Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Professional Development - Your Experience

    Posted 05-10-2021 02:34 PM
    As someone that hasn't had my PE license very long, I was wondering if others could share their PDH advice and/or experience.

    Below are some questions to help guide discussion.
    • What is the most valuable thing you've learned from a Professional Development session?
    • Are there any sources of PDHs that you find especially helpful?
    • Do you tend to stick with PDHs that are very specific to your area of expertise, or do you use PDHs to broaden/maintain your understanding outside your area?
    • Do you have any other advice for newly licensed professionals that are just starting to need PDH credits?


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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 2.  RE: Professional Development - Your Experience

    Posted 05-11-2021 12:59 PM
    • Most valuable thing I've learned?......I don't think I could name one single thing.  My take-away is that you can learn something valuable from any session, even if it's not directly related to your field.  Anything you learn that is new helps inform your future designs.
    • Helpful sources of PDH's?  Let's be honest - PDH's can be expensive.  Low- or no-cost sessions are great for fulfilling many of your PDH's.  WoodWorks and ATC, for instance, have offered some great technical sessions for low-  or no- cost.  Similarly, many vendor presentations can be very informative and valuable for your design work (other vendor presentations, though, can be of questionable technical value....).  If you are going to spend a few hundred dollars on a session, make sure it offers great technical content that you can't get anywhere else, such as a code update course from AISC, ACI, or ASCE.  See if your personal or company membership gets you a discount or a few free PDH's per year.
    • You possibly wouldn't think a presentation on elevators or on building cladding targeted toward architects would be helpful, but as a structural engineer your designs have to interface with and accommodate these items.  Similar for presentations on paints/coatings or culverts.  Your specific area of engineering practice typically isn't an island unto itself, so PDH presentations from related fields are definitely helpful.  
    • Other advice?  Pay attention to your state's specific requirements.  Unfortunately, each state often has different restrictions and requirements for PDH's.  Many require a few ethics PDH's every renewal period.  Ohio (my home state) limits the number of  pdh's from reading a magazine article and taking a quiz - that is unfortunate because I have read some great design articles sponsored by ACI that were more valuable than many paid live sessions I've sat through.  Other states - Indiana, for example - require PDH's to be from approved providers - the list is hard to find on their website and surprisingly includes product vendors but doesn't include some more legitimate technical organizations.  Their requirements make an exception and pre-approve courses from a national technical organization for your field (which would presumably include ASCE) but are unclear whether it would include  a technical/trade organization like AISC, ACI, or WoodWorks - and they are not willing to clarify if those groups are included in the exception.  Still other states give a broad definition of qualifying courses and leave it mainly to the engineer's judgement to determine whether a course qualifies (I think this approach works best because conscientious engineers will choose quality courses, and less diligent engineers will do the minimum to fulfill their obligations....regardless of the requirements).  I mention Ohio and Indiana by name not to bash them, but to point out specific instances that can cause confusion.  I think good people work for the various state boards, but may be instructed not to provide interpretations by the board's lawyers or may be stuck enforcing rules that were initiated by the legislature or other decision makers.
    • Finally - keep good records of the courses you took, when you took them, what the content was, who the presenter was, and a copy of a certificate of attendance.  Each state again has their own requirement for the information you must keep a record of (and for how long), so keep track of the requirements for all states you're registered in.  Each state has different allowances for how many excess PDH's you're allowed to roll over to the following year, so keep track of that too.  Finally, each state has their own requirements for reporting PDH's - some require them to be reported when you renew your license while others perform random audits and only require you to report your PDH records if you are audited.
    Honestly, I have mixed feelings about PDH requirements in general.  Diligent practicing engineers will stay current regardless of whether their state has PDH requirements.  And on that note, diligent engineers often do a lot of studying of code requirements or new design techniques that doesn't, unfortunately, earn them any PDH's.  On the flip side, it's very possible for a non-practicing engineer to earn all their required credits from sitting through technically light presentations and not really be current in their abilities.  It's not a perfect system and I think it serves mainly as a general prompt to remind engineers that they should be keep up to date in their abilities (if they're not already so inclined ) and to assure the public that the state is looking out for the public's welfare.


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    Greg Thein, PE
    Cleveland, OH
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  • 3.  RE: Professional Development - Your Experience

    Posted 05-11-2021 06:33 PM
    Thanks for taking the time to give detailed input! I really appreciate the insight you shared, and I think it will be valuable to others as well.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 4.  RE: Professional Development - Your Experience

    Posted 05-12-2021 10:04 AM

    Greg, I think your response should be a must read for all practicing engineers. You also, in your last paragraph, expressed what I have always felt in far more professional terms than I might have used. Your characterization of the PDHs as prompt also resonates with me. While I find the annual ethics seminar put on by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers to be very dry and transactional, it's a great reminder of one's duty and charge as a PE.



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    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
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  • 5.  RE: Professional Development - Your Experience

    Posted 05-13-2021 10:09 AM
    • What is the most valuable thing you've learned from a Professional Development session?
    You and I have had our PEs for about the same amount of time - so far, I haven't come across any particular continuing education that has blown me away or made me feel more technically competent. Instead, I've gotten the impression that the webinars I've watched were meant to convey "where the research or best practice currently is" with respect to whatever discipline I was learning about.
    • Are there any sources of PDHs that you find especially helpful?
    I know this is an obvious one, but I try to make sure to use all of the PDHs that are "free" once you pay for your annual ASCE membership. They can really put a dent in your requirements if nothing else.
    • Do you tend to stick with PDHs that are very specific to your area of expertise, or do you use PDHs to broaden/maintain your understanding outside your area?
    Typically I try to stay close to my area of work, or one step removed. I believe that water resources can be a broad field in and of itself, and I am conscious of the fact that the work I do is rather niche.
    • Do you have any other advice for newly licensed professionals that are just starting to need PDH credits?
    Nope, you and I are in the same boat and I would also love to hear from those who are more experienced!

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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