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RE: SE Test

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I have to add my 2 cents on this one. 


Tests and even the licenses themselves do not assure that a project will be designed with competence.  An SE license will not provide assurance that a design will be better than a PE license.  I have done work all over the world, and have done peer reviews on projects all over the world.  I have reviewed some pretty bad designs by people with their SE license.  I am not going to name names, but there are highly regarded engineers that are experts in areas like base isolation that do not have an SE. 


I have several friends who are medical doctors and from what I am told doctor's licenses to practice medicine are MD's throughout the US.  They generally do not take a separate State exam to make them qualified in specialties.  The states rely solely on their PROFESSIONAL status to practice only in areas for which they are qualified.  Within the profession, the MD's have professional groups that certify certain specialty areas, but it is generally not administered by the State.  Registered nurses are qualified by experience for various areas.  Some are office administrators, some are ER and trauma specialists, some specialize in hospice care.  The state does not have any different exams to qualify specialties.  The medical community relies on the profession to self regulate if a care giver is doing work outside of their areas of expertise. 


Are we engineers less professional? 


Now turn your head and cough.

Harold O. Sprague

-----Original Message-----
From: Keith De Lapp [mailto:keith(--nospam--at)]
Friday, November 07, 2003 2:04 PM
Subject: SE Test


Bill, we have to be practical here.  If obtaining a CE or SE license doesn't demonstrate some minimum level of competency, then why do it at all?  Are you really suggesting that every sub discipline within civil and structural (and the other branches mentioned in my earlier email) be independently classified, tested and regulated?  For what purpose?  The current system has checks and balances.      The PE act states you can't practice in areas outside your area of competency.  Therefore, can the hydrologist design a building?  No, not legally nor ethically.  Does that stop them from signing a set of plans?  No.  If something goes wrong or if the client files a complaint, there is a system in place to deal with that.  Negligence "is" prosecuted after the fact.  It isn't a perfect system but it seems to work.  I don't believe more regulation is necessarily the answer.


Looking at the BORPELS enforcement action publication the problem while it exists doesn't appear to be spiraling out of control as your argument suggests.  Your comment "...until I (as well as others) think that I have the necessary background to do it on my own..." sounds like you want a governmental system in place to regulate competency.  If you follow this argument to its logical conclusion, you would have to take every construction trade out there and further divide it into sub classifications.  An example would be a concrete contractor who does nothing but tilt-up panels and wants to do a cast-in-place garage would have to obtain a separate license.  Breadth of practice exists in every profession.


Bill, what concerns me most about conversations like this, is that we have a certain element within our profession that wants to further limit the practice of our profession.  For what purpose I ask?  Is it to protect the public, or is it to secure ones place in the profession.  If it's the former then I would ask what is the magnitude of the harm?  And how does Bill Allen propose to solve it?  If it is the latter, then it sounds very much like an Ivory Tower syndrome.  I would like to know the motive behind your position and ask that you state it here for everyone to read.  In your previous email you said "...People taking on projects they're not qualified to do hurts us all. We all know why they do it. Work is light. Can't say "no". The problem with working in a new material, region, project type, etc. is quantity of "unknowns" due to lack of experience. This lack of knowledge tends to drive the fee down (again, hurting us all) and problems in the field up (again, hurting us all). I can't say I've never done it, but I don't plan to do it anymore."  This remark suggest to me that the Ivory Tower syndrome may be at play.


Bill, before you blow a gasket, let me tell you I mean no disrespect towards you.  You seem like a good guy and I (as a lurker) have followed your, as well as other engineers participation on this forum for many years and have learned a lot.  But for me this topic is a bit like taxes.  We keep raising and creating new taxes for "good causes" (dubious in my mind) but then some time down the road when we feel we are over taxed, we turn and look at each other and say "How did this happen, wasn't anybody watching?"


I believe that the profession and the state has licensed me as a professional in civil engineering.  With that comes a code of conduct and ethics.  I believe that as a professional, I want to maintain the liberty of deciding which engineering markets I would like to pursue.  If additional expertise is required then I will obtain it.  I believe that I have to satisfy my professional ethics (in regards to competence subject at hand) that I have responsibly performed my duties in the interests of public safety and my client.  I don't think we need a regulating body further verifying competence.  It is of course true that some engineers will take advantage of the system.  But there is already a system in place to deal with that.  And I believe it works.



Keith De Lapp, P.E.