We all know the PE license opens doors to a variety of possibilities in our careers, which also have their own indirect benefits in our personal lives. While we may decide to take the PE exam with an eye on its future benefits, most of us struggle with the basics: How much time do I need to put in every day? How should I organize my study time? And how many months before exam day should I start preparing for it?
In today’s episode, Isaac addresses these common concerns and provides guidelines and tools that you can follow and use in order to make sure your first step towards your PE license is not a misstep. Although the answers to the questions above may vary depending on what stage you’re at in your career and the nature of the work you do, he covers the golden basic rule we should all go for: focus on 3-4 months of preparation, putting in 250-350+ hours of theory and practice problems.
This rule will be like a compass guiding you in the right direction, but you don’t need to stop there. Joining a course, like the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course, can really put you ahead of the game by providing you with the exact topics you’ll be tested on the exam while also giving you access to tons of practice problems, a community of like-minded people going through the same process in which you can share your struggles and help other with theirs, as well as expert help from CEA team members. If you’re starting to prepare for your exam, this is a must-listen episode.
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
PE Starter Toolkit – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/breadth
Visit our Youtube channel to find free video problems and book reviews – https://www.youtube.com/c/CivlEngAcademy
If you need any of PPI’s books, use our discount code of CIVAC, and you can get 15% off any book that you order there – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi
School of PE – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/sope
Haven’t joined up in our free community? What’s wrong with you? J/K. Ok, just go there and join a group of like-minded civil engineers! – https://ceacommunity.com
Join over 4000 engineers like you and learn the tips and tricks to passing the FE and PE. We even have a free resource for you! – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/join-our-newsletter
If you need exams, solved problems, or courses, make sure to check out our home base – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: What's going on, everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy coming on with another fun podcast episode. Today it's just going to be a solo episode with me. I just wanted to talk about -- I've been getting a lot of questions about how much preparation time do you really need to study for the PE exam? And the reason for that is because of -- I mean, we've had COVID. Exam dates have been shifted around. You know, they're offering exams in January and in different cities and States. There's just all kinds of stuff going on in terms of when to schedule your PE exam. And not only that, but you have your standard times, which is every April and October right now. And so, this is a very common question. So I thought it would be fun to do a podcast episode about it, a YouTube video, and just make sure everybody's on the same page with my thoughts on how much preparation time that you really need to put into this exam.
Isaac Oakeson: And maybe the backup on this, you know, who can really take and pass the PE exam? So the first thing you do before even getting prepared and ready for this exam is you have to make sure you meet the qualifications to take it, right? So one of the things that you definitely need is that you've got to have a four-year degree in engineering from an ABET accredited university. So you gotta have your bachelor's degree. If you're coming from another country, you can get that waved with an equivalent. You know, showing an equivalent education, but you really have to talk to the NCEES and go through their process in order to get that thing taken care of and make sure that's checked off the box. The other thing that you need to qualify to take the PE exam, or to get your PE, is to have engineering experience. Typically, that is four years of engineering experience, and you have to have someone sign off on your experience, whether that's a manager, someone above you that knows your work, to qualify to get the PE license. So, that can actually affect your employment, right? If you go into a place and they don't have anybody that has the PE license, how are you going to get somebody to sign off on that? You know what I mean? So, that's a problem. But that's something that you need. Now, every state has their own division of professional licensing, and a lot of States are decoupling. So they are removing the exam from the experience, which is nice because if you're just getting out of school, then you can go and register for the PE exam, if you've passed the FE and get going on that really early in your career.
Isaac Oakeson: But most people take the exam around four years after school because they've got the experience now and they can go take it. But States like California, Arizona, they allow you to take it in two years. And there's other States. You just need to go and look that up in your own division of professional licensing website. But for just ballpark and for everyone that's out there, typically you need four years of qualified engineering experience in order to get your PE license, and that's typically when people take the PE exam too. But you can take it earlier. Just go look at what your own state requires, okay? And then we -- We already talked about this. So you've got to have the FE passed, you've got to have qualified experience, and then you've got to have a bachelor's degree. With those credentials you can go get your PE license, okay? All right. So now you got that out of the way.
Isaac Oakeson: So let's talk about how much preparation time that you really, really need to put in to study for this exam. And, you know, it really depends on where you are at. So, in order to discuss that, we have to talk about probably a couple of different things. One of them is, do you actively work at a place that you're using engineering pretty heavily? Are you a structural engineer? You know, are you reviewing this stuff quite often? How long have you been out of school, knowing that you need four years of experience? Have you been out of school for four years? Have you been at a school longer than that? If that's the case, then you probably need a little more time. You know, those, those are the things we want to talk about. And also, some people just want to get this degree just because of the self-drive and the prestige of getting it, no matter what age they're at. And so, we've had people take our course, civilpereviewcourse.com, that have been in their sixties and have passed the PE exam, which is really exciting. So it really kind of depends on where you're at and your time frame we'll adjust accordingly. So, if you feel like you've been out of the game for a very long time, you want to lean probably towards the six-month marker in order to put in the time to prepare for this exam. That's a long time, that's half a year. But it'll give you time to gather your materials and then set a schedule that is built around any free time that you have in your day. That's the long end. Most people, I would say for most people, that you need to put in three to four months of study time for this. Some do it with even less, which is good for you. But most people require about three to four months of preparation time or somewhere in the ballpark of 250 to 350 hours of study time to prepare and pass for this exam.
Isaac Oakeson: So, you know, how do we do that? How do we find these hours in our day to do this? How do we set a schedule to do this? We know the NCEES produces a specification and we can look at the topics that they're going to be asking us. So we're sitting here in 2020 -- Or 2021. Wow! And in 2022, the exam is going to go computer-based, which is awesome, if you're used to that. So, if you're used to the FE exam, and you're going to go take the PE exam, will be very similar computer-based exam. But if you're looking forward to taking an open book exam that's paper-based and you can bring in any resource that you want, 2021 is the year to get it done. But most of you, you know, if you don't have a choice, you just kind of deal with the cards that you're dealt with and off you go. No big deal, right? And we just take it and we can figure it out. It's still going to be very similar. It'll be an eight-hour exam, similar topics, a breadth and a depth kind of stuff. And the only thing that you're probably going to introduce is your own reference manual, which is going to be huge. And then you're also going to have those alternative type questions that they can ask you on a computer-based test. Anyway, before we keep going on this topic, if any of you need help to get started on the PE exam, we created at Civil Engineering Academy, a toolkit. A PE Starter Toolkit. And if you would like to go check that out, just go to civilengineeringacademy.com, or you can go to civilengineeringacademy.com/breadth, like breadth exam. And if you go in there, you'll see a menu item down there that's called the PE Starter Toolkit. And in that kit, we give you exams for your breadth and depth exam, we give you a study schedule that you can build out, it's a homework planner. And right now it currently works in conjunction with the Civil Engineering Reference Manual, which is produced by PPI and really kind of the Bible when it comes to studying for your PE exam. Maybe in 2022, that might change up a bit when we get a PE handbook from the NCEES. But right now, the PPI book is the one to get. And so we've built a homework planner that matches up with that. And it's really nice. So if you want to check that out, go to civilengineeringacademy.com, and you can click on the exams and go to breadth, and that will take you there. Or you can go to civilengineeringacademy.com/breadth. Go find the PE Starter Toolkit. We give you some sweet videos to help you get going. You got exams, a homework planner, and an equation reference guide, all at your disposal to kind of kickstart your studies. So definitely go check that out.
Isaac Oakeson: And continuing with this topic, though, how do we find the hours to do this? How do we put in the time to do this? How do we build a schedule? The first thing I want to tell you is that employers want you to have your PE exam. The value of you as an employee without it, you know, is so-so. But once you get the PE exam, your value as an employee goes way, way up. They want you to have it, and they're willing to make some sacrifices to help you get it so that you have it. The value of them as a company is you getting your PE license. So, let's get it. And you can talk to your manager, let him know you're working on it, ask them about any sort of policies that they have around studying. Even at work, a lot of employers will allow you to study at work. If you can, if you're doing your work and you're getting it done, or you have an extra free time or whatnot, most employers will allow you to do some study time at work.
Isaac Oakeson: But what you're going to do is look at your day, find out where you can fit in the hours to really practice problems, whether that's early in the morning, whether it's at work at some time, you should probably be doing that anyway. And then, let's see what you got open at night time and try to get in some hours there. What we're shooting for is probably two to three hours during the day or during each weekday. And then on the weekends, we need to hit it hard. And you're probably looking around eight to 10 hours on the weekends. And if you add all that up, what you're shooting for is 250 to 300 hours of total study time over three to four months of preparation, that's what you should be shooting for. That's what I think you really need to do and how much time it should take you to prepare for this. If you feel like you've been out of school, like I said, forever, maybe you should lean towards that six-month mark, which is totally fine. You know, more time the better. But if you are under three months, registered for the next exam, I just don't think you're going to have enough time to prepare for this, especially if you don't have your resources. If you don't have any of your books and such, I would definitely register for the next available exam because under three months is not going to give you enough time to prepare for this. So, like I said, three to four months of preparation time, and make sure that you are finding any fringe hours in your schedule and schedule it. Put it in your calendar. Make it a goal that you're going to put in some study time in this.
Isaac Oakeson: And then what I also recommend is really hitting problems hard. You know, if you get the Civil Engineering Reference Manual, and I have a copy of that sitting right here by me. It's huge, okay? Look how thick that is. You're looking at a good four, four and a half inches thick of a book. And it covers every topic you'd ever want to know, tons of appendices, lots of clarifying examples. But what it does include as well is a lot of topics that you're not going to use on your PE exam, like differential calculus, and trigonometry, and a lot of math topics that do not creep up on the PE. So, my advice to you is to really hit the practice problems hard. Start practicing problems, gathering practice exams, gathering books that you can practice problems on, and hit those problems. Build your schedule around that. So that first week you're going to study, let's say -- You know, you're looking at the spec, let's hit water resources, I guess, and let's study some of those topics in water resources. And build out your weeks based on that. And then for your depth exam, you want to add more weeks to it because, you know, half the exam is what you're studying for your depth portion. So you want to make sure you cover that quite heavily. Although I will always preach that you need to crush your AM portion of your exam. If you can do that, the equations and problems are much easier and it will lift a load off of your shoulders for the afternoon.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. With all of this, how do you avoid exhaustion when you're studying? How do you get into a mood, a study habit where you can get back into? I called it -- When I was studying for this, I remember I felt like I was getting back into kind of homework mode because that's what it is. And eventually, over time, you actually enjoy starting to study for these problems, because if you are an engineer, you obviously liked it for some reason. When you start solving problems again, and things are clicking a little bit, you'll notice that you might enjoy a little bit. So, you're going to get exhausted. You have to get your family on board with this goal. There's a lot of things here that are going to benefit them as well. And you've got to tell your friends and family that you're just going to have to -- "I've got to focus on this stuff for the next few months, and I'm sorry if I can't attend all kinds of things", but you've got to put in the time to do it. I'm not saying you can't do anything, but you really have to put this as the number one priority in your life in order to get this passed and block out the distractions that are out there. So, to avoid being exhausted with studying, you know, it's helpful to mix up the topics that you're studying. You know, you can practice the problems that you enjoy and do those to avoid exhaustion. Find help through a community. You can go to ceacommunity.com, that's a free community we set up for anyone studying the FE or PE, or just needing civil engineering career advice in general. Join our course, the Ultimate Civil PE review course, you can go check it out at civilpereviewcourse.com, and you can join up. And when you're around people that are like-minded and going through the same challenges as you, it gives you a boost of energy. Your mindset just becomes clear, you can get over the hurdles of concepts that you're struggling with. I jump on there to help. We have a team of CEA engineers that are there to help, and we just want to help you ace this thing. That's our goal. So, if you're getting exhausted on studying or you need a boost, I do recommend getting a course because it's going to help throw you over the edge. Is it going to cost money? Yes, it's going to cost money. Is it worth it? Yes, it's worth it. Think about what this PE will do for the rest of your life. And once you're done with it, you're done with it. Like, you're not going to have to take it again.
Isaac Oakeson: Think about that. That's nice. All you have to do is get your continuing education credits per your State. You can renew your license. You know, for me it's every two years in Utah. And off you go, okay? You got your license, you keep it renewed, and you do not have to take the exam again. You just get your continuing education credits, units, PDHs, whatever you want to call them, which are all over the place. Isn't that nice? So it's worth it to me because the PE is going to allow you to boost your career in all kinds of ways. You'll get credibility, it'll open doors to raises, it'll open doors to other job opportunities, which also come with raises. And so it's a must. You've got to get it, okay? And like I said, once you pass, that's it. You don't have to do it again.
Isaac Oakeson: So guys, those are the tips I have for you and how much time you really need to put into preparing for the PE exam. We talked about, you know, what it is, who can take the PE exam. We talked about the factors that affect those and your study time. We also talked about, you know, just some tools and resources that can help you and building a schedule as well. Those are all things that are going to help you ace this thing. So there's a lot of things that we've talked about. If you have any problems with this, or you have questions about taking the PE exam, please reach out to me. You can reach out to me on my email, [email protected]. That's [email protected]. Go check out our free resources. We have tons of free video problems on our YouTube channel. Just go search Civil Engineering Academy. We're usually putting one out there a week for problem solving. We have a course. We talked about that. Go join it. civilpereviewcourse.com. We have a free community. You can go be a part of it at ceacommunity.com.
Isaac Oakeson: All of these resources and tools are there to help you and if you need books and resources, we have partnered with a few people and you can go check out their resources too. We're just here to help you. So if you need any of PPI's books, go to civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi and use our discount code of CIVAC, and you can get 15% off any book that you order there. You know, go get your CERM, go get any practice problems that you can get. We also are a partner with School of PE and you can go check out their awesome reference manual. We actually just produced a video on their recent depth review manuals. They are only available to their course students right now, but in 2022, those will be open to the public. If you go to civilengineeringacademy.com/sope, you can go check those out. They definitely have one for the breadth portion of the exam that I think is nice. It's very nice. It works right in conjunction with the spec. It's in color. It's kind of a modern take on what you need to study for the breadth portion. And then if you need depth stuff, it's there for you too. So, plenty of resources. If you definitely want to check out more, go to civilengineeringacademy.com. We have tabs in there for resources. You can go learn what you need for your breadth exam, for your depth exam. And definitely go check out the PE Starter Toolkit. Like I mentioned earlier, go to civilengineeringacademy.com/breadth, and you'll be taken to where our exams are. And down near the bottom, you'll see a PE starter toolkit. You can get started right away. It gives you tons of free goodies as part of a really good deal to get you going on your preparation.
Isaac Oakeson: Guys, I hope that helped you. It was fun to talk about. And, like I said, if you have any questions, reach out. We are here to help you. And I'm sure we'll be talking about the PE in the future, because we want to help you prepare in any way possible and make sure that you are on a path to becoming a professional engineer, and we're happy to help you on that journey. So, thanks for joining me. And we'll see you in the next one. Bye.
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