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November 2015

Don't Leave Home Without That Professional or Occupational License

Who hasn't fantasized about moving to a new more desirable location? Maybe your options were hampered by the recession. Yes, it's difficult to predict your career landscape. This month's article by guest author Mark A Grevas, PE (PA, SC, NC, GA), brings reality into focus as he shares his personal story and licensing challenges when he relocated.

My licensure story begins over 40 years ago, when I decided to attend a college more for the infinite possibilities it offered, than my knowledge of the engineering profession. It was in my second semester I learned my engineering degree was not EAC/ABET (Engineering Accreditation Commission/Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited. I should have run then, but I did not. I was enamored with the school and the city. I also found out I could still be licensed in New York and most other states as a Professional Engineer without having an ABET degree. I would simply need additional experience beyond the four years typically required between the Fundamentals of Engineering (FOE) and Principals of Engineering (POE) exams.

After a total of 10 semesters (one post graduate) of study and five years of working I applied to take the New York FOE exam. I was surprised when they told me I had to wait an additional three years to take the FOE exam. In fact, I was already qualified to take the POE exam in Connecticut. So, I took the FOE that first year after a great review course and passed it. The next year I took the POE and also with the right review course assist, passed again. I was a licensed engineer.

Fourteen years later, I applied and eventually received a license from Pennsylvania. I say "eventually" because I had to elaborate on my experience since gaining my Connecticut license. That elaboration was necessary because of my degree. It was a reminder that without an ABET degree, I had to be careful in making my application complete and tailored to the law of the state to which I was applying.

Which brings me to 2013...our daughter had long been in love with a small college in an historic city in a southern state. To be near her my wife and I chose to relocate to South Carolina.

My first task was to download the South Carolina laws and application for engineering licensure. My next step should have been to follow that up with filing an application as soon as possible. But, I chose to find a job instead. When I interviewed with a firm, it was deep into 2013 and I was very interested in securing that job. I did, however, ask my future supervisor how my application for licensure would be received in South Carolina because I did not have an ABET accredited degree.

"With your years of experience, that will be no problem" he said enthusiastically. I then explained I had not discovered in the South Carolina law how comity clauses worked with "years of experience". Maybe he could guide me to other online documents to research?

"We have a person in our office that is on the Board", he stated. "I'll speak to him and confirm that you won't have any problem getting licensed here." I should have been wary when he never got back to me on this subject but did recommend that Human Resources send me an offer.

After working for that firm for just under six months, I was terminated. The same manager claimed I had not adequately pursued my license in South Carolina. However, there was still no evidence he discussed my application with the South Carolina Engineering Board member in this office.

Shortly after being terminated, my National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) records were completed after the final late respondent sent in his endorsement. So, I immediately applied for my license. It was rejected because I have a non-ABET degree. There is no path in the law by which experience can be used to gain a PE in South Carolina. There is no mention of years of experience other than four years between the FOE and the POE exams. Turns out only an ABET accredited degree holder can be licensed in South Carolina. Having a professional engineering license in other states for twenty-six years does not qualify.

You can ask how that interviewer did not know about the South Carolina ABET requirement. Turns out, the interviewer/office manager was from Georgia and had yet to submit his own PE application in South Carolina in August of 2013. Taking it a step further, his Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC/ABET) accredited degree did not allow him a Category A Professional Engineer License under South Carolina law. From his January 2014 application he was granted a highly restricted, Category B license in March of that year. (To date, I have not found another state which provides for a second class engineering license, particularly one which will expire on July 1, 2020.

It was only after much research and speaking to the in-house Board member through our LinkedIn accounts, I learned I could have my degree and extra courses evaluated for "substantial equivalence" to an ABET degree by sending my college transcripts directly to the Board. The end result is that I gained my South Carolina, Category A, Professional Engineering license after an additional six months of fighting for it.

So, don't leave your home, family or golf buddies for a career without having the professional or occupational license needed for your new career location firmly in your hands. In fact, you may want to have already ordered the stamp for your license seal before you show up at an interview. It will show them you you do know how important it is to have that license and you won't be answering that question multiple time for some employment hearing judge.

We encourage you to practice due diligence, and know is here to help you navigate the myriad of requirements issues surrounding licensure across multiple jurisdictions.

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Jurisdiction License Renewal Due Date




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If your license renews on your date of birth this month, or by state requirement when your license origination occurred, it's time to renew.

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