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RE: Future Generations of Engineers

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I agree.  It entertains me greatly to have some argue to me that we need
our education system to be more like that of lawyers and doctors,
especially when they also make that arguement as a way to get higher pay
(which I am not sure if that is something that Stan is suggesting or
not...don't want to put words in his mouth...but others HAVE made such an
arguement).  The concept that if we have a graduate education requirement
just like doctors or lawyers we will have our pay increased is complete BS
(OK, not complete BS...more on that in a second).  The real reason that
doctors and lawyers can command more respect (and typically more pay) is
that the typical lay person that you encounter on the street actually
KNOWS what a doctor or a lawyer does.  Ask them what an engineer does and
I would not be suprised to have them say "Ain't that the guy who runs the
trains?"  This is also true for architects.  They command more respect and
the POTENTIAL for more money because people understand what they do.  Most
lay people don't have a clue what engineers do, especially structural
engineers.  As others have pointed out, I too have relatives that stil
think of me as an architect.

Now, there is some truth to the concept that IF additional education is
required for engineers that the pay will increase.  The reason will be
along the lines of your point...since engineers will have to have more
education, it will cost more to get that education.  Since it will cost
more to get the required education, fewer people will choose to enter
engineering.  With fewer people in the engineering fields, the greater the
demand for those that are in the field and thus, the ability to demand
high pay.

But, you hit the real problem in the head, at least in my opinion.  Why
would an potential engineering student want to pay and extra $10000 to
30000 (or more) to get another 1+ year of education when they will only be
making about $30,000 to $40,000 a year when they graduate (similar to what
someone with only a BSCE least in CE/SE)?  Especially with
other fields where they can make more quicker.  And considering that a
purely technically based engineer (i.e. does not go into management, aka
"paper/electron pusing") will typically top out at less than $100,000 in
most branches of engineering (including the well paying auto industry in
my neck of the woods), the field of engineering is rather limited when it
comes to pay (unless you do change to management).

Where the arguement for more education requirements tends to really fall
apart for me is when you start to talk about the issue of grandfathering.
There are multiple groups out there that are advocating more formal
education requirements in order to get licensed.  NCSEA has their
"suggested" SE cirriculum that they basically look at as meaning a
masters degree would be required.  ASCE has their "first professional
degree" push that has now been softened to not "really" mean a masters
degree is required (but really still in essence means that).  Even NSPE is
starting to parrot the ASCE push.  Ask everyone of these groups "What do
we do with those that went through the 'old' system but don't met the new
requirements for getting a PE/SE license?" and they respond "Oh, they will
be grandfathered, of course."  But, if the reason for the additional
educational requirements is that the current system is producing engineers
that are not really qualified, then why would those being produced by that
deficient system NOW not be required to re-get their PE license after
meeting the new requirements are achieved?  To me, the reason is that the
current engineering grads are not necessarily not qualified, but rather
just not productive enough to companies, who don't want to spend money of
training, mentoring, or educating (FYI, _EVERY_ A/E firm that I have
worked for has been EXTREMELY stingy about paying for seminars and other
forms of education...they wanted ME to pay for such things...but certainly
liked to the idea of me getting better at my job so that I was more
productive or more knowledgable...just as long as they did not have to pay
for be fair, at least one company did on very infrequent occasions
pay for someone to attend a seminar).  The other possible reason is that
they KNOW that no one considers it an important enough issue IF it means
that they (as opposed to some unknown future engineers) also might have to
meet the additional requirements.

This basically means that my response is "Fine...if you want an additional
education requirement, then EVERYONE must meet it, even if that person is
55 years old and has their PE license for decades.  If the profession
feels that it is important enough that current engineers may have to pay
the price and not reap all the benefits alone, then that is fine with me."
What ultimately bothers me is that this push is being forced upon a group
of future engineers that are not even present to have a say in it.  If you
include those who are around now and force them to meet the "tougher"
standards, then all of a sudden it becomes not quite as necessary.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Fri, 25 Jul 2003, Hewitt, Chris wrote:

> 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.
> Chris
> -----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..."
> Scott:
> 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.
> Regards,
> Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
> Dallas, Texas

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