A License to Engineer

January 28, 2016


Recently a few states have considered doing away with professional licensure.

Those pushing the concept that licensure is an unnecessary barrier to employment fail to recognize the crucial role professional licensure plays in protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare. While it is true that licensure should be not be used as a tool for frivolous or self-serving purposes, professional licensure is crucial to the work we do as civil engineers, and ASCE is committed to protecting professional licensure.

In our profession, licensure was first seen in the United States in 1907, and a hundred years later, never has the need for licensure been more evident. Today’s practice of civil engineering requires a mastery of math, physics, and science; an understanding of an ever-increasing body of technical knowledge; and an ability to apply that knowledge in solving unique and complex problems. More than that, it requires a willingness to meet demanding professional and ethical standards, recognizing that the lives of people who live and work in today’s built environment are dependent on engineers’ knowledge and expertise.

Licensure ensures that we are entrusted with the responsibility to build our nation’s bridges, clean our nation’s drinking water, and shore up our nation’s infrastructure against natural and manmade disasters once we first demonstrate competence through education, examination, and experience. Professional licensure for us and similar professionals is not a “needless barrier to opportunity” but a bulwark against the dangers of placing life-critical decisions in the hands of individuals who are ill-equipped to serve that role.

It is essential for those who beat the drum of deregulation to understand the clear danger of overreaching into professions with a profound impact on the public’s safety and welfare. In the zeal to reduce market barriers for select occupations, we as civil engineers must still guard against bad policies that put all of us at risk.

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  • If anything, there needs to be higher standards of licensure for the sake of public safety. See “Structural Engineering & Licensure” from Civil Engineering Magazine from April 2015.

    I’m assuming the article is referring to this: http://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/voices/2016/01/06/one-view-dont-get-rid-occupational-licensing/78396162/

  • Avatar Charles Haas, F ASCE

    What’s interesting is that the civil engineering program criteria do not specifically require knowledge of public health or climate change.

    Chuck Haas, ASCE Department Heads Executive Committee; Member ASCE Committee on Accreditation Operations

  • I couldn’t agree more whole heartedly with Mark’s comments on the necessity for licensure. I would take it even a step farther. Currently, all states require that any engineering design be performed under the supervision of a licensed engineer. However, there is no similar requirement for construction. I would like to see ASCE adopt a position that anyone performing construction management on construction which has a significant civil engineering component (roads, bridges, dams, open water conveyance systems, underground wet utilities, water treatment plants, building structures, etc.) be required to be a licensed engineer.

  • Which states are pursuing this?

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