Best Engineering Calculators

Updated on May 4, 2016

Engineering Student's Dream

Many a high school freshman has salivated over this bauble-y bad-boy.
Many a high school freshman has salivated over this bauble-y bad-boy. | Source

Best Engineering Calculators

Engineers and their calculators evolve through three phases of relationships.

First, in high school and college, the emphasis is on appearance. A bigger calculator translates directly to projection of an image of a bigger brain. The biggest geek requires the most functions on his electronic gadgets in order to translate giant thoughts into something numeric the art world can gaze upon.

Second, engineers need to pass the EIT and the PE exam. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying maintains tight rules for conducting the Fundamentals of Engineering, Professional Engineer, and other exams. To combat those sneaky fellows working for exam prep services, NCEES bars calculators that can record information from the exam onto the device. For this reason, engineers must train and practice with a more limited calculator.

Third, engineers begin working for pay. In this phase, appearances maintained by "my calculator is bigger than yours" fail to boost geeks to the head of the nerd herd. Instead, it is performance and output that count. Preparing for the PE exam taught them: Even a little calculator gets the job done. So, the calculator as big as a woman's wallet takes semi-retirement in the corner of the desk (where non-engineers can admire it- keep it dusted.) The new paradigm of prestige establishment for working engineers shifts to more and bigger books. Instead of the latest calculator, it becomes who has the latest code book edition. One of the best examples is the Civil Engineering Reference Manual. It weighs 5 pounds.

Best Calculator for High School Engineering Students

In high school, appearance has a premium. In the geek squad, these honors can be purchased in the form of tech. Most Honors Calculus II students will have the latest and greatest Texas Instruments Calculator, a TI-92. Rumors this wonder machine has it's own satellite are highly exaggerated. Others will purchase the HP 48G or the newest unit, the HP 50G.

However. a TI-89 also has prestige. It just has to graph. Oh, and the student owner must be able to graph in front of others. For more campus nerd stardom, download cool programs, then link up with infrared to upload them to your buddies. Be sure this is done in a public place. Don't bother with impressing cheerleaders. They still think muscles equate to a better future and cheering will earn them respect with college admissions.

What NOT to Bring to the PE Exam

This modest little calculator ( $10 new) almost got me kicked out of the PE Exam- before it began.
This modest little calculator ( $10 new) almost got me kicked out of the PE Exam- before it began.

Best Calculator for the FE Exam & the PE Exam

The NCEES prepares and administers the Fundamentals of Engineering (now administered by contract by Pearson VUE) and the Professional Engineer exam. Preparing and vetting questions, and standardizing the exam versions requires many man-hours. When questions are "stolen" by copying during an exam, the Society loses both money in reproducing fair exams and credibility as a testing agency.

So, we all have to suffer for the cheating-hearts of those who don't want to study an hour each night for many months. Real engineers do that anyway, right? Right?

Be sure to visit the NCEES site and review their policy. It changes. I took the PE in 2011. The exam was proctored by some retirees' association. In the last minute, when it's time to just mark any unanswered questions, the old lady over my shoulder began to shake and vibrate like a toddler who has to make pee-pee. She was waving her arm around and looking toward the moderator in the front of the room. It felt like sniper school with the sniper recruit trying to make his final qualifying shot and the instructor shouting in his ear, calling him an environmentalist, and flicking his ear lobe until it stings. It was bizarre of her to do that. But, that is what went down. I'm pleased to report she survived her spasm, or whatever it was that got into her.

Think I exaggerate? I innocently brought my preferred calculator, which met all the physical requirements for calculators under their policy: no qwerty, no recording capacity, etcetera. However, it was not specifically pre-approved by them. It had no gold star by it's name. It was not on the list!

When they asked who did not have one on their list, which they read aloud, I raised my hand. Believe it or not, they actually had a conversation about whether or not they should kick me out of the exam. Instead, they had a magic box of forgiveness. Just put your rule-violating equipment into the box, and your dishonor can be overlooked. I put my name on it and placed it in the box on top of a stack of cell phones. The ladies were explaining to me, "We are not responsible if it is stolen. You are responsible to retrieve it yourself after the exam," and blah blah blah.

So, be sure not to bring a $6 drug store Sharp EL-531W with you. You might give an old lady a seizure.

My back-up was the Casio fx-115W. Thank God I had it. It is permitted. Here is the list of officially sanctioned devices:

  1. Casio fx-115 (any variety)
  2. Hewlett Packard 33s and 35s models "but no others" (NCEES, 2012)
  3. Texas Instruments TI-30X and TI-36X (any variety of these two)

Be sure not to bring anything other than these. Otherwise, you will have to make the walk of calculator shame back to your assigned seat- in front of everyone.

Some of the permitted calculators are actually useless. So, I wrote a new article about NCEES approved engineering calculators.

Check the current NCEES calculator policy.

It appears the calculator policy updates each November. Be sure to check the calculator policy here: NCEES policy.

The Casio fx-115 includes an insert inside the cover which details step by step the keystrokes for Calculus integrations, statistics, and a regression.
The Casio fx-115 includes an insert inside the cover which details step by step the keystrokes for Calculus integrations, statistics, and a regression. | Source

Why Buy the Casio

When I ordered my Casio fx-115W (the solar model), I researched reviews on all three brands: Casio, HP, and Texas Instruments. I bought the Casio because it won in both categories I chose as criteria for my selection: price and user ratings. I have listed Amazon links for you to find a good price. You'll see what I mean.

If examination dates are approaching, buy quickly. The best prices disappear fast. Plus, you really want to own it and become familiar with it as soon as possible. And, what engineer does not love a new calculator???


I went to the local Office Max. They sell TI-30 calculators for about $18 and TI-36 scientific calculators for $23 each. The HP units are priced much higher. The HP 33s sells for around $30 and the HP 35s sells for about sixty bucks.

The solar Casio I bought is easy to use and there is no worry the batteries will die during your EIT exam, or at 2 a.m. while you're pulling an all-nighter to wow a new customer. And, it sells in the range of only 10 to 15 dollars. It's the best value.

If you decide to buy your PE exam study materials from, you can bundle your calculator purchase in with that purchase, save on shipping, and receive a 5% discount on books using this code word: PASS1114. Enter it into the discount code box during checkout.

Price Comparison of NCEES Exam Eligible Calculators

all fx-115 models
Texas Instruments
TI30X & TI36X models
HP33s & HP35s only

Best Engineering Calculator for Professional Engineers

Okay! You passed the PE exam. You have a state-sealed license on your wall. Now, you need a new calculator, right?


All you use now is the $15 Casio you bought for the PE exam. Or, perhaps you use an HP48. Few practicing engineers use a TI. Why? Because the HP is actually designed for engineers. The TI is designed for students. For example, the HP can be symbiotically integrated into a Total Station, then used to download the survey into your computer. TI tech does not do that.

However, as stated above, be sure to keep the old guard calculator on the corner of your desk. People need to respect your massive brain, after all! (Use the small calculator in secret.)

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Jazzy3 4 months ago

        What would be a great calculator for a gift, my friend is going into mechanical engineer and I want to buy him a calculator for college.

      • profile image

        Bdb 6 months ago

        Ti's look like toys, feel like toys and are way too expensive for what they are. They are designed solely for highschool, not for practical use. Better go with HP. These are the real engineer machines.


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        DWonline 7 months ago

        Great article! Here are 80 other engineering calculators for frequency, wave length, voltage, conversions and more here:

      • profile image

        vvddss 16 months ago

        if you are mechanical engineer you need to see this calculator

      • profile image

        Johnson 20 months ago

        TI's are used by real engineers. I have a TI-89 Titanium that recently replaced my trusty TI-85. I work in aerospace and have no problems with my much loved and used TI's.

        Total Station? What's that? Must be used by those "other" engineers that deal with roads, bridges and sewage lagoons.

      • Steel Engineer profile image

        Steel Engineer 2 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine


        If you need a calculator, I expect that one of these brands is available in a large electronics store in large cities of Uganda. If you want to learn more about the PE exam, you can buy "Pass the PE like a Pro" from and read it on free Kindle software. You can also read my blog


      • Steel Engineer profile image

        Steel Engineer 2 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine


        To learn more about the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, I recommend "Pass the FE like a Pro." It is an electronic book. You can download it to your computer and read it using free software, "Kindle for PC" or "Kindle for MAC."

        Your grades will not affect your ability to sit for the FE exam. But, you must know the engineering material very well to pass.

      • profile image

        MAWADRI NICHOLAS AKUKU 2 years ago

        I am in Uganda; a Student how do i get your product?