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RE: Uniform Licensing Requirements?

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I have posted my thoughts on this topic previously, on more than one occasion.  Therefore, I will try to be brief.
If Mr. Whalen had happened to start his career in California, rather than in Minnesota, he would be in worse shape in  North Dakota, since he probably would have only obtained three years experience before taking the exam.  Is North Dakota wrong?  No, they are merely enforcing their laws which, with respect to the four year wait, are reasonably uniform across most other states.  Perhaps the blame should rest with Minnesota, and their liberal accounting system for measuring experience!
Professional licensure is fundamentally a state (not a federal) regulatory responsibility.  In many states, PE Boards have been absorbed into omnibus agencies that license all professions - from medicine to automobile repair, and from engineering to cosmetology.  In these situations, the agency bureaucrats have little first-hand knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of any particular profession that they regulate.  Most of the remaining PE Boards include several "public" (non-engineering) members, and some PE Boards are dominated by these members.  In most states, the PE Boards and omnibus agencies are subject to periodic "Sunset Reviews" mandated by the state legislatures.  This injects political pressure into the agencies' operations, and leads to initiatives such as Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) programs. 
More disturbing is the fact that states seem to be trending away from uniformity, rather than toward it.  Take CPC, for example.  Currently, 17 have mandatory CPC, and 4 states have voluntary CPC.  By the year 2003, CPC is expected to be mandatory in at least 31 states and 2 territories.  As this bandwagon got started, NCEES developed a set of guidelines which were intended to promote uniformity.  The initial states to adopt CPC appeared to follow the guidelines quite closely.  Lately, however, the trend has been for each state to tweak the guidelines to satisfy their own whims.  Take Louisiana, for example, which adopted mandatory CPC on January 1, 1999.  NCEES defines a CPC activity as "any qualifying course or activity with a clear purpose and objective which will maintain, improve, or expand the skills and knowledge relevant to the licensee's field of practice."  Louisiana uses this definition, but then expands it to include a mandatory requirement of one hour of ethics and eight hours of building codes, life safety codes, or ADA every two years.  Louisiana also requires that CPC records be retained for a period of six years, whereas the NCEES guidelines stipulate only three years.
In summary, I believe that all engineers in the U.S., as well as their overseas colleagues, have a strong desire for uniform licensing requirements.  I also believe, considering the environment described above, that this goal is unobtainable.  Furthermore, if the environment changes in future generations to a point that will allow licensing uniformity, structural engineering will be last in line because it has traditionally been more provincial than any other engineering discipline.
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Hockeytown, Texas   
 -----Original Message-----
From: Mark Oakford [mailto:oakfordm(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, April 30, 1999 12:03 AM
Subject: Uniform Licensing Requirements?

I pulled this letter from the NCEES web site.  Does anyone have an opinion for or against uniform licensing requirements throughout the United States?
I was encouraged to write this letter from the President of the NCEES. I wrote to him about my experience with the rules of each state regarding professional engineering reciprocity.
I took the PE exam in April of 1995. This was 1 month short of 4 years of engineering experience, but my home state of Minnesota allows internship experience to count toward work experience. They allowed me to take the exam and I passed and received my license in June of 1995.
I have since gained reciprocity in four other states without a problem. I then applied for reciprocity in the state of North Dakota and was denied because "you took the test before you had 4 years of experience."
Even though I have been a licensed engineer for over 3 years without incident, because I was 1 month short of 4 years of experience, they denied me a license. I have now had to endure the hardship on myself, my family, and my workplace in order to worry about, study, and take the PE exam again just for the state of North Dakota.
I understand the need for rules regarding licensing of professional engineers, and I completely agree with enforcing them. However, why can’t states agree on the basic requirements for taking the exam? I would not have minded waiting 6 more months to sit for the exam if someone had told me I would have problems gaining reciprocity in the future. The state licensing boards are needed to protect the public. How is making me take the test again protecting the public? This problem is not unique to me - I know of two other co-workers who had to retake the exam for similar reasons.
Please standardize the experience requirements for all states so nobody has to endure taking the PE exam again after already passing it.
Shawn M. Whalen, P.E.
Minneapolis, MN
Mark Oakford, P.E., oakfordm(--nospam--at)                                    
RSE Consulting, Federal Way, WA  98093-1417
T 253-927-6169   F 253-838-3823