The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has supported an increase in educational requirements for the professional practice of engineering for the past twenty years. These efforts were named the Raise the Bar initiative and were initially meant to apply to the qualifications of all engineering disciplines. In July 2017, the ASCE Board of Direction modified ASCE Policy 465– Academic Prerequisites for Licensure and Professional Practice to focus only on civil engineers. This renewed effort and re-focus of the Raise the Bar initiative will have profound impacts on ASCE’s Raise the Bar activities.
The United States has a longstanding tradition that engineering licenses are granted by each jurisdiction (states and territories). If additional education requirements are implemented through licensure, each of these jurisdictions will need to determine how to address these new education standards that would apply only to civil engineers.
The authors, under the auspices of the ASCE Committee on Licensure, have researched this topic and determined there are two possible routes for different education requirements for licensure among engineering disciplines: discipline specific licensure and a civil centric approach. Discipline specific licensure would require that licensing boards consider applicants for each area or specialty of engineering both separately and differently. The requirements whether education, experience, or testing could vary, the license could be linked to a unique niche of engineering work, and the license would have a specific designation for each area of engineering. The civil centric approach would maintain a general professional engineering license for all engineers, but would allow the licensing jurisdiction to vary the requirements for applicants based on their education background. For example an applicant with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering would also need a master’s degree to pursue licensure.
Both of these approaches are unique and would require substantial changes to most licensing jurisdiction’s rules. The authors analyzed both the discipline specific and civil centric approaches for their respective strengths and weaknesses. Current licensing jurisdictions that use variations of these methods were investigated to see the past successes and impacts on licensing boards. In addition, conflicting policies from other professional groups and similarities to licensure processes of other professions were considered. The results are presented from both a policy and a practicality standpoint. The conclusion is that changes to licensing jurisdiction rules and policies may be beneficial to the ASCE Raise the Bar efforts, but implementation would be difficult. The consequences need to be carefully weighed by the civil engineering community before moving forward with this strategy.
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