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Ask Sherry: Should I get certified for STEM?

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

You can ask any question using the form here.

Since you work in STEM, I was wondering what your opinion is on engineer associations. As a new immigrant also who has worked in STEM for 10 years in Europe, I have been denied jobs because I don’t have the license which seems like an injustice to me but I may be wrong. Do you think it is worth the hassle to get it ?

I feel like you just answered your own question.

Let’s flesh it out:

You are being denied jobs because you don’t have the license to practice it as a new immigrant to the country.

It may seem like an injustice to you on the one hand because you already know your skills, but on the other hand, anyone could then say they’re an engineer – but look at it from a country’s perspective: how could a country know what you learned is what they also teach as engineering here, and check to make sure you’re properly qualified?

If someone just came over from a country that let’s say, was not quite as stringent on the exams for engineering as another, they couldn’t just take their word that they are engineers; they’d have to prove that they do have the knowledge as they have the ability to miscalculate in building a bridge, and end up killing people because of their mistakes.

So, what do they do? They check with a certification.

Just as how in schools, they check with exams that you learned the material, they’re doing the same here so that everyone can be trusted to have the same basic knowledge that is required.

Anyway. How you feel about it doesn’t really matter.

Regardless of whether you think it is an injustice or not, or whether or not you got the best education possible in the world from where you’re from, the real bottom line is you’re not getting jobs that you are qualified for, because of the lack of it.

Seems to me like you already know what you need to do if you want to get jobs in your field.

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


  • Steveark

    To get a professional engineering license in the US you have to have a bachelors degree in engineering from a certified institution, four years of experience working with a licensed professional engineer and to have passed two intensive exams. The failure rate for the tests is significant so just having worked in STEM as an engineer does not mean that passing the test is a given. Only 68% of the first time test takers in my field of Chemical Engineering pass the test, and the percent of passing is only 31% for people who retake the exam. The P.E. license is not related to any engineering associations. It is a state accrediting governmental organization that supervises the licensing of all types of engineering. The license is only valid in the state that grants it though you can petition for licensure in other states generally without retaking the exams. Most engineers in the US are not licensed because there is an industrial exemption that excludes engineers working in industry from the requirement to be licensed. However to be a consultant, as I am in retirement, having a license is beneficial.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you! I have no idea how it works in the U.S. (he didn’t specify where he was from). Regardless, if they are unable to get a job because of this certification and/or they are being rejected because of it…. then for me, the answer is simple: Get it if you want a job in your field. Otherwise, I suppose find an adjacent job that doesn’t need it.

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