I'm registered as a Professional Engineer in a US state that nominally restricts the term - not that it matters in our field, all of my colleagues advertise themselves as engineers but the reality is I do not work in a regulated field (software) so the state board leaves us alone. I only got the license because I wanted to have it for personal, family legacy reasons.
However, I do think prior comments have incorrectly trivialized what it means to be a registered Engineer. This is my state but throughout the US it is similar. Getting a PE certificate involves:
- having an accredited engineering degree, non-engineering degree plus some years of experience, or no degree and ~20 years of experience;
- taking a general knowledge-based exam covering general topics like physics, math, materials, civil engineering, electrical generation, and so on;
- working as an engineer-in-training for at least four years, with consistently increasing responsibility;
- getting personal and character references from other professional engineers and community members;
- taking an experience-based exam that covers a variety of topics across disciplines (when I took it about half the applicants passed);
- paying your fees, nominally the board has to approve but I think it is rubber stamped once you've met the above.
- renewing annually, which includes recording at least 15 hours of continuing education directly related to your field of discipline.
Finally, professional engineers sign off that they swear to protect the health and welfare of the community above their own gain or corporate interests, and are subject to discipline by the engineering board for a variety of offenses above and beyond legal issues.
Professional engineers started getting licensed around the country because unqualified people started building bridges, mostly. People literally died, politicians contracting for roads and buildings started asking "how can I be sure this builder knows what he is doing, takes his work seriously, is more interested in my safety than his bottom line?"
For several reasons I don't want software engineering to require registration, but I suspect that these questions will resurface after a few more Toyota brake incidents, or to put it another way as software starts to kill people more frequently.