In our early years of marriage, my wife and I were able to visit Colonial Williamsburg during a summer vacation. We learned about the rich history of colonial Virginia. Years later we attempted to share this rich history with our children. It was hot. They were young and tired. Needless to say, the first visit far surpassed the second as a rewarding family experience.
As a member of the Iowa Engineering and Land Surveying Licensing Board, I was able to return to Colonial Williamsburg for the National Council for Examinations for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES) Annual Meeting this month. An interesting catch phrase used often during the conference was, “Huzzah!” I think in colonial times this translated roughly into either “whoopee,” or, “When is someone going to invent air conditioning?”
With NCEES, there are ongoing debates related to a number of significant professional licensure issues. I will highlight several noteworthy topics.
Future education requirements for engineering licensure
One goal of NCEES is to advance licensing standards that support technical and professional competency in support of engineers who will protect the health, welfare and safety of the public. NCEES recognizes a trend of reduced formal education hours for the typical engineering bachelor’s degree. Engineering curricula now average 128 credit hours for baccalaureate degrees. This is reduced from the historical 150 hours many of us experienced. It only SEEMED like 250.
Many academics are NCEES members. They assert that the reduction in required credit hours is not their responsibility. Rather, they blame legislatures for enacting laws in various states that lower the bar in response to concerns expressed by their constituents. These include the high cost of higher education, the burden of student loans, the time required to acquire a degree and so on.
To counter this trend, many professional associations are seeking to raise the bar to maintain engineering educational standards.
Some ideas being debated include the following:
- Bachelor’s degree plus a masters or doctorate in engineering
- A bachelor’s degree from an institution that requires at least 150 credit hours in its engineering curriculum
- A bachelor’s degree in engineering and at least 30 additional credit hours of upper-level undergraduate or graduate coursework in engineering
Various professional societies (e.g. NSPE, ASCE, ASME) do not agree on this issue. The NCEES -approved motion will essentially recognize the issue and encourage NCEES to continue working with the other professional organizations to find an acceptable path forward to strengthen licensure requirements in the United States. Do not anticipate any quick resolution to this debate.
Future of Surveying Task Force
In a previous blog (“Surveying Surveying”), I highlighted the growing concern with both the aging surveying workforce and the reduced numbers of students entering the profession. NCEES formed this task force in an attempt to identify causal issues and formulate potential solutions. One recommendation is the creation of “Surveying Programs of Distinction.” These institutions will be identified and promoted in an attempt to attract students to surveying training as the first step in their careers.
North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners vs. FTC
NCEES and the various state boards are monitoring a recent Supreme Court ruling against a North Carolina board that ruled that only dentists could offer teeth whitening services in the state. This ruling was overturned, and may threaten the function of many state regulatory boards. It is essentially a Federalism argument, and may impact the potential antitrust immunity currently enjoyed by state regulatory boards. It is a complicated, evolving issue.
One way to promote the value of a professional license is to ensure that it is mobile; a license in one state is easily valid in any other state. It may seem simple, but not when you consider that among the 50 states, there exist more than 60 unique sets of state rules and laws. Additionally, many state laws prevent accepting licenses from other states where the initial license was obtained under rules not in alignment with that particular state. Until the various state boards begin aligning with the national “Model Law” and “Model Rules,” you can imagine how difficult this will be to accomplish.
One highlight of the annual meeting is the NCEES Engineering Award. This is given to universities that encourage collaboration between students and professional engineers. I must note that my alma mater, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, was awarded a $7,500 prize for their work on a “Multidisciplinary Vertical Farm Design” project. Hey, at least it had nothing to do with football.