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Certification of Structural Engineers

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Here's some more info on the recent press release by NCSEA.

NCSEA had previously adopted a resolution to work towards obtaining separate
structural engineering registration in all 50 states.  The fact is, as indicated
in the paper by Shipp, Warren and Castle, currently, only 6 states register
structural engineers, as such, and require such registration as  a condition of
the right to design structures.  Four more states have "civil" registration,
that includes structural engineers as well as other branches of civil engineers.
The remaining 40 have generic PE registration.  In most such states, to obtain
registration, you must qualify by education, experience and testing, in a
particular branch, for example "civil", but are permitted to practice in any
area in which you are competent and qualified.  Who determines if you are
competent or qualified?  You do - or at least you do until someone disagrees,
and brings proceedings against you.

Of all the various engineering disciplines, structural engineers are the persons
with the most direct responsibility for protecting the public safety.  If a
structural engineer performs negligently, buildings, bridges and other
structures they design and have responsibility for fall down, and kill people, a
lot of people, in the process.  In fact, most structural engineers, over the
course of their careers, are responsible for protecting more lives than most
MDs.  An MD may see a few thousand patients in their life times.  SEs design
buidlings and other structures that tens of thousands will reside in.  Yet in
most states, there is no separate recognition of structural engineering as an
identifiable and important profession, worthy of independent registration.

It would be highly desirable to have a uniform practice of separate registration
of structural engineers, in all 50 states, using criteria that are sufficiently
rigorous that the registration is meaningful, and sufficiently uniform that
comity and right to practice across state lines is assured. NCSEA and the member
organizations of NCSEA (now 32 different SEAs) should and will seek to pursue
this.  However, this will require working with 50 different state legislatures
and wending through the hurdles put forth by other interests.  It will take a
long time to acheive this.  It can not be done on a national (federal) basis,
because the U.S. Constitution precludes the federal government from this
activity (not expressly - but by not reserving to the Federal Gov't the right to
do this - it becomes a State's Right).

Certification, provides our profession with the opportunity to begin
self-regulation, to estabilish meaningful continuinig education and professional
development criteria, to transport rights to practice across state lines, and
most important to build value in the title Structural Engineer.  In essence, it
permits SEs to begin to build a "brand" behind the title that is worth
something.  Would you go to a dentist who is not ADA certified?  Why should a
developer or architect go to an engineer who is not SEA certified?
Certification should be something by which we identify ourselves on business
cards and advertisements.

Note that what NCSEA has resolved to do is to form a committee to propose a
certification program to the membership.  An initial study was conducted last
year, and was positively received by the membership.  The membership voted
nearly unanimously  to proceed and see what would be involved in establishing
the certification program.  At this point, representatives from the various
states will begin to meet, and see if we can find common ground in identifying
what the certification would look like, and how it would be administered.

This program is without doubt, the most ambitious project that NCSEA has ever
undertaken.  Stay tuned for more information.