The world is becoming increasingly specialized. Civil engineering is becoming increasingly specialized. It has been that way forever. This is why ASCE began establishing its technical institutes more than 20 years ago. Recognizing that engineering is now the only recognized "profession" that does not require meaningful graduate education, ASCE began a campaign to correct this deficiency. It began as "Masters as the First Professional Degree," which was eventually rebranded as "Raise the Bar", and then again as "B+30." Rebranding could not overcome the loud pushback from those ASCE members who proudly considered their BSCE degree to be the "be all, end all." At the same time, the minimum requirements for a BSCE degree at most public universities dropped from more than 140 hours in 1970 to 124 hours or less today. In my view, a 124-hour BSCE degree is little more than an "Introduction to Civil Engineering Degree." Those graduates are prepared to become land development engineers, or government agency staff, or technicians in the more specialized fields of civil engineering.
I earned a BSCE and MSCE back-to-back and went on to enjoy a long and glorious career as a structural engineer. That would not have been possible without those additional 30 hours of specialized education. Apparently, most other structural engineers feel likewise. The MSCE and MSAE degrees have been the de-facto standard for entry into the structural engineering consulting business for at least 40 years. In Texas, where I have enjoyed my career, virtually no consulting structural engineering firms hire entry level engineers without a MSCE or MSAE. The sole exception might be those bridge engineers who arrive with several years of experience at a state DOT or similar agency.
Why is the MSCE or MSAE the de-facto standard for structural engineering firms? It boils down to a famous quotation, "You can't teach chemistry in the workplace
." In this case, chemistry is the finer points of concrete, steel, timber, and masonry design, as well as indeterminate static and dynamic analysis. Employers expect entry level engineers to arrive with that knowledge already mastered and have no interest in teaching it. Rather, they want to teach those engineers to use that knowledge to efficiently and confidently design economical buildings, bridges, and so forth.
Just a few years ago, SEI conducted a substantial study on the future of the structural engineering profession. It should be required reading for all structural engineers and structural engineering students. Among the conclusions, engineers with only a BSCE and the 8-hour PE exam will likely become paraprofessionals. They will dutifully served the needs of the professional structural engineers, those with a MSCE or better and the 16-hour SE exam. You can download and read the 46-page report, "A Vision for the Future of Structural Engineering and Structural Engineers: A case for change
" at: https://www.asce.org/structural-engineering/structural-engineering-institute/
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE, F.SEI, F.AEI
Sent: 05-02-2019 10:15
From: Kevin Hall
Subject: Engineering Tomorrow Initiative
Thank you for your post - it is a very timely topic and certainly worthy of discussion. Full disclosure: I am an "academic" - but I went to work (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) after my BSCE, and returned to graduate school after excellent design and construction experience.
Having served as a civil engineering Department Head at my university for 11 years - and, as the Chair of the ASCE Department Heads Coordinating Council (DHCC) for two of those years -- I can say that the view that this concept is "...largely supported by universities..." is actually not necessarily true.
When you look at ASCE Policy Statement 465, which provides the basis and underlying rationale for the desirability of post-baccalaureate formal education, it speaks of the "...attainment of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for entry into the professional practice of civil engineering...". The rationale looks at other "learned professions" which have increased educational requirements in the face of the rapid pace of change in knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to practice - compared to the very clear trend in engineering programs, which have decreased educational requirements at the baccalaureate level. In addition, note that ASCE does not advocate specifically for the necessity of a post-baccalaureate degree (MS or PhD) - rather, the call is for formal post-baccalaureate education (primarily to increase the depth of the engineer's technical knowledge).
So, then, what does "attainment of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge" entail? The recently-released (for public comment) 3rd Edition of the 'BOK' identifies knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSA) desirable for the engineer practicing at the professional level. Interestingly, attainment of those KSAs is accomplished through a combination of undergraduate education, post-baccalaureate education, mentored experience, and self-development (i.e. through life-long learning). This supports your point - it is not a 'one size fits all' approach, but rather quite multi-faceted.
Please keep this discussion going. Let's all strive to fully understand the details of what ASCE policy (e.g. Policy 465) actually proposes - and the implications for how that might play out "in the real world". Let's also seek balance; just as in one of your points - "There are things that can't be learned as well in a classroom..." - the balance is also true: there are things that are better learned in a classroom.
I look forward to reading various viewpoints on this!!
Kevin Hall Ph.D.,M.ASCE
Univ Of Arkansas
Sent: 05-01-2019 10:59
From: Heidi Wallace
Subject: Engineering Tomorrow Initiative
I'm curious how many are in support of the push to require a masters or 30 hours of post-grad academic experience? From my perspective it seems to be largely supported by universities (who will make a lot more money if this requirement passes) and those that are decades out of school.
Here's my two cents
-Extra academic experience is not always translatable to better job performance. (This can be seen in other forum topics where people with a Masters are discouraging others from getting one depending on their career goals.)
-Extra academic experience requires greater upfront financial investment, and for many that means thousands of additional dollars in student loans. Not all companies can/will offer financial assistance for a Masters, and those with a family may not be able to feasibly work full time and pursue a Masters at the same time.
-Not everyone will know after undergrad what specific topic they would want to pursue for a Masters that would advance them the furthest in their career. The options for a Masters are often quite narrow. Would it not make more sense for many to work for a few years and then decide what area they want to dive deeper into? Not all 23-year-olds leaving college with one or two internships know exactly what they do and don't like doing in the "real world." I loved my concrete design class and hated hydrology, but in practice I've found the opposite to be true. If you shove "you have to have a Masters" down the throats of undergrads, you could very well end up with transportation PEs that have an MS in structures or site development PEs that have an MS in transportation. How is that beneficial to the discipline of civil engineering?
-There is no good masters degree option for some of the sub-disciplines within our field. The first that comes to mind is site development. We can't build without site development civil engineers, and there is already a shortage of young EIs and PEs in that area.
-Hands-on workplace experience and mentoring can be much more beneficial to growth as an engineer. There are things that can't be learned as well in a classroom: coordination with other engineering disciplines, working with architects and contractors, client interactions, navigating some of the state and local permitting practices and standards. I believe with 100% confidence that I am farther along in my career than I would have been if I'd spent two more years in school instead of learning in my field.
Ways to continue to "ensure civil engineers have the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to practice in the future," as Engineering Tomorrow promotes, do not have to include getting a Masters or 30 hours of Masters credit. Requiring it is, in my opinion, the lazy and profitable way out.
Instead why not try
-Promote mentoring both within and outside of companies
-Offer/require beneficial continuing education opportunities outside of academia
-Extend the experience requirement to 5 years instead of 4 for PE certification
-Distinguish between the different areas of civil engineers. Maybe structural engineers need a certain number of hours of Masters level structural courses (whether taken as an undergrad or after), but transportation and construction probably don't. We are a broad and multifaceted field; let's not make a one-size-fits-all rule that reduces the number of qualified candidates.
Heidi Wallace EI,A.M.ASCE