Chief of Engineers Endorses “Raise the Bar”

December 12, 2014
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Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the 53rd Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was the special guest at the Industry Leaders Forum, which took place at ASCE’s Global Engineering Conference 2014 in Panama City, Panama in October. Photo Credit: David Hathcox

The chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, P.E., M.ASCE, has declared his support for increased education as a requirement for entering licensed engineering practice in the future. In a letter to ASCE President Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, Bostick congratulated ASCE for its support of the Raise the Bar initiative, which seeks to better protect the future public health, safety, and welfare by requiring either a master’s degree or an equivalent 30 hours of advanced education prior to licensure.

In his letter to the ASCE president, Bostick wrote that the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shares your concern that the body of knowledge necessary to enter the professional practice of engineering in the future is beyond the scope of today’s four-year ABET/EAC degree – even when coupled with prelicensure on-the-job experience.”

Bostick is the fourth Chief of Engineers to endorse the Raise the Bar initiative. Before him were Lieutenant General Robert B. Flowers, Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock, and Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr.

In an environment of rapidly expanding engineering knowledge but shrinking credit hours for engineering education, Bostick wrote, “In today’s rapid pace of increased technology, individuals must acquire additional technical and specialty training to be significant contributors and competitors in a global market. Engineers must understand more about business, public policy, communications, globalization, lifelong learning, ethics, leadership, teamwork, and other professional skills…. While demands on engineering curricula have increased, many schools have significantly reduced the credit hours required to earn an engineering degree. This trend is counter to our needs.”

ASCE has documented through its Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century that attaining the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required of the future licensed civil engineer will not fit in a four-year curriculum. That insight is mirrored by the National Academy of Engineering, which in its report Educating the Engineer of 2020 found that “the exploding body of science and engineering knowledge cannot be accommodated within the context of the traditional four-year baccalaureate degree.”

In his letter to ASCE, Bostick wrote, “Your model for attainment of the formal educational portion of the Body of Knowledge is logical, practical, and achievable…. [T]he implementation of [ASCE] Policy Statement 465 [Raise the Bar] is, in my view, a step in the right direction and one that the USACE fully supports.”

Bostick concluded that a “workforce thoroughly prepared for entry into professional practice can only lead to heightened protection of the public’s health, safety, and welfare.”

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  • Avatar Brad Aldrich, PR, F.ASCE

    I don’t think this is an indictment of the current BS degree in engineering, but a recognition that the body of knowledge needed to practice as a professional engineer simply can’t fit in a bachelors program any more. The growth in what we need to know simply cannot be covered in a four-year degree program.

    I disagree with those who suggest that on the job training is enough. As an employer of engineers, I can’t teach the foundational knowledge that they need to know to truly practice competently as a professional engineer.

    To those who ask how we can afford it, how can the CPA, physical therapist, occupational therapist…and the list goes on an on, afford it as these professions already require more than a bachelors degree to practice competently (and get a license) in their professions.

    We are charged with protecting public health and safety. You need 150 credit hours to do my taxes, but I don’t to treat your drinking water?

  • Avatar TImothy J. Moore, P.E.

    In my opinion an advanced degree would offer nothing of value to one’s ability to offer engineering services. One the job training and experience is much more important. Also note, most government officials (USACE included) do not actually engineer anything (it is outsourced). Increase the experience period if necessary, and allow a 5th year or Masters to count as part of that experience. Add new topics to the exams if there is truly a doubling of knowledge every 5 years.

  • Avatar Kwasi Kyeremeh-Dapaah

    How can we receive more education when the cost of education is exponentially growing by the day.Europe has been able to raise the bar for engineering because their education is not overly expensive.What is the sense in been qualified and competent as an engineer and having crippling debt.

  • Avatar Norman Scheffner, PhD, PE

    I believe the educational system has obviously failed the field of Civil Engineering. If a 4-year degree is not sufficient to become a licensed PE, I believe the minimum degree requirements have to be increased to a 5 year curriculum. Although I have a PhD, I think a bachelors degree should be sufficient to become a PE. If not, make it so!!!
    Norman Scheffner, PhD, PE
    772-337-9372 (I would welcome any response)

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