Members are elected to NAE membership by their peers (current NAE members). Election to membership is one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer. Members have distinguished themselves in business and academic management, in technical positions, as university faculty, and as leaders in government and private engineering organizations.
Individuals can not apply for membership in the NAE and, thus, there are no "application forms" for membership in the NAE. The procedures for nomination and election of member and foreign member candidates involve a search in all fields of engineering by present members of the NAE for outstanding individuals with identifiable contributions or accomplishments in one or both of the following categories:
- Engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature.
- Pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education or providing engineering leadership of major endeavors.
A candidate for membership shall also be recognized by associates and others for professional integrity.
A candidate nomination for member (U.S. citizen) or foreign member (non-U.S. citizen) must be made by a member of the Academy, with supporting references from three additional active or emeritus Academy members. The call for nominations and reference support occurs between February and May; nomination packets are released only to members. Nominators and references are requested to maintain secrecy with regard to those being nominated for membership in the Academy. Peer committee reviews of nominees in various fields of engineering result in recommendations to the Committee on Membership for its consideration within guidelines established by the NAE Council. The final list of nominees is voted on by the entire membership of the NAE during the month of January with the results of the vote announced to the public in mid-February. The entire process is subject to strict confidentiality.