Use of the Title “Engineer”

Use of the Title “Engineer”

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Recent actions taken by the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying against Mats Järlström, a Swedish-educated electrical engineer currently residing in Oregon, and Järlström’s subsequent filing of a civil rights lawsuit accusing the board of violating his First Amendment rights, have received significant media coverage targeted at not only the engineering community but to the general public, as well.

While IEEE-USA has taken no position with regard to either the licensing board’s assessment of a civil penalty on Järlström or on Järlström’s civil rights lawsuit, IEEE-USA does have a position statement on the use of the title “Engineer” that was developed by the IEEE-USA Licensure & Registration Committee and adopted by the IEEE-USA Board of Directors in November 2016. In summary, IEEE-USA’s position recognizes that the general public interprets the term “Engineer” in a broader sense than the terms “Professional Engineer,” “Licensed Engineer” or “Registered Engineer,” which are protected titles under individual jurisdictions’ licensing statutes. It is IEEE-USA’s position that individuals holding an engineering degree from an ABET/EAC accredited program of engineering education should not be prohibited from using the title “Engineer.”

IEEE-USA’s Licensure & Registration Committee promotes and supports career credentialing for IEEE members, including, but not limited to continuing education, voluntary certification programs and becoming licensed in the jurisdictions in which they practice. These credentials aid IEEE members in advancing their professional qualifications and maintaining lifelong career vitality.


Michael Behnke, P.E., is a member of the IEEE-USA Licensure & Registration Committee, and serves on both the NCEES Electrical & Computer PE Exam and FE Exam Committees.

2 thoughts on “Use of the Title “Engineer”

  1. Try to remember that this entire sideshow began when Jarlstrom made a suggestion about improving traffic flow, whereupon the town (Beaverton?) accused him of practicing engineering without certification.

    He made no public claim of being certified in Oregon, although he did cite his engineering degree *in the signature of his e-mail messages,* an incredibly common practice.

    This is not a case of practicing engineering without a license, or of someone without a proper license claiming to be an engineer. That is, and should be, against the law in most places.

    This is a case of stating to bureaucrats and engineers that they’d made a mistake, and of their subsequent overreaction to the risk of being made publicly to look silly.

    Anyone is entitled to make a comment on another’s engineering. Anyone is entitled to state that he has an engineering degree, if such is the case. And no one should have to fear criticizing the mistakes of our public officials.

  2. Excellent article by Mike Behnke. I believe Mike worked with us many years ago at PG&E System Protection.

    Unfortunately I agree with the position of the IEEE-USA Licensure and Registration committee. The term “Engineer” has been diluted over the years by the use of Operating Engineers, Sanitation Engineers, Domestic Engineers, etc., that in the public’s view the generic title of “Engineer” does not mean much. In California, state codes protect the use of “Electrical Engineer,” “Civil Engineer,” “Consulting Engineer,” and “Professional Engineer,” but not the term “engineer,” plus many other terms (e.g., Energy Engineer).

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