Raise the Bar for Engineering

September 13, 2012 at 8:58 am 10 comments

Engineers of decades past have had more credit hours required of them compared to the engineers of today, yet engineers of today have so much more to learn than those engineers of past generations.  As a result, there is a new campaign supported by the likes of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) that is catching fire:


If you have not noticed, many engineering companies these days are requiring Masters Degrees for any candidates they consider for current or future jobs.  Why?  Today’s engineer can no longer rely solely on a Bachelors Degree and senior civil engineering staff to teach them all the knowledge and technology necessary to be successful, because they do not always understand it all themselves.   The challenges of today’s civil engineering infrastructure are much more complex than in years past, and a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering allows the engineer of today  to be more prepared to take on those complex challenges.  Universities have the continued pressure to graduate their engineering undergrads in four years, but this will not provide the undergraduate civil engineer with the knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a Professional Engineer.

Carl Mack, Ph.D,  Executive Director for the National Society of Black Engineers says, “If you want to be competitive in this global environment, in this very changing and complex world, an undergrad degree just isn’t going to cut it.”

As you will hear in the video below, education beyond the undergraduate degree has been a requirement for every learned profession except engineering.  Professional Engineering is not setting the same standards as a doctor or lawyer or any other profession that requires an advanced degree; as a result, it is time to “Raise the Bar for Engineering.”   By increasing the educational requirements for the Professional Engineer, many experts agree that this will help boost the profession to the stature where it belongs.

Take a look at the following promotional video for this initiative:

An opposing opinion was left on the YouTube page where this video was found:

“This is a misguided initiative. There is certainly very little value an engineering Masters degree would provide the practicing engineer. Most Masters degrees, and even most Bachelors degrees, are research and theory based and provide little practical knowledge for the real world. On the job experience is more valuable. To compare our profession to doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, etc. is fair, but let’s be honest, there’s no way employers are going to pay at the same level as those professions.”

This initiative seems to make sense, as the impact that engineers make on our society is overlooked for no good reason.  Their talents and skills are critical to our world, so comparing them to attorneys or doctors from a stature standpoint I do not believe is off target.

What do you think?  Are you FOR or AGAINST this campaign?

To learn more, please visit http://www.raisethebarforengineering.org

Authored by:

Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

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Entry filed under: Career Development, Civil Engineering, civil engineering blog, Civil Engineering Companies, Civil Engineering Issues, Civil Engineering Jobs, Education, Human Resources, Professional Registration, Recruiting, The U.S. Economy & Civil Engineering, The Workplace, Uncategorized.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • […] Raise the Bar for Engineering (civilengineeringcentral.com) […]

  • 2. 5 mistakes to avoid in degree college ← 99Mistakes  |  October 27, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    […] Raise the Bar for Engineering […]

  • 3. iamVishant  |  October 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Reblogged this on iamvishant and commented:
    True said.

  • 4. TD  |  September 18, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Some points to consider.

    More education does not equal a better engineer, and another piece of paper does not guarantee future success in this industry. As a Group Leader, Office Leader and Manager of Engineering for various firms and public agencies, I have hired people with a Masters degree and MANY others who did not. I frankly don’t look at the education beyond getting a chance for an interview, and while a higher degree is nice, I have passed on several for people with better experience. Beyond experience, I look at the candidate’s ability to speak, think and show drive and passion during the interview. That is a great indicator whether the person can work in a fast-paced and stressful environment. Many practical applications of the theory are not taught in school, and the only way you are going to get that training is to get out into the work force and learn.

    We operate and maintain utilities, railroads, airports, ports, roads and other facilities that were not designed or constructed with people with Masters or PhDs. The fact of the matter is that Universities and Colleges are pushing to get more students, and with the recent downturn, the Universities and Colleges have seen attendance pick up as more students stayed in school to ride out the current economic situation. This trend seems to justify this kind of campaign, and I wonder how long it will take those new grads with higher degrees to pay off those MASSIVE student loans. Good luck with that $100K debt load while making a public salary.

    Additionally, new employees will have the preception that they need to be hired at a higher rate (higher degree = higher pay, right?). Consulting firms will need to increase their prices to account for these higher paid employees, which will continue to stretch limited dollars for capital projects. Are owners getting services that justify a price increase? Is a new grad with a Masters or PhD faster at CAD work, counting traffic, building a traffic model or watching a construction project to justify their rate? Do they produce results faster? I have had owners (railroads and public agencies) flat out tell me that they don’t want or need a Masters or PhD to complete a design project or manage a construction project.

    Where does our customer’s opinion count in all of this or does the “industry” not care? Maybe that is the bigger problem….

    • 5. aepcentral  |  September 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      Hi Tom –

      You certainly make some very valid points. In particular, I like your stream of thought at the end as I now would indeed be interested in knowing if those paying clients have a demand for more highly educated engineers, or if this is just a push internally from the engineering community? I can see both sides of the coin, and again, thank you for sharing your opinion on this topic.


  • 6. Mike  |  September 15, 2012 at 2:14 am

    I’ll take a guy with 6 years experience over a kid with 6 years of school.

    CE programs teach nothing relevant. When these kids come out of school and know how to design roads, basins, etc., maybe I’ll reconsider.

  • 7. Ward Bowman  |  September 14, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    There are two fundamental flaws with this campaign.
    1) What is use is higher education if they people never use it. I meet so many people who have purposely forgotten what they have learned, never keep university notes and books to refer to. As a general civil engineer and project manager it frustrating when I have to direct people where to find the answer, and it not just junior engineers it is senior engineers and specialist.
    2) Engineer schools are not the same as doctors and lawyers. Unlike them engineers spend a year on general studies and then are right into learning about engineering. Often they are taking up to 8 courses per semester while the doctor and lawyers are taking general arts and science degrees and completing 4 to 5 courses per semester.

    In a perfect education system you would start at the bottom as rod man, construction laborer or related work, After a year of labor you would start formal education and alter between work and study for 6 maybe even 10 years. Then we would have some quality engineers. I have met several engineers that never went to university, studied and wrote exams and they have been in 10%.

  • 8. FatSquirrel  |  September 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I have to disagree with this. In the past, engineers relied LESS on education and more on the job training. As an example, the Hoover Dam was built, in fact the whole design team was lead, by John Savage with only a BS in Civil. He also had about 25 years of experience at the time (check my facts). It wasn’t until years later that he received honorary doctorate degrees. I think what we have seen is an insistence by companies to have ready-to-eat engineers (less need for human resources costs of training). The requirement for an MS has crept in slowly as unemployment waves have hit us. Universities are of course, complicit, it’s more money for them. Given a decent program, a BS should be sufficient to give the engineer the tools he needs to learn on his own and through working with other engineers.

    • 9. ramblinpaulb  |  September 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      I’m sorry to disagree, but as a PE with over 28 years of experience, and a former principal of a mid-size civil engineering firm, Raise the Bar is necessary. Engineering is far more complicated than it was when I graduated from college with a BS. After 10 years in the field, I realized how much I didn’t know, and went back to school (while maintaining a full-time job) and got a masters from Georgia Tech. If I have my druthers when I’m hiring, I’ll hire only a candidate with an MS degree. It’s not because I’m trying to skip on developing an engineer – that still has to happen. It’s because the MS means that I’ll have an engineer who has a good understanding of what we need, not just 3-4 hours in each of the varied disciplines of civil engineering.

  • […] Raise the Bar for Engineering (civilengineeringcentral.com) […]


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