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.