Licensure Update: NCEES Approves Revised Approach to Education Initiative

BY NCEES Staff Posted: 1 Sep 2014

The U.S. engineering and surveying licensing boards that make up NCEES have voted to modify the approach to requiring additional education for initial engineering licensure by removing specific language in the NCEES Model Law and Model Rules, originally intended to be effective in 2020.

The decision was made during the 2014 NCEES annual meeting, held 20-23 August in Seattle, Washington. As part of the vote, annual meeting delegates decided to instead develop an official NCEES position statement that supports additional engineering education beyond a bachelor's degree.

"NCEES remains committed to improving education standards to better prepare engineers to enter the profession and will work with other engineering organizations, educators and the professional engineering community to reach that goal," said NCEES Chief Executive Officer Jerry Carter. "NCEES voted to remove these requirements to avoid confusion and unintended comity licensure barriers while it works on the specifics of the requirement."

The additional education requirement in the Model Law and Model Rules -- the NCEES best-practice models for state licensure laws and rules -- called for an engineering licensure candidate to obtain a master's degree or its equivalent before initial licensure. The requirement was first added to the model documents by Council vote in 2006. In subsequent years, NCEES annual meeting delegates approved several additions and modifications to the language to adjust and clarify the requirement.

The Council's latest decision means that in 2020 the NCEES Model Law and Model Rules will continue to require an engineering bachelor's degree from an EAC/ABET-accredited program to fulfill the education requirement for engineering licensure.

IEEE-USA Concerns Addressed
The NCEES model law's additional education provision had faced opposition from a number of professional engineering societies, including IEEE-USA, which confirmed that it would not support NCEES' 30-hour model law provision in a 2013 position statement.  According to the IEEE-USA position, "the current EAC/ABET requirements for an accredited bachelor's degree in Electrical, Computer, or Software Engineering are adequate to attain licensure as a Professional Engineer. Per the NCEES Model Law, licensure requires competency as achieved by education, experience and examination. Completion of these three steps (with the bachelor's degree representing an acceptable educational level) allows the candidate to demonstrate the necessary skills and ethical standards for licensure."

Carter explained that having the additional education requirement in the model documents was creating uncertainty about what would be required for licensure in the future and impacting students entering engineering programs.

"The language about requiring additional education beyond the bachelor's degree was inserted in the NCEES model governance documents to reflect the belief of the Council that significant revisions are needed in the education of engineers to ensure that they are prepared to enter the professional practice of engineering. Because the language had been incorporated into the NCEES Model Law and Model Rules but had not yet been adopted by any individual licensing board, it was causing confusion among students, educators, and professional engineers," he said.

Another key issue was the effect on the NCEES Records program, which is used by professional engineers across the country to facilitate comity licensure, the process by which a professional engineer licensed in one state gets licensed in another.

Carter explained, "For those who meet the Model Law Engineer (MLE) or Model Law Structural Engineer (MLSE) standard, many states expedite a comity licensure application. In 2020, the MLE and MLSE standards would have required a master's degree or the equivalent. If no state requires a master's, most licensees would no longer meet the MLE and MLSE standards, which would have slowed comity licensure. NCEES is dedicated to facilitating licensure among states, so it wants to avoid this impediment."

The NCEES Advisory Committee on Council Activities has been charged to develop the position statement supporting additional education for initial engineering licensure and will present it for adoption by the Council at the 2015 annual meeting.

Removing Prerequisite in Licensure Requirements
Among other actions taken at the annual meeting, NCEES member boards voted to remove its Model Law prerequisite that four years of progressive engineering experience be earned before a licensure candidate can take the final licensing exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Delegates voted in 2013 to remove the prerequisite, and the NCEES Committee on Uniform Procedures and Legislative Guidelines was charged this year with proposing specific amendments to the language to effect the change. The Council voted to approve the proposed amendments.

Carter said that the change does not alter the requirements themselves. "The Model Law still requires four years of engineering experience for licensure. You don't have to meet the experience requirement before you can take the PE exam, but you do have to earn this experience, along with meeting the education and exam requirements, before you can become licensed as a professional engineer."

This change to the Model Law is subject to implementation at the state level. "Each jurisdiction will decide whether to remove the prerequisite aspect of the experience requirement from its laws or policies, and some have already done so," Carter explained.

Full details on all motions considered during the annual meeting will be included in the official minutes, which will be published later this year.

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