The term “engineer” is used frequently in many industries. It means different things depending on its context. In my case, I’m a radio broadcast and audio engineer.
Using the term engineer causes some people to take a defensive stance. It seems that many of these people are state-certified professional engineers as well. (Not all the defenders are PEs, but it seems many of them are.)
I admire anyone who holds a PE. That’s quite an accomplishment. But I see that accomplishment recognized by referring to that person as a PE or professional engineer, not just an engineer.
Despite this, the argument is raised regularly. Should those who do not hold a state-issued professional engineer designation be allowed to call themselves an engineer? I think they should be allowed.
Some caution is due. If someone is using the services of an engineer, the person authorizing the work should ensure that the people he is hiring is qualified, regardless of a state-issued certificate. I would never represent myself as being qualified to design a bridge. Likewise, I know plenty of PEs who have no business popping the lid on a piece of audio equipment.
However, we are both engineers.
Something for clarification from Merriam Webster (edited):
Etymology: Middle English engineour, from Anglo-French, from enginer to devise, construct, from engineering
1: a member of a military group devoted to engineering work
2 a: a designer or builder of engines b: a person who is trained in or follows as a profession a branch of engineering c: a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance
3: a person who runs or supervises an engine or an apparatus
2b and 2c apply to me.