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Can a Felon Become an Engineer?

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When it comes to finding a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging.  Jobs they once had are lost and careers may be gone.

Felons may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

They will have to be creative and willing to learn a new trade or start a different career.

This is the opportunity for felons to begin a new profession.

This blog post will address the issue of whether a felon can become an engineer.

  • What is an Engineer?
  • What Education/Training Does an Engineer Need?
  • How Much Does an Engineer Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming an Engineer


What is an Engineer?

An engineer is a person that applies the principles of science and mathematics in developing an efficient solution to a technical problem.

Many engineers develop new products while others improve upon an existing one.  An engineer tests, produces, and maintains systems or procedures using a computer to produce and analyze designs.

An engineer may discover how a machine or structure performs in carrying out a technical process.

There are many specialties in the field of engineering with each based on one or a combination of disciplines: civil, chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineering.

There are certain skills necessary to be successful as an engineer:

  • Analytical skills to understand the concepts of a new or existing product
  • Visualization/spatial skills to see how a structure will look after completion
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Logical decision making
  • Creativity to design a safe, efficient structure or system
  • Communications and interpersonal skills to explain their ideas and work with clients and various trades
  • Organizational skills to keep track of the steps and components of a project
  • Time management ability to maintain a strict schedule to complete a project on time

What Education/Training Does an Engineer Need?

While it isn’t required to be licensed to be an engineer, since 1907 the Professional Engineering designation has been used to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

A Professional Engineer license is required to sign and finalize engineering plans and to offer services to the public.

In order to obtain an engineering degree, one must obtain a bachelor’s degree for even an entry level position.

Many colleges offer a two year or four year degree in engineering technology.  This plan allows an individual to work on practical design and production work.  Someone with this designation is not eligible to be licensed as a Professional Engineer.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology approves college and university engineering programs.  Graduation from one of these programs is typically required to be licensed.

Admission requirements for an engineering program include a strong background in math and science.  Common coursework in engineering focuses on:

  • Advanced Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Writing

Most engineering programs take four to five years to complete.  For some specialties in the field, a Master’s degree may be necessary, although an entry level position does not have this requirement.

All states require licensure for an engineer performing services directly for the public.

After completing an accredited program, an individual takes an exam called the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (PE).  This allows them to be called an engineer in training (ET).  Typically, after four years of related work an entry level engineer is eligible to take the licensing exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam.

How Much Does an Engineer Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately two million practicing engineers in the U.S.

This occupation is expected to show a 14% growth by 2024.

The median salary of a mechanical engineer in 2021 was $97,000 annually, civil engineer was $88,050 and electric engineer was $101,780  This is the salary at which half of engineers earned more than this and half earned less than this.  The lowest 10-15% earned less and the highest 10-55% earned more than those numbers (this is a general estimate).

Experience will make a difference in how much an engineer earns annually.

The area of the country in which an engineer works also makes a difference in their earnings.  Those on the East or West coast typically earn more than an engineer that works elsewhere.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree they want.  While as many as 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, there is no standard policy regarding a background check in place.

Any felon wanting to get a degree can find a college that will accept them.  The challenge is in obtaining a license as an engineer and a job after graduating.

While the requirements for felons becoming an engineer differ somewhat depending on the state, typically, the regulations indicate certain factors.

These will be considered as to whether a crime relates the occupation of an engineer.  These criteria include:

  • Nature and seriousness of the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the responsibility to work as a Professional Engineer and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public
  • Relationship of the crime to the competence, ability, capacity, fitness, or professional judgment required to perform the duties and responsibilities of an engineer
  • Outcome of the judgment, penalty, or punishment whether completed or ongoing
  • Date of completion and resolution of the terms of the terms of any judgment, penalty, or punishment
  • Extent to which an engineering license might offer for further criminal activity

It is important to be honest in filling out an application for licensing.  If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on doing a background check, this constitutes fraud and is a punishable crime.

For anyone considering not being honest about their felony, it is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in this pursuit, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. Lying about their conviction will prevent them from becoming an engineer.

They are already working with the often negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

There are many success stories, as the Guide to Being Employed, reveals, showing how having a goal, commitment, dedication, and perseverance can assist felons in achieving their dream.

There are re-entry programs, such as drug treatment, and educational opportunities.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming an engineer.

Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Felons have been shown to make good employees.

Supporting a Felon in Becoming an Engineer

For families of felons wanting to pursue a dream of becoming an engineer, encourage your loved one and support their efforts to live an honest life, change their lifestyle, and keep their dreams alive.

They have made mistakes and been incarcerated, but they have paid the consequences for their past actions.  They are not defined by their crime.

It is time for them to move forward and live an honest life.

Encourage them to find out if they qualify to have their record expunged.  Having their record expunged will qualify a felon to be able to take the engineering licensing exam.

Your family member is worth making the effort for, if they are sincere in their desire to become an engineer.

Help them realize their ambition no matter how difficult the road might be.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become an engineer with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become an Engineer?”

    • Depends on the state. Florida, for example, does not have any specific objection to a felon (in general) taking the licensing exam. Felonies related to the engineering practice, however, may result in a denial of licensure.


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