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RE: Schooling (was Connections)

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I really don't like it when engineers try to compare our education or even
the path to licensure to that of doctors.  Sorry, I will pick apart the
parallels cause they are not even really close enough to make a general

To begin with many engineers get all doe-eyed when talking about the 8
year education of doctors and start thinking "hey, we should do that".
But, you have to first realize that the 1st four years of that education
have VIRTUALLY nothing to do with medicine other than some "pre-req"
courses like chem, bio chem, etc.  This is kind of like about the first
year to 1.5/2 years of our education where we take things like calc,
statics, thermo, physics, etc.  Doctors don't get their "actual" medical
courses until they enter medical school which is basically year 5.  Then,
you have to factor in that the final two years of medical school is
primarily "on the job training" doing rotations with very little actually
classwork.  These final two years of "education" are somewhat like our 4
years of "work experience" after graduating (or at least should be).  So,
in reality, doctors have about the same amount of time doing "hardcore"
medical course work as engineers do...this would be years 5 & 6 for
doctors while it is basically years 3 & 4 for engineers.  The big
difference is that we don't have to do 4 years of the BS (that is the
negative conotation not Bacholar of Science) courses like social science,
art appreciation, etc. that doctors do, but then they DO get some actual
good "on the job" training (granted they aren't being paid but rather
paying for that priviledge) while it is debate how many young engineers
get such during their 4 year "work experience" education time.

The second thing to keep in mind is that after that 8 years of education,
doctors _DO NOT_ have a specialty.  They graduate equivalent to a graduate
of a typical undergraduate civil engineering program...a general
practioner.  In fact, they are even more so than a civil engineering
graduate.  Most civil engineering graduates have had one area of civil
engineering where they got slightly more education/classes (i.e. say a
structural specialization), while doctors get very even exposure to the
some limited specialties (but not all) during their rotations.  If a
doctor wants to get certified (NOT licensed) in a specialty (something
that is necessary ONLY if the doctor wants hospital privaledges), then
they do another round of "on the job training" _AFTER_ they have completed
their 8 year education (which means that they are occurs
when they graduate at the 8 year point, plus a rather straight forward
test as I understand it).  The primary difference is they get paid for
this on the job training.  But, if I recall what my doctor told me about
the system, this is still over a "basic" specialty certification, which
is "internist" (aka general practioner) for most.  It is not until after
that point that they then do additiona "rounds" of certification to get to
true specialties.

Now, as to our system, I agree with you statement...let's think about what
works and what does not.  The problem is that most engineers blame the
formal education process (i.e. the undergraduate college education).  To
most, this is what is not "working".  Here is usually where I have my
problems.  While I agree that there are aspects of the undergraduate
education process that could be better, I consider that rather the real
part that does not seem to work is the 4 years of work experience.  Most
in the profession want a fully productive engineer right out of school and
not have to "waste" their time or money on training a young engineer
waiting for them to become productive (thus, why many only hire those with
master's degrees or people with 2 to 3 years of experience...they don't
want to pay the "cost" finishing the education/training process, but
rather someelse does it for them).  But, this _NOT_ how the system is
designed to work.  The system is designed so that you get a young engineer
that will not be too terribly productive for the first year or so, but
should have the basic skills/theory to continue to learn and get more
productive as time goes on.  But most companies can't be bothered with
such "non-productive" people who "cost" them money...but then of course
those same people/companies lament on the lack of good quality engineers
out their to fill their positions.  Good quality engineers don't just grow
on trees...they have to be trained and schools are not supposed, nor are
they equipped, to do all that training.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Tue, 2 Dec 2003, Ed Tornberg wrote:

> Let's look at another highly focused profession, the medical profession.
> Roughly 4 years undergrad, plus roughly 4 years transitioning to the
> specialty, plus whatever it takes for residency (sort of like intern).
> A continual process zeroing in on what you're really going to do in
> professional practice.  The residency pays low dollars, but from there
> on the compensation is excellent.  Oh, where's the thesis on an obscure
> subject?  Somehow they manage to get their professional research and
> journal articles without requiring the thesis of EVERYBODY.
> Now don't pick apart the parallels - I'm just trying to make a general
> comparison.
> I see no problem in questioning our entire system of engineering
> education - let's drop the sense of tradition for a moment and think
> freshly about what works and what doesn't.  Any examples?
> Ed Tornberg
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Clifford Schwinger [mailto:clifford234(--nospam--at)]
> Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 7:42 PM
> To: seaint(--nospam--at)
> Subject: RE: Connections
> Scott,
> I heard this excuse before (about universities not
> being able to squeeze coursework in stuctural drafting
> into the undergraduate curriculum).
> I should have made it clear in my original post - I
> think structural drafting should be a mandatory course
> for engineering students seeking their Master's
> degree.  This makes perfect sense to me. Students
> seeking their Master's degree in structural
> engineering are obviously specializing in structural
> engineering. There would be no civil engineering
> students "wasting" their time having to take this
> "specialized" course that they might never need to use
> in other fields of Civil Engineering.
> Actually, I'm confused by the arguement that
> structural drafting courses can't be "fit" into the
> undergraduate curiculum. When I was a student I had
> plenty of leeway to choose lots of electives both in
> and out of engineering. Perhaps such a course could be
> offered as an elective to undergraduates who know that
> they are on a structural engineering track.
> I suspect that academia does not look too highly upon
> such low-brow stuff as "structural drafting" - that's
> a shame.
> Topics that are held in much higher esteem by academia
> are articles such as those published in the December
> 2003 issue of the ASCE Journal of Structural
> Engineering, pages 1707-1716 titled "Form Finding of
> Sparse Structures with Continuum Topology
> Optimization".
> I challenge anyone to read the first page of that
> article and translate for me in English ANY ONE
> SENTENCE! I'm certain that I just set myself up for
> this one, but who cares. When you (try to) read the
> article you will get my drift about the point I'm
> trying to make.
> I'm not saying that seemingly obscure cutting edge
> research is not important - it is very important. I'm
> just saying that universities that can belt out
> engineers who are "plug-and-play" in their first jobs
> will rapidly gain the admiration and respect of
> engineering community. As dinosaur who is responsible
> for working with young engineers, I have a good handle
> on which universities are doing a good job at
> preparing engineers for the "real world" and which are
> not. When I hear that new hire got his/her B.S. or
> M.S. as "so and so" University I have a fairly good
> sense about whether we're getting a Yugo or a Lexus.
> (Boy did I wander off the original topic of this
> thread or what?!)
> OK, I guess I asked for it. Flame me.
> Cliff Schwinger
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