions are made consistently. The grade is final, and there are no appeals.

In Ontario, exams also include written essay questions concerning fictitious legal cases. The fictitious legal cases are based on actual case law. Additional questions cover ethical dilemmas (i.e., "what would you do" questions). These exams are three hours in length and require essay responses.

Review Materials for the Canadian Law and Ethics Exam

Law for Professional Engineers, D.L. Marston, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd. (1996)

Canadian Professional Engineering Practice and Ethics, Second Edition, G.C. Andrews and J.D. Kemper. Saunders College Canada. (1999) ISBN 0-7747-3501-5

Reference guides covering intellectual property protection ("A Guide to Patents," "A Guide to Trademarks," "A Guide to Industrial Designs," and "A Guide to Copyrights") can be obtained from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).

The provincial engineering professions act, manual of professional practice, and code of ethics published by the association.

Relevant safety regulations, such as an Occupational Health and Safety Act.

More Information on Canadian PE Licensure

Provincial and territorial associations are accessible from the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers' (CCPE) website,

Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) 
Head Office, 1500 Scotia One, 10060 Jasper Ave. 
Edmonton AB T5J 4A2 
Phone: 780-426-3990, 800-661-7020 
Fax: 780-426-1877

Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) 
180 Elgin Street, Suite 1100 
Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2K3 
Phone: (613) 232-2474 
Fax: (613) 230-5759

Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) 
Contact through Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) 
180 Elgin Street, Suite 1100 
Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2K3 
Phone: (613) 232-2474 
Fax: (613) 230-5759

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) 
Industry Canada, Place du Portage I 
50 Victoria Street, 2nd Floor 
Hull, Quebec, K1A 0C9

Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) 
25 Sheppard Ave., West, Suite 1000 
Toronto, Ontario, M2N 6S9 
Phone: (416) 224-1100, (800)-339-3716 (within Ontario) 
Fax: (416) 224-8168

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Deborah Wolfe, P.Eng., Director, Educational Affairs, Canadian Council of Professional Engineers; John Stephenson, P.Eng., PE, Toronto, ON; and Dr. Hugh Jack, P.Eng., Assistant Professor, Padnos School of Engineering, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI.