Board Undertakes Comprehensive Review of Licensure Policies; Adopts New Policy on Flood Risk Management

October 17, 2014

At its October 5-6 meeting at the ASCE annual conference, in Panama, the ASCE Board of Direction took action on several important engineering licensure issues, including early taking of the PE exam, while also hearing a statement from the President-Elect of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) on that organization’s continuing commitment to the concept of additional advanced education prior to licensure.

NCEES President-Elect Michael Conzett, P.E., M.ASCE, addressed the ASCE Board last week to explain the Council’s recent vote to remove the 2020 master’s or equivalent (MOE) educational requirements for licensure from the NCEES model law and rules, thereby addressing administrative concerns. The Council instead directed a committee to draft an NCEES position statement to reflect the additional education concept. The Council is scheduled to consider that position statement at its next annual meeting in August 2015.

Conzett emphasized that NCEES continues its commitment to support additional engineering education beyond a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite for future licensure, which is reflected in the current NCEES strategic plan. Conzett noted the long history of NCEES support for MOE and highlighted the conceptual work that has been done to establish a registry that can approve course providers for the additional education. He also mentioned that efforts continue within NCEES to formulate a different (non-master’s degree) pathway for the additional education, one addressing the preferences of other engineering disciplines.

Moving the MOE requirements from the model law and rules to a position statement will make future pursuit of MOE more in line with past history, Conzett stated. Continuing education requirements for licensure renewal, which were first passed in Iowa in 1979, were first adopted by NCEES as a position statement. Only after a number of states passed continuing education provisions for their licensure laws did NCEES, in 1993, add the requirements to its model law. Conzett said the road to enacting MOE in states can now also take that “bottom up” approach.

“The approach may be different,” said Conzett, a long-time supporter of the master’s or equivalent concept, “but the idea of additional education prior to licensure is still there.”

ASCE Takes Stand on Licensure Issues

At its July meeting, the Board had directed the committees charged with licensure and public policy to review the Society’s policies related to professional licensure, with the goal of clarifying and strengthening ASCE’s positions on issues ranging from continuing education to the scope and timing of the PE exam. Once approved, these policies would allow ASCE and its Sections and Branches to provide clearer and more consistent input on licensing law issues.

As a result of the committees’ review, three revised policies, as well as a new policy statement on the purpose of the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination, were approved by the Board in October. The Board unanimously approved revisions to ASCE PS130, Licensure of Professional Engineers; ASCE PS425, Continuing Professional Development for Licensure; and ASCE PS432, Licensure Examinations. The changes adopted include specifying support for a minimum of 15 PDHs per year for licensure renewal, outlining criteria to ensure uniformity of continuing education requirements among states, and expanding and updating ASCE’s position on the scope of the FE and PE exams.

 The new policy statement details ASCE’s  position that the PE exam should serve as a rigorous assessment of an individual’s ability to apply engineering principles in professional practice and that significant progressive engineering experience should be necessary to pass the exam. The Board also directed the Committee on Licensure to develop a policy statement in support of requiring individuals to complete the experiential requirement prior to being eligible to sit for the PE exam. That draft policy statement will be brought to the Board for further consideration at its January meeting.

 Flood Risk Management, Performance-Based Ownership Policies Approved

 The Board also approved a new Flood Risk Management policy. Based largely on recommendations included in the recent task committee report Flood Risk Management: Call for a National Strategy, the policy urges all federal, state and local agencies, in collaboration with the private sector, to adopt flood-risk management plans focused on identifying risks and developing and implementing a portfolio of approaches to deal with these risks.

 A new policy, Performance-Based Ownership of Infrastructure, was also approved. Initiated by ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council as part of its initiative to significantly reduce the life-cycle cost of infrastructure by 2025, the policy encourages owners of civil infrastructure to use performance-based standards for procurement, design, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning.

  • It is now two years later and I am still of the same opinion.
    Brad Aldrich thinks I have missed the point, while he notes his need to hire people with more experience / education. It is understood that every employer wants to possess as much experience / education as money can purchase. It is valuable for marketing. Question remains, does that employee get paid a sufficient return on that education?
    Mr. Aldrich should understand that the MOE policy requires more education in order to obtain a PE license. More education than what?
    More than was previously required. The MOE is about adding additional and costly requirements to obtain the PE license. Further, most states allow the PE intern requirements to include the time spent acquiring a master’s degree.
    That time in education is allowed to supplant experience as it becomes a requirement for licensure.
    I count myself among the many people who could not have obtained their PE license due to the cost of a master’s degree. (Jon Nelson’s story is similar. ) However, my bachelor’s degree allowed me to obtain my PE license which brought me to a financial point that I was able to obtain a master’s degree.
    It has been generally true that most pay scales do not pay / reward for a master’s degree. Thus, it becomes a personal sacrifice for professional development.
    As Mr. Mussleman noted, it is about keeping the three legged stool in balance. (Four legged stools are sometimes uneven.) Mr. Ehre recognizes the value of experience, experience for which someone is willing to pay him, whereas a master’s degree would have cost Mr. Ehre.
    The point is — How does an engineer get the best return on his education dollar? I believe that the MOE policy is an impediment to that endeavor.

  • As I was about to graduate, my father asked me if I was going to go for a Master’s degree. At that time, this was a concept that I had not considered. I went to each of my Civil Engineering professors and asked them what they thought. Their consensus was that unless I planned on teaching, I would accumulate more knowledge through practical experience than a Master’s program. I believe that this advice has served me well through my career, and I believe that the same holds true today.

  • I think that Michael Mills is missing the point. MOE does not supplant experience in favor of education as he suggests. No one is advocating for less experience, simply more formal education to become licensed as a professional engineer. The number of engineering credit hours in programs across the country are falling as universities move toward 120 credit hours for all bachelors programs. Engineering graduates today simply do not receive the depth and breadth of engineering education that graduates did twenty and thirty years ago. Engineering professors do a remarkable job trying to fit in all the important content into the credit hours available, but with an exploding body of knowledge that a new graduate engineer needs to know it simply won’t be enough in the very near future. As an engineering employer, I fully understand my obligation to young graduate engineers to provide them with adequate progressive experience prior to getting licensed. While I can do my part, I can’t replace the engineering education that they simply didn’t receive prior to graduation.

  • In response to Mr. Mills’ comment that requiring additional engineering education might supplant experience in favor of education, I would note that the basis of engineering licensure has historically been the three legged stool of education, examinations and experience, all of which are important. In time, this is becoming a four legged stool, adding continuing professional development. Engineering experience is as critical as ever in the development of engineering capabilities. This year, the ASCE Committee on Licensure is focusing, among other matters, on the development of a policy and guidelines for civil engineers on experiential requirements consistent with the civil engineering body of knowledge. Engineering experience for civil engineers deserves more emphasis, not less, and that additional emphasis is in process.

  • While I preferred the additional education provisions to be in the Model Law, I understood the concerns expressed at the NCEES meeting and could accept the move. President-Elect Conzett is correct in saying that much of the time provisions are added to the Model Law only after being passed in a state, and a position statement should still provide a solid launching pad for the initiative. NCEES (and ASCE) should continue to work with the various sectors of the profession to perfect the provisions such that they appropriately reflect the needs in all disciplines of engineering, and ASCE should continue to press for implementation. The NAE and others have made a good case that more rigorous educational requirements for licensed practice will be needed in the future, and the initiative is worthy of continued support. However, patience and perseverance will be important because changes of this magnitude usually take many years, if not decades, to implement.

  • It is great that the ASCE Board takes engineering licensure seriously, and is focused on supporting licensure and making sure that future engineers will be well prepared for the very different environment that they will practice in. I also appreciate Mike Conzett’s efforts, and that of NCEES as a whole, to move licensure forward and match future requirements with expanded needs.

  • The MOE (master’s or Equivalent) should remain a policy, and then go away. The MOE idea supplants experience in favor of education.

    There is a segment of engineers who want to ‘elevate’ engineering to a ‘higher’ level of professionalism, and comparisons have been made to the medical profession. I would remind that segment that medical doctors serve a 4 year residence which is practice – not education.

    Should MOE become the law of the land, we will have fewer engineers. Salaries will not rise with demand for the simple reason that the economics are not there to support higher salaries.

    Some people are trying to engineer a cart in front of the horse. Any good engineer knows that the horse needs to be out front to pull the cart. (Hint: note that tractors have weights on the front.)

    The MOE crowd should leave the current system as it is, stop trying to be a manager, and go do some real engineering work.

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