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Policy Statement 465 - Academic Prerequisites for Licensure and Professional Practice

To better understand how ASCE Policy Statement 465 and raising the bar for engineering licensure go hand in hand, click here for a document prepared by the Raise the Bar Committee. (To receive the publication itself, email info@RaiseTheBarForEngineering.org with your request.)


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Approved by the Public Policy Committee on September 3, 2014
Adopted by the Executive Committee of the Board of Direction on October 5, 2014

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the attainment of an engineering body of knowledge for entry into the practice of engineering at the professional level, i.e., practice as a licensed professional engineer, through appropriate engineering education and experience, and validation by passing the licensure examinations. To that end, ASCE supports an increase in the amount of engineering education, such that the requirements for licensure would comprise a combination of:

  • a baccalaureate degree in engineering;
  • a master’s degree in engineering, or no less than 30 graduate or upper level undergraduate technical and/or professional practice credits or the equivalent agency/organization/professional society courses which have been reviewed and approved as providing equal academic quality and rigor with at least 50 percent being engineering in nature; and
  • appropriate experience based upon broad technical and professional practice guidelines which provide sufficient flexibility for a wide range of roles in engineering practice.

ASCE encourages institutions of higher education, governments, employers, engineers, and other appropriate organizations to endorse, support, promote, and implement the attainment of an appropriate engineering body of knowledge for individual engineers. For civil engineering, the established Body of Knowledge includes (1) the fundamentals of math, science, and engineering science, (2) technical breadth, (3) breadth in the humanities and social sciences, (4) professional practice breadth, and (5) technical depth or specialization. Attainment of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge requires additional education beyond the bachelor’s degree for the practice of civil engineering at the professional level. The implementation of a path to attain the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge should occur through establishing appropriate curricula in the formal education process, appropriate experience guidelines in the workplace and related education and experience standards in the law and rules of each of the engineering licensing jurisdictions.


Issue

The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge prescribes the necessary depth and breadth of knowledge, skills, and attitudes required of an individual entering the practice of civil engineering at the professional level in the 21st Century. This Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge exceeds today’s typical civil engineering baccalaureate degree, even when coupled with the practical experience gained prior to licensure.

The civil engineering profession is undergoing significant, rapid, and revolutionary changes that have increased the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge required of the profession.  Beyond the expanded technical considerations reflected in the Body of Knowledge, civil engineers more than ever need to consider the immediate and long-term environmental, societal, political, legal, aesthetic, and economic implications of engineering decisions
                                                                                                                                                                          
These and other changes have created a need for civil engineers to have a greater breadth of capability and specialized technical competence, placing increased expectations on civil engineers in their role of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Despite this broad and significant increase in the challenges facing practitioners at the professional level, the number of credits required to earn the traditional four-year undergraduate engineering degree—the maximum amount of formal education currently required—has decreased significantly over the past decades.


Rationale

While current engineering baccalaureate programs across disciplines regularly undergo reform in their approaches, they still retain a nominal four-year education process. This length of time limits the ability of these programs to provide a formal education consistent with the increasing demands of the practice of civil engineering at the professional level.  Diametrically opposed forces are trying to fit more content into the baccalaureate curriculum while at the same time reducing the credit hours necessary for the baccalaureate degree. The result is a baccalaureate engineering degree satisfactory for a future entry-level position, but inadequate for the future professional practice of engineering. While essential to achieving the engineering body of knowledge, the pre-licensure engineering work experience—gained during the generally four-year engineer-intern period—cannot make up for the expanded engineering body of knowledge that would be gained from additional education.

Requiring education beyond the baccalaureate degree for the future practice of engineering at the professional level is consistent with other learned professions.  A century ago, engineering led all professions, requiring four years of formal schooling.  This later became the standard for medical, law and architectural professionals. While the education requirements for physicians, attorneys, accountants, pharmacists, architects and other professionals have subsequently been increased to five to eight years in response to the growing demands of their respective professions, the requirements for the practice of engineering have remained virtually unchanged. In this regard, engineers are truly a “leader no longer.” Retaining a four-year undergraduate engineering education will negatively impact engineers’ professional stature as leaders and thus impair their ability to both champion the needed engineering advancements for society and attract motivated prospective students to follow in their footsteps.



ASCE Policy Statement 465
First Approved 1998