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As I recall in Missouri its a two stage open book exam. New graduates used to go in with a suitcase full of reference books to take the preliminary exam. I thought you took a follow-up exam after several years experience.

Are all states the same? Some better than others? Have the details changed?

With a very few exceptions, all states now follow the NCEES guidelines for getting your license. This helps tremendously when applying for a reciprocal license in a different state because you now have a common set of requirements and tests.

The "traditional" approach is to take the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam within a year of graduating college. After 4 years of experience, submit your application along with a narrative of your experience (supplementary experience record). After you're approved, you then sit for the Principles and Practices Exam. After you pass that, then you earn your license. Some states have supplementary exams such as seismic structural in California.

There are other non-traditional ways...a masters degree allows you only need 3 years of experience instead of 4. If you have 8+ years of experience, you can get a waiver for the FE exam, etc.

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