I started this new thread partially in response to the recent series of many posts under the topic "Experience vs grad school: Is a master's degree worth it?" In my view, that conversation among civil engineers should be conducted within the context of what ASCE has accomplished over more than two decades to prepare future civil engineers who want to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to be in responsible charge of projects that could put the public at risk.
Policy Statement 465: A Visionary and Proactive Framework for Public Protection
In response to the consistent findings and recommendations of a series of ASCE education conferences (1960 – 1995), the ASCE Board of Direction adopted Policy Statement (PS) 465, "Academic Prerequisites for Licensure and Professional Practice" in 1998. The original PS 465 said, "ASCE supports the concept of the Master's degree as the First Professional Degree for the practice of civil engineering at the professional level [licensure]." This was ASCE's initial attempt to prepare some future civil engineers to be in responsible charge of projects that could affect public health, safety, and welfare.
From the beginning, PS 465 was about the future, not about us and now but, instead, about them and then. PS 465 evolved over the next two decades with the most recent version being adopted in 2019 (https://www.asce.org/issues-and-advocacy/public-policy/policy-statement-465---the-civil-engineering-body-of-knowledge-and-the-practice-of-civil-engineering/).
Why did ASCE develop, refine, and apply PS 465? The society answers that question, in today's PS 465, as follows: "Beyond expanded technical knowledge and skills, today's civil engineers need to understand the immediate and long-term environmental, societal, political, legal, aesthetic, and economic implications of their engineering decisions. These and other changes have created a need for civil engineers to have a greater breadth of capability and specialized technical competence to meet their obligation to protect public health, safety, and welfare." In other words, recognize inevitable change and prepare for it.
Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge: Equipping Civil Engineers to Protect the Public
Paralleling the refinement of PS 465, ASCE developed, refined, and applied the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge (CEBOK). The first, second, and third editions of the CEBOK were published in 2004, 2008, and 2019 (https://www.asce.org/civil_engineering_body_of_knowledge/).
PS 465 defines the CEBOK as "the knowledge, skills, and attitudes [KSA] necessary to exercise responsible charge in the practice of civil engineering and is attained through undergraduate and post-graduate engineering education, mentored experience, and self-development." The KSA includes foundational, technical, and professional practice learning outcomes.
Regarding master's degrees, PS 465 says, "ASCE believes that the most effective means of fulfilling the formal educational requirements of the CEBOK is by completing a baccalaureate degree in civil engineering from an ABET-accredited program and a master's degree in civil engineering or a civil engineering specialty area."
Why does PS 465 say that a master's degree is the most effective formal education for tomorrow's civil engineers who want to practice at the professional level? Because fulfilling the CEBOK will require more formal education than a baccalaureate degree. We can't put ten pounds in a five-pound bag.
Hundreds of ASCE members and staff working for about 25 years developed, refined, and used PS 465 and the CEBOK. These two documents are the evolving foundation for the future of civil engineering in the United States. As long as ASCE continues to proactively support, maintain, and use PS 465 and the CEBOK, American Civil Engineering will be a proud public-serving and protecting profession.
Thanks for your post with its message.
My intent with this post is to broaden the B.S.C.E's career development perspective.
I have learned:
i.e., how you will think, act, and feel.
For example, overlooked by engineers searching for their next professional contribution is to first identify existing weakness in the formal education programs for CEs.
"Many, particularly those from a technical background, grossly underestimate the people skills that are needed to be successful. Earlier there were no classes in these people skills, let alone classes in the technical aspects of project management such as planning and scheduling. As evidenced by this book, things are getting better, but technical folks still assume that technical skills are all that is necessary."
ASCE's online Continuing Education Program's offerings currently offer ~98%~ technical courses and exclude the reality of what our CEs knowledge and skill set require for their long-term success:
You make a good (and commonly argued) point that not all types of civil engineering require a masters degree to be able to perform the services competently, though I would argue that the majority of sub-specialties of civil engineering do. However, that the PE license doesn't differentiate between these sub-specialties and grants legal authority to practice in responsible charge of any of them once licensed. The license relies solely on the licensee to "practice only within their area of competency". Having served on a PE Board for nearly ten years I know that the only time we deal with a licensee once the license is granted is if/when a complaint is filed. And from my experience, complaints are rarely filed except for the most egregious offenses.
To be clear, the CEBOK does not state that a masters degree is a requirement. It simply defines technical depth in a specialty (like land development in your example), post BS degree. You must acknowledge that there is a great deal of engineering you had to learn post-BS that you use in your practice. And there is much more you will need to learn in the future to stay abreast of the advances in technology, our understanding of our world and changing environmental and societal needs, in order to meet your professional duty.The CEBOK defines competencies in both the cognitive and affective domains (Blooms taxonomy - which is a widely accepted educational assessment standard). Why is this important? The PE license measures cognitive ability to practice, though I would argue that it doesn't adequately measure the depth of knowledge needed to practice today. It doesn't measure the affective knowledge at all, which is where responsible charge lies. Simply having the technical knowledge to solve an engineering problem (what the PE tests) is not enough. The person in responsible charge must take into account many other factors such as sustainability, resiliency, and other societal factors in their decision-making (before they even start to execute the final design) if they are to meet their professional obligations to society. We know this through the scholarly work that ASCE has completed through three editions of the CEBOK that defines the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for responsible charge. We also see that with the rapid pace of change in the world, these factors only grow in importance.
The CEBOK is valid for all sub-specialties of civil engineering with different logical pathways toward fulfillment of the outcomes depending on the individual and field of practice. It serves all of us to understand the CEBOK, assess where we stand and to stay cognizant of what we need to do to maintain our competencies to serve in responsible charge once we accept the responsibility to do so.
I agree with your premise that it makes sense to wait on the masters for many graduating engineers. Get into the workforce and decide what you like best unless it is obvious what you want to study during your undergraduate years, and you're ready to immediately pursue a masters. I believe having some work experience enhances your educational outcomes as you can apply "real world" experience to your learning. Further, graduate degree programs have transformed over the past 10+ years with many great programs offered in a hybrid on-line and in-person format (or entirely on-line) that is well suited to those who want to pursue a masters while working and raising a family. Since getting the masters (or other pathway to obtain additional technical depth in a civil engineering specialty) is not tied to licensure there should be no perceived urgency to complete this step before licensure.
The "old messages" are still valid only to the point that they articulate the need for additional depth in an engineering specialty (among other things) before assuming responsible charge. ASCE has determined that pursuing licensure law changes are not likely to succeed and no longer pursues this pathway for fulfillment of the CEBOK for responsible charge. It's important that the civil engineering community understand this and not confuse what is stated in PS 465 as simply another incarnation of the push to change licensure laws. That initiative was terminated in 2018 by a clear and emphatic vote of the ASCE Board of Direction.
What PS 465 clearly states is that professional licensure no longer demonstrates that an individual is prepared to assume responsible charge (even though the license grants them the legal authority to do so). This is true for any of us who competently assume responsible charge, regardless of whether we have an advanced degree or not. Those of us in the latter years of our careers have adapted our practice (knowledge and skills) to the pace of change in engineering knowledge necessary to meet our professional obligations. I personally do not have a masters degree, but can comfortably go through the outcomes defined in the CEBOK and be confident that I not only attained, but maintain the necessary KSAs for responsible charge. But I say this with forty years of experience. The body of engineering knowledge needed today is exponentially higher than it was forty years ago (when I got licensed) which is why early career civil engineers need to pursue post-BS technical depth in their engineering specialty to close the gap, before assuming responsible charge. if they plan to do so in a "traditional timeline".
Heidi: I agree that we should not, as you say, "compare all areas of civil engineering to fields like medicine and law." Instead, broaden the comparison. View the educational requirements for in-charge practice of civil engineering with the educational requirements for the in-charge practice of essentially all American professions, such as members of the following 17 professions (not all-inclusive, meant to be representative):
Advanced Practitioner Registered Nurses
Doctors of osteopathic medicine
Each follows its undergraduate program with a multiyear professional school program. Although licensed architects and certified public accountants (not in the preceding list) do not need to earn graduate degrees, they do have the equivalent of more than four years of college education. As with engineers who seek to become licensed, would-be members of all of the listed professions complete an internship, residency, or other means of acquiring experiential knowledge and skills.
Consider the irony. Engineering was the first major occupation in the United States to establish formal education (over two centuries ago) but now has the least formal education for licensure compared to the listed licensed professions. They started after and then passed us. The first in formal education became the last.
Is that knowledge gap the best way to prepare aspiring engineers, strengthen engineering, and serve while protecting society? American engineering also uses a basic Model Law (four years of education and four years of experience) originally published by NCEES nine decades ago. Does that make sense? In asking that, I am assuming that staying current and keeping public protection paramount is engineering's ideology.
In addition, consider this irony: If a surgeon, lawyer, or veterinarian errs, the consequences -- however dire -- are limited to one or a few people or pets. If engineering fails, like in the Boeing 737, Merrimack Valley gas distribution system, BP oil spill, or I-35W bridge tragedies, then dozens or hundreds of people are killed, injured, or otherwise harmed and/or the environment is fouled.
Seems to me, going forward and considering engineering's impact, we would want engineers to be educated at least as well as most professions. However, we don't. Based on my experiences and studies, most of us (civil and other engineers) are satisfied with the current education system (and also the current massive licensure-exemption system, but that is another topic not closely connected to civil engineering).
You refer to the body of knowledge (BOK). ASCE first determined, over two decades ago, and has confirmed many times since, that the Civil Engineering BOK (the published version is now in its third edition) cannot be achieved with formal education that ends with a baccalaureate degree. Check out here the very demanding CEBOK, Third Edition: https://ascelibrary.org/doi/book/10.1061/9780784415221 . Of course, many of us can choose to ignore what massive numbers of volunteer CE academics and practitioners, working together, concluded.
You say: "… the body of knowledge needed to complete certain kinds of civil work is nowhere near the depth of knowledge to understand medicine or the entire legal system." I suspect we can find, in any profession/occupation, a tiny group of individuals who have very narrowly defined themselves to a miniscule role that could be carried out with minimal education and low expectations.
ASCE should not waste its time and resources preparing them. Instead, focus on creating the future. Aspire and work, by using PS 465 and the CEBOK, to prepare tomorrow's civil engineers who want to be in responsible charge of projects and be part of a proud public-serving and protecting profession.
After reading Stu's and Brad's post, my reaction is "I am proud to be a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers!" Why? Glad you asked!
For over two decades, ASCE's presidents and Boards of Direction have been bold, consistent, and gutsy – steadfastly declaring via its Policy 465 that the existing educational and experiential requirements for licensure are not sufficient for exercising responsible charge. And our ASCE leaders have backed up their claim with data. Specifically, they commissioned the periodic review, refinement, and publication of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge by three different investigatory groups between 2002 and 2019. This long-term commitment by the ever-changing volunteer leadership of a professional society is remarkable and unique.
I am also very proud of ASCE for demonstrating great flexibility in implementing this strategic initiative. As Stu reports, the relentless and daring objective of ASCE from 1998 to 2018 was to raise the formal educational requirement in state licensure laws. While there were successes and substantial progress towards this objective, ASCE realized that raising the formal educational requirement for licensure was practically impossible when facing the opposition of the other engineering professional societies. As such, ASCE demonstrated its flexibility by initiating a major change in the direction of the initiative in March 2018. ASCE ceased legislative efforts to raise the formal educational requirement for licensure. However, ASCE has not ceased in its resolve to require fulfillment of the CEBOK for responsible charge. See https://www.asce.org/advocacy/policy-statements/ps465---civil-engineering-body-of-knowledge-and-the-practice-of-civil-engineering. Consistent with the model for validating the preparation of medical doctors for practice, the ASCE Board is exploring the use of Society administered credentialing, rather than just licensure, as the principal mechanism for raising the educational and experiential requirements for exercising responsible charge.
Twenty years ago, in a formal report to ASCE, the Board was advised that "The CE profession can engineer its future, or others will engineer it for us." I am proud that my professional society has accepted its responsibility for being the "stewards" of the civil engineering profession – working to ensure that civil engineering remains a trusted and learned profession, both for today and for tomorrow.
Well said, Mitchell. Pursuits to perfection must continue – things need to be built upon from what were achieved. But perhaps seeing things more through the lens of Simplicity (we have discussed aspects of it, on earlier postings and in different contexts) – that has the power to open up the issues and constraints from different perspectives.In this regard, I am tempted to quote Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011; his 1998 interview with the Businessweek): . . . simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains . . .
------------------------------Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCEVancouver, BC, Canada------------------------------
"Integrating input from full-time practitioners provided us with a balanced vision for our introductory curriculum in project management. The results of the practitioner survey showed that hiring professionals with well-developed behavioral skills and capabilities, is regarded very highly, and in some cases considered even more important than technical PM knowledge and skills. The reason for this bias is that well-developed teamwork, communication, and interpersonal skills allow for rapid and successful integration of entry-level employees. Even the full-time faculty who were surveyed ranked knowledge and skills in the behavioral areas highly and recommended their coverage in a comprehensive manner in the PM curriculum."
-Page 128, "GUIDELINES FOR UNDERGRADUATE PROJECT MANAGEMENT CURRICULA AND RESOURCES Volume I: The Curriculum Framework, 15 January 2015"
------------------------------William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCEBuffalo, N.Y."It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880------------------------------
Thanks to those who have shared their views. <o:p></o:p>
What follows. . . .briefly . . is the case for myself.<o:p></o:p>
The object of my CE education over a twenty-year period was to gain insights into why, what, and how engineers translated their ideas into physical communities of infrastructure by working collaboratively with others. And learned that "Others" had their own interpretations of what and how to accomplish tasks that were part of larger plans.<o:p></o:p>
No doubt earning a living wage is part and parcel of most folks' efforts.<o:p></o:p>
And lives of others illustrate that doing so is a common objective regardless of your current type of skill-sets to do so.<o:p></o:p>
Looking back, setting aside individuals' specific life variables as to resources to study at school versus earning a living wage, each adjusted their life objectives to fit their sense of reality.<o:p></o:p>
While each of us can theorize with 20/20 hindsight what we did "Back then" and how it worked for us, I imagine that tale would change depending on which of us was sharing our story.<o:p></o:p>
I eventually learned that for my objective, stopping my formal professional education at the BSCE level would never have worked given the direction I was heading.<o:p></o:p>
As I reflect on the past, going forward the working professionals need to stop complaining about what educators need to learn and commit each semester to provide real-world engineering experience to certain engineering classes. What's better than telling others how to become team players is to model it for them.<o:p></o:p>
I continue to be impressed with the educator's self-improvement and educational system upgrades within the ABET dialogue elsewhere herein.<o:p></o:p>
I agree with Joseph's post regarding the timing of getting a Masters Degree in an engineer's career progression. A recently graduated Bachelors Degree student most often has learned problem solving skills but generally only the basics of the more rigorous technical skills required in the various disciplines within Civil Engineering. These need to be learned on the job but can be greatly accelerated by getting a Masters. Graduate degrees are more specialized and unless the entry level engineer is absolutely certain which discipline to pursue, the advanced degree can be almost a wasted effort. I believe that exposure early in ones career to various disciplines will point to the graduate degree specialty that will lead to a more rewarding and successful career.
Another factor is that many employers have programs that will pay all or part of the tuition for a Masters in which the young engineer is best suited for and more interested in.
That being said, my Masters degree was highly instrumental in my career satisfaction and success. My BS was in Chemical Engineering but my first five years were served as a commissioned officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers where I practiced Civil Engineering. I learned then that Chem E. was not something I wanted to pursue but that I could apply that knowledge to the CE discipline of water/wastewater engineering. After leaving the service I got my Masters in what was then called Civil/Sanitary Engineering. Upon graduating I had the skills necessary to jump into this discipline with both feet and my civilian career was off to a great start.