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Re: Future Generations of Engineers

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Stan,

My friend...I have gased up the flame thrower and it is itchin' to go.

Now, I have to admit that I am confused by your position.  You seem to
agree with Jake's postion.  That is you seem to be in favor of eliminating
things like humanities courses in an engineerings program in favor of more
engineering courses.  YET you also seem want the engineering educational
system to be more like that which is used by the legal profession and the
medical profession.

The thing is that _IF_ we go to a system more like either the legal
profession or medical profession, then the overwhelming amount of
additional education that you would be required to take would be of the
type that you and Jake profess to not want.  Both the legal profession and
the health profession operated with a "pre-degree", which is essentially
usually a liberal arts undergraduate degree with some very minimal
required courses (although just about any undergrad degree may work as
long as the minimal required courses are taken), and then a graduate
degree in the actual area of question.

Thus, for your example of 4+3 for lawyers, that really means 4 years of
humanities, social studies, languages, etc course and _THEN_ a 3 year
graduate degree that would contain the actual law courses.  This is
similar for the medical profession, which uses a 4+4 (to graduate and get
your license...you then have to "go further" to get certified in
specialties...but more on that in a second) educational system.  Again,
the first 4 years are basically a liberal arts degree with a few core
required courses in biology and chemistry, etc (kind of similar to
engineering undergrads being required to take physics, chemisty and
math...i.e. "pre-engineering" courses).  Then, you have a 4 year graduate
program that consists of the true medical "technical" course, but this
time keep in mind that it is really on the first 2 years of that graduate
degree that contains the hard core class work...the final 2 years are done
"on the job" in a hospital doing med school rotations through various
areas of specialization.

The end result is that for the legal profession you only really do about 3
years worth hard core "technical" coursework and for the medical
profession you only really get 2 years worth of hard core "technical"
coursework.  This is not too terribly far from what engineers have in
hard core "technical" engineering coursework (my undergraduate degree,
which was not too terribly long ago, basically had about 2.5 years worth
of hard core "technical" engineering coursework).  Thus, if you really
want the engineering profession to emulate the legal or medical
profession, then you are essentially advocating have future engineers take
a 4 year "pre-engineering" undergraduate degree that will be mainly
liberal arts courses and THEN have a graduate degree in engineering (3
years or so) that will have all the engineering coursework.  This seems to
be exactly contrary to what you and Jake say you want.

Now, my additional problem with compaisons to the law profession and
medical profession is that their system towards achieving their license if
significantly different in other way.  Take the legal profession...it is
my understanding the after the person takes their 4+3 years of education,
they are IMMEDIATELY able to take the bar exam and get their license.
There is no experience requirement.  Now, I could be wrong on this since I
am not completely familiar with their process.

The medical profession, on the other hand, I have had explained to me by
one of my doctors.  In the medical profession, you again are basically
licensed (there is a test) after you graduate from your 4+4 formal
education.  But, since the last 2 years of medical school are essentially
on the job work-type experience (just not paid...you have the privaledge
of paying to be able to "work"), you essentially end up with 4+2 years of
true classwork and 2 years of work experience/"on the job" education.
This then compares with the system that we know and love for engineers...4
years of formal undergraduate education plus 4 years (2 in CA) of work
experience (for a total "education" [as it is refered to in many PE act
requirements] of 8 years).  Thus, like it or not, our system is not that
much "worse" than the professions that you say we should be like.

Now, the system that I do like in the medical profession is the required
push toward specialties.  After you have gotten a license (and thus,
graduated from med school), you then typically do a specialization.  Many
just become an "internist" which is the "general" specialization, but you
can do others.  This is not strictly required.  You only HAVE to have a
certified specialty if you want hospital privaledges.  If you only intend
to open up an individual practice and don't want/need hospital
privaledges, then you can opt to not get a specialty.  But this is rare
since most will want/need hospital privaledges at some point in time.
The idea of specialties is something that I can embrace and agree with for
the (structural) engineering profession and it was something that I
embraced for my brief involvement with NCSEA's certification committee.

I don't, on the other hand, embrace the idea of REQUIRING more formal
education towards getting the PE (or SE) license.  To me, the 4 year
program is fine.  If the current programs are not working well, then we
need to FIX THEM not leave them as is and just add more potentially just
as worthless coursework.  Also, keep in mind that most (if not all) PE
licensure systems do PERMIT a master's degree (and a PhD) to count as 1
years worth of experience.  Thus, if an individual feels that they do need
more formal education, they can do so and have it count toward their PE
requirements.

Your arguements for more formal education requirements are a familiar
thing to me and they continue to sound hollow of reason.  I strongly
believe that the real problem is the (structural) engineering profession
continues to overlook the aspect of the PE licensing process that needs to
be take more seriously...the 4 years of work experience.  Our profession
want those engineering graduates to be ready to work and be 100%
productive right away.  Even you have aluded to that when you have told me
in the past that you only hire graduates who have a master's degree.  This
ignores the plain simple fact that in the eyes of the PE licensing system
those 4 years of experience are still part of the educational process.  I
have seen too many young engineers that are basically pushed off into a
corner and told to do work, but never have any experienced engineers come
over and mentor them or provide advise or suggestions or even just come
talk to them.  To me, THIS is were the system is failing.  Face it...the
profession doesn't want to do this because it interferes with the ability
to make money.  To me, we seem to push more education requirements not so
much to make engineering graduates better (although that is a "side"
benefit...I do believe that more education [formal or otherwise] is a good
thing) but rather so that we can get young engineers that add to our
bottom line quicker.

Now, if you want to argue about having things get specialized sooner (i.e.
take more structural courses in undergraduate CE programs rather than
waste water treatment or environmental engineering courses), then that is
a more worthwhile arguement that has more merit than just saying we need
more education.  But, then keep in mind that lawyers and doctors have
rather a rather broad set of "technical" courses that they take.  In
otherwords, a lawyer who ultimately will go the route of crimial law still
has to have some basic civil, business, and contract law course.  Similar
for the medical profession.  So, if you are going to argue that we need to
be more like those professions, then you are basically agruing that the
system of having to take non-structural CE coures (i.e. waste water,
environmental, fluid, materials, geotech, etc) would still be advisable.

HTH,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI


On Thu, 24 Jul 2003, Caldwell, Stan wrote:

>
> Cliff, just make sure your grandson gets a complete engineering
> education.  That means as many technical courses as possible at the B.S.
> level (yes Jake, I agree with your minority opinion).  It also means a
> truly specialized M.S. degree.  Lawyers require at least 7 (4+3) years of
> education, and doctors require even more.  Engineers of the future cannot
> expect society to treat them as reasonably equal professionals with only
> a 4 year, increasingly general, engineering degree.
>
> Okay y'all, flame away!
>
> Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
> Dallas, Texas
>


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