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RE: Future Generations of Engineers

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Title: RE: Future Generations of Engineers
This argument is something I hear alot and it is always very sad to me.  Maybe its because I'm young and naive.  You tell me. 
The medical and legal professions increasing the amount of schooling required to enter their professions does not justify additional engineering education.  If an 18 year old student, who finance upwards of $100,000 for their educations on the expectation of learning what he will have to know to become an engineer is receiving a "pre-engineering" course in place of the engineering course that they paid for, the problem is in the quality and content of the schooling, not the amount of it.  I don't see why it should cost $30,000 - 50,000 more to become an engineer than it already does. 
The problem, as I see it, is that the industry as a whole, thinks that people now in school are somehow not as intelligent as they were at that age and that the concepts of engineering have somehow changed.  In addition to this, I am told that professors at some schools are catering to a no-fail philosophy and allowing students to pass courses when they really haven't learned what they were intended to learn (I find this argument hard to believe, and it leads me to wonder why the professors of such classes wouldn't have confidence enough in their assesment methods to make such distinctions between who should pass and who should fail.)
The short and simple answer that I would offer to incoming students is: "Engineering is hard.  Its going to take alot of effort to finish this, but if you stay the course and put your nose to the grindstone, you will graduate, in 4 years, ready to start your career as a (possibly well-rounded) engineer.  If it takes 5 years to get the bachelors degree because you couldn't keep up with that many courses at once, fine.  That happens to those business majors too. If you can't take the heat, you'll fail.  If you can't handle it, leave.:  The profession will be better for it.  Darwinism at its best.
Not too far removed from my backpack wearing days, I feel extremely fortunate at the scope and range of information that I learned, and on my first day they actually sat us down in a classroom and said, "Look at the person next to you.  One of you won't make it through this program.  Which of you is it going to be?"  Sure, it was sometimes very hard, and at times I wondered why I didn't change to become a business major, but the light at the end of the tunnel has been even better than I thought it would be.
The majority of licensed engineers currently practicing in the US went to a University or technical institute, took a 4 year course which may have included some liberal arts education (the philosophy of universities, I believe, has always been to make well rounded citizens, correct?  - That is how the distinction between technical school and university was explained to me)  And, believe it or not, those engineers are functioning successfully in the world.  I do not agree with the argument that there is more to learn than there used to be.  Maybe some educators have forgotten that engineering is the fundamentals and that the rest of it is really just sexy packaging (computer programs, in my opinion, should be learned on the job or as supplement to education, not as a focused learning objective).  Stress and strain are alive and well, and the free body diagram is still free.   
-----Original Message-----
From: Caldwell, Stan [mailto:scaldwell(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, July 25, 2003 2:25 PM
To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)'
Subject: RE: Future Generations of Engineers

In the midst of a lengthy post, Scott Maxwell wrote:

"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..."


It is my belief that most CURRENT structural engineering students NOW begin their education by pursuing a "4 year pre-engineering undergraduate degree".  That degree is the BSCE, or Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Degree, which (at 120-124 credits/hours) has degenerated into an "introduction to civil engineering degree".  That is why a MSCE degree, or equivalent, has become necessary for the majority of these students.  Alternatively, many students earning a BSAE, or Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering Degree, are adequately prepared to enter the profession without the need of a graduate degree.  When I write "enter the profession", please understand that I mean as an engineering intern, not as a professional engineer.


Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas