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Continuing Education Legislation July 2010

 Concept Paper for Legislation to Require Continuing Education for  

 Re-licensing as a Professional Engineer 

By Joan Al-Kazily, for ASCE Region 9

July 2010 

 

Proposed Legislation

The proposed legislation would mandate thirty professional development hours (PDH) of appropriate continuing education, in the registrant’s field, during the two years preceding license renewal.  Two of the 30 PDH credits would be required to be in professional ethics.  Up to 15 unused PDH credits could be carried over from the previous two-year cycle. 

The licensee would be charged with responsibility to evaluate the quality of professional development activities and select those appropriate for the profession. BPELS would have final authority with respect to approval of PDH credit.  Activities for which credit is claimed would be subject to review by the Board in periodic audits

The licensee would be required to maintain records that support the PDH claimed for license renewal. The license renewal application form would provide space for the applicant to sign a statement verifying that the continuing education requirement has been fulfilled, and that the applicant has a record of the qualifying experience.  Records would include but not be limited to:

  • Title of the activity claimed, sponsoring organization, date, location, duration, instructor's or speaker's name, and PDH units earned; and
  • Attendance verification records in the form of completion certificates, paid receipts, or other documents supporting evidence of attendance.
  • Records would be required to be retained until the end of the licensing period that they support. 

General guidelines for PDH credit may include the following:

  • Successful completion of college courses (3 units/1Sem. = 45 PHD, 3 units/1 Qrtr = 30 PHD)
  • Successful completion of short courses, tutorials, correspondence courses, web-based courses, or televised and videotaped courses, sponsored by nationally recognized technical societies and offering CEU or PDH credit.  (1 CEU = 10 PDH)
  • Attendance at technical or professional seminars, workshops, in-house courses, or professional meetings, conventions, or conferences (1 hour of attendance = 1 PDH)
  • Teaching or instructing college courses, or courses that offer University, or CEU, or PDH credit; one time only for the same course.  (Two PDH for each hour spent teaching)
  • Authoring or co-authoring published papers, articles or books.  (10 PDH per article)
  • Active participation as leaders of professional or technical societies or committees. (Max. 2 PDH per year)
  • Self study of relevant materials such that the registrant's knowledge of the subject significantly improves the registrant's ability to work in the subject area. (Max. 3 PDH per year)
  • Mentoring of junior engineers on engineering topics.  (10 hours mentoring = 1 PDH, max. 2 PDH year)
  • Writing accepted Professional Exam questions (4 PDH per question.  Max. 8 PDH per year)

Why This is Important

In the 2010 Professional Engineers Act, the Business and Professional Code (§ 6700 to 6799) addresses the process for re-licensing in Article 7, Revenue, § 6795 Certificate Renewal Time Periods, which states:

"Certificates of registration as a professional engineer, and certificates of authority, shall be valid for a period of two years from the assigned date of renewal. Biennial renewals shall be staggered on a monthly basis. To renew an unexpired certificate, the certificate holder shall, on or before the date of expiration indicated on the renewal receipt, apply for renewal on a form prescribed by the board, and pay the renewal fee prescribed by this chapter."

The placement of this article in the Chapter on Revenue implies that renewal is required for the purpose of producing revenue.  Allowing renewal, simply upon payment of the fee, implies that, once trained as an engineer, a person remains qualified for life to practice in a rapidly changing profession, with new challenges to be met every year.

In fact, to remain competent as a professional engineer, a practitioner must engage in continuing education.  This is recognized by professional societies, which have, embedded in their code of ethics, a requirement for their members to engage in continuing education.  For example the ASCE Code of Ethics states in Canon 7:

Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers and shall provide opportunities for the professional development of those engineers under their supervision.

Guidelines expanding on this canon state in Paragraph (a):

Engineers should keep current in their specialty fields by engaging in professional practice, participating in continuing education courses, reading in the technical literature, and attending professional meetings and seminars.

An Engineer must remain current in his/her field because public safety is at stake.  This has been recognized in the healing arts where continuing education is required for re-licensing in California.  For example, in the two-year licensing period continuing education requirements are:         

  • Physicians 50 units
  • Dentists 50 units
  • Dental Assistants 25 units
  • Dental Hygienists 25 units
  • Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians 30 units
  • Physical Therapists 30 hours (after 11/1/11)

Protection of public safety is an equally important issue in engineering work.

Continuing education is also required for other professions in California.  For example Architects are required to take 5 units of continuing education (on the disabled access requirements); and Accountants are required to take 80 units.  The precedence for requiring continuing education for re-licensing in California is clear.

Precedence for continuing education for re-licensing Engineers also exists in the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Land Surveyors (NCEES) Model Rule, and the 34 states that have incorporated the requirement in their licensing laws.  Requiring continuing education in California will be consistent with the NCEES Model Rule and the majority of other states.

Mandatory continuing education for re-licensing in California will also make it easier for California licenses holders to obtain reciprocity in those states.  It is unlikely that this requirement will deter engineers from moving to California or seeking re-licensing here.  If this is true, one might also believe that not having the requirement would attract those engineers to the state, or encourage re-licensing of those engineers in the state, who do not want to bother with continuing education.  This is not desirable.

Requiring continuing education for re-licensing of Engineers in California will send a strong message that practicing engineers are expected to remain current in their field. It will also demonstrate the State’s commitment to protection of health and property of the public, and provide reassurance to the public.  Ensuring that Engineers are remaining proficient by engaging in continuing education could also reduce the number of complaints resulting in fewer enforcement cases.

Fiscal Impact

A small initial cost will be incurred to re-design the re-licensing application form. Further costs will depend on the frequency and extent of Board audits of re-licensing applicants.  There is a potential reduction in cost of enforcement due to increased awareness of the importance of continuing education and professional ethics.

Action Plan

  1. Circulate to R9 Board for feedback
  2. Circulate to ASCE members in California
  3. Circulate to contacts in other professional societies and organizations for endorsements
  4. Circulate to BPELS staff and Board members
  5. Obtain language from other states that require CE and any studies that demonstrate the continuing education improves quality or educes errors.
  6. Secure an author for the bill