A professional engineering license is a rite of passage for most young engineers, learn what the exam meant for one engineer
By Maria Gobitz
Just over a year ago, I was one of 82 individuals across the United States anxiously awaiting to hear if I had passed my Mining/Mineral Professional Engineering (PE) license exam. I spent 8 hours answering 80 multiple choice questions in a room in Phoenix. This exam was not just another test for me—it was a milestone in my career.
I was eligible for this exam after 3 years of work experience, having earned my Master of Science in Mining Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. Despite the exam having been scheduled during an extremely busy time, my managers gave me a reprieve from work to allow me to study for the exam. I found time on nights and weekends to study and took time off work to attend a week-long study session hosted by SME.
This exam is more than just the check box of ‘now I can approve drawings’. It is a symbolic step in my career toward becoming a mining engineering consultant. Obtaining a PE registration adds credibility to an engineer’s work and is one of the recognized qualifications for an engineer to offer mining engineering services to clients. The designs and plans I will produce, review and ultimately approve, will affect the communities where I live and work. As a PE, I am now responsible for three key commitments to the mining industry.
- Technical Expertise – Much of the exam is focused on technical questions. Everything from Rock Mechanics to Mineral Processing is reviewed. Reflecting a year later on this portion of the exam it challenged me more than any other and I am grateful for this. I know that by passing this exam I am increasing my knowledge level. It emphasizes that we must always keep learning. That we must challenge ourselves to be aware of the best practices in the industry and deliver them.
- Ethical Engineering – In the mining industry, asking what is ethical is something we take seriously. As a professional engineer, it is my responsibility to deliver ethical projects to the best of my ability. It is not simply about meeting the client’s demands but knowing when to push back to ensure we are doing what is right. My hands-on experience at Stantec and the pre-exam’s ethical portion drove this home for me. I know as a mining engineer I must look at a project holistically and manage the client’s needs with the ethical response.
- Safety First – The PE exam has a section dedicated to Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The questions highlight the importance of never compromising safety. By dedicating a portion of the exam to these questions, I know the industry is dedicated to ensuring our work is safe, and that prevention through design is within my control. I know it is my personal responsibility to be safe on every job site. I must be mindful of my surroundings and hold my peers to the same standards. And when it comes time to stamp my first design, I must be confident that this project is safe not only for the staff that will be on the site, but for the community at large.
Stantec sponsors the SME Foundation’s PE Exam Committee, the only organization the United States that prepares examination questions for the licensure of the mining and mineral processing engineers. This group is ensuring that the industry has trained, knowledgeable, and licensed engineers with integrity, which is key to the success of mining operations around the world.
When I took the exam in 2018 only 45% of my peers passed. This is because the PE Exam Committee fosters an intentionally challenging question bank. Upholding tough technical, ethical, and safety standards ensures we have capable professionals ready to deliver projects successfully.
Now that I am a PE, I have an industry recognized credibility. But with this comes significant responsibility. I am now a part of a team of licensed professionals who are transforming our industry by designing safer, more sustainable, and more efficient operations today and in the future.