Can Software Engineers become certified Professional Engineers (PE)?

This question was closed by the community as off-topic career advice back in June 2014. It has not received any edits aside from retagging, but now it's suddenly one vote away from being reopened and one vote away from being deleted at the same time. To me, that screams "we need to sit down and talk about this."

I assume the motivation for the delete votes is the obvious one: Most certification questions are not valuable content for the same reasons as other career advice questions, and leaving them around creates broken windows.

I believe the motivation for the reopen votes comes from what Thomas Owens said in chat the other day. Here's the full conversation. Here are the relevant sound bytes:

I'm not sure if the [Professional Engineers] one can even be justified as being closed.

The problem with many of the certification questions was that they were either primarily opinion based (should I get certification X?) or time-sensitive (about a particular test that changes).

I suppose they could decide to stop offering [the certification]. But that doesn't happen often.

And it probably won't, since in Texas and Florida, you need to pass that exam to call yourself an engineer.

Since I know absolutely nothing about ceritifications of any type, aside from the folk wisdom that they seem to be a waste of time for most software developers, I am unable to meaningfully agree or disagree with this argument, so I haven't voted on the question either way.

What does everyone else think?

  • 1
    delete votes should be 2 not 3 - I changed my mind after discussing the question in chat (but apparently can't revoke)
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 14:39
  • Now deleted... discussion appears to be moot. Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 4:49
  • 7
    @RobertHarvey Given the way the votes were split plus this Meta discussion, I undeleted and put a content dispute lock on it. My take was in chat and quoted here. If the community thinks that it should be gone, then I'd be happy to redelete. But it's easier to discuss if everyone can see it.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 0:55
  • 2
    My issue with it is there are many conflicting answers. As most of these timed (incorrect?) answers only have my down and one other vote on it, I take it to mean that it isn't being curated by people who do know the answer and should (in theory) be down voting incorrect material. That this isn't being done to mean is an indication that people aren't interested in maintaining it with correct, accurate, and up to date information and it would be better off deleted.
    – user40980
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 1:51
  • 2
    @MichaelT I deleted all of the answers that are now wrong. Everything left is no longer out-of-date. The discussion should be about the question: is it within scope and/or valuable? Should the question be opened and unlocked, closed as an education or career question, historically locked, or deleted entirely?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 13:12

3 Answers 3


Most certification questions are either individual career advice or the answer is "go ask them" (and changes yearly). This is closer to being a question about the legal status of software engineering - except unlike most legal questions it's reasonably answerable by a site of software experts. Sort of like the rare good licensing question.

Of course it's possible to bring out the broken windows argument, but the slippery slope argument is itself a slippery slope, and taken to its extreme would become "if we leave any questions open we must leave all questions open".

  • 2
    There is an important difference with good licensing questions. Those are somewhat location independent, copyright being driven by international accords. Legality of status are in contrast very localized (my understanding is that in US it is a state competence for instance). Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 9:51

This question IS answerable, but it seems to me that it's awfully broad - within the US alone there are 50 states + DC and protectorates that all have their own legal codes on the subject, and that's just one nation among many. A better question might be 'How does one become a certified software engineer in ', and perhaps we ought to dump this one in favor more localized questions that can be answered with references to specific legal codes.

  • 2
    absolutely, doesn't it fall under the "too localised" category - unless there's an international engineering certification (really doubt this!) then the OP could be asking about Indian, UK or US certification. All will be different, and useless to all the readers in different jurisdictions.
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 11:53

Without the OP referencing the definition of Professional Engineer the question should be closed as unclear what you're asking. Does this refer to the Professional Engineer exam mentioned in the top answer? We have no idea and can only assume. With IT job definitions being vague, volatile and localized it is unclear what the OP is talking about.
(The same can be said for the other term Software engineer).

IMO this is a prerequisite to be met before all the other arguments here can be considered.

[And the question should get a region/country tag if it is a localized definition. I get the impression it's a 'US thing'].

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