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The Missing Professional Software Engineer Mystery

ESC, Embedded Systems Conference, Boston, software engineer, PE, professional engineering license
Software engineers are everywhere. They develop the low-level firmware that drives our gadgets, the application code that allows us to interact with our devices, the software that manages the internet, satellites, medical devices, automobiles … the list goes on and on. Despite the abundant and ever-growing software developer ranks, there seems to be a mystery; the professional software engineers are missing!

Professional software engineers are those engineers that have successfully passed the NCEES Professional Engineering exam in the Software track. The mystery surrounding the missing professional software engineers is that after examining the latest exam data it is obvious that very few engineers are taking the software exam. In fact, only nine engineers took the exam when it was offered back in April. More than three times that many test takers took the Agricultural and Biological exam. Unfortunately, Computer Engineering didn’t do much better either with only 21 examinees. So, what exactly is going on?

There are at least three different reasons why Software and Computer Engineering might have fewer would-be licensors. First, software engineers may not be aware of the advantages for getting their Professional Engineering license and therefore just aren’t showing up. Becoming a Professional Engineer has many advantages such as:

  • Recognition in the work place
  • Commanding a higher salary
  • Access to opportunities that may require a PE license
  • Less hoops to jump through when serving as an expert witness

Second, developers may not even realize that the Software and Computer Engineering exams even exist! The Software exam was only added as an option within the last three to five years.

Third, developers might feel they are better suited to take the PE exam through a different track such as electrical engineering.

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Fourth, software developers might not meet the NCEES requirements to take the exam. Some developers may not have degrees from A.B.E.T.-certified universities. Other developers may not be able to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE) which is the precursor to the PE exam.

Finally, there may just not be a need to have a PE license for software developers. In many circumstances, just being able to bang out code is all that any employer really requires (scary in many circumstances).

Despite all these potential reasons for the low turnout for the Software exam, the exam covers some critical areas that every developer should master such as:

  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Testing
  • Maintenance
  • Configuration Management
  • Engineering Processes
  • Quality Assurance
  • Safety, Security, and Privacy

Working toward a PE license is a great way for developers to stand apart from the pack. The path to the PE license is not easy but once a developer is finally ready to take the exam, they may want to explore the exams available to them and select the Software examination. Don’t forget that once an engineer has a PE it doesn’t matter which test they took to get it, just that they have their PE.

As software developers, we need to up our game to resolve the missing professional software engineer mystery.

Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost, and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at [email protected], at his website, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter.

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