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Re: Disastrous Interview

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While I am in general a big fan of more education, I am not sold on the whole "first professional degree" bit that ASCE started and that has morphed into Policy 465 (they have changed the "name" but the intent is still the same). Part of my problem is that I have yet to see a good reason as to why it is needed. One of the common reasons cited is that the medical and legal professions require graduate education or more than 4 years of education. While technically true (i.e. it is technically true that they must get a graduate degree and end up with more than 4 years of education), I find this arguement to be a rather nice red herring. The fact of the matter is that for both the medical and legal professions, the undergraduate degree that they end up with has VERY little to do with their end profession. Both pre-med and pre-law degrees are largely just typical liberal arts degrees with a few pre-req courses. All of their medical or legal content is taught in their graduate level courses. And in the case of medical school, while it is technically a 4 year graduate program, a significant portion of that time is actually on the job training as a medical student. The point is that comparing the engineering profession to the medical and legal professions is just not accurate. If you really think that the medical and legal profession have it right, then you should be advocating for a 4 year liberal arts pre-engineering undergraduate degree followed by a 2 or 3 year engineering graduate degree. Then we would be talking the same thing. The reality is that other than medical and legal students being in school for more than 6 years, they actual amount of content that is directly relevant to their final profession is not that much different to engineers.

From my perspective, the problem is that employers want a practicing
engineer who is 100% productive right out of school. And frankly, that is not the job of the schools to produce. If it was, then why in the world must an engineer get 4 years of experience (typically) before they can get their license? It is because the engineering system is meant to be both a formal education system and an apprentice type system. Since companies want productive engineers, you see schools trying to get more specialized in the undergraduate level. But, as you pointed out, this means that they don't get as much in the basics as they should. So, we are back to people wanting to require more than 4 years so that there is time to generalize and specialize.

Let me say again that I am a big fan of more education. But, making a blanket requirement of everyone must get a Master's degree (and let's face it, that is what ASCE's policy is basically requiring even if they call it the M+30 or whatever) is not necessarily the way to go. First of all, who is to say that requiring someone to get a Master's degree will result in them REALLY getting what they need. Who is to say that the Master's degree programs will do what the industry wants...after all the undergrad programs aren't right now. Why is it assumed that if the undergrad system (assuming you consider the system to be failing) is failing that the graduate degree system (at largely the same schools) would be that much better? Second, not all people do well in formal classroom education. Someone who is a poor student in school might excell in the work place in their "apprenticeship" (assuming that they get a job where the company is willing to spend time mentoring, apprenticing, educating, etc) and really learn a lot and blossom as an engineer. Such a person could end up being a much better engineer than some PhD student who has a crap load of formal education. That is why, while a big fan of a much education as possible, I believe that graduate education is something that should largely be a personal decision.

Just my thoughts...


Adrian, MI

On Thu, 5 Jul 2007, Jim Lutz wrote:

There is way more to learn nowadays than there was when I was a student.
I think it's crazy to presume we can turn out adequately educated
engineers anymore with just four years of college, hoping that their
employers will teach them the rest of what they need to know. The
medical and legal professions don't, and with good reason.

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