Engineering Licensure Accommodations for Returning Veterans

Almost everyone would agree that we owe our veterans returning from overseas tours a debt of gratitude for their service, and that it is important to facilitate their transition back into the civilian workforce. There have been a number of bills filed in state legislatures in recent years setting forth provisions to provide flexibility for returning veterans in obtaining certifications and licenses in a broad range of professions—a laudable goal. Some of these bills, however, have gone a bit far. For instance, one bill in Hawaii would have precluded returning veterans from having to take national examinations to become certified or licensed in any field or profession. Last year, NSPE was encouraged by several veterans to formulate a position on providing flexibility in engineering licensure for returning veterans. The NSPE Licensure and Qualifications for Practice Committee has drafted a position statement, as outlined below, for consideration by the NSPE Board of Directors.

A survey of state licensing boards sought information on best practices and generatedresponses from 20 state licensing boards(PDF). Of those, nine states reported accommodations provided for noncareer active military personnel, including flexibility such as waiving of PDH requirements during overseas service, delaying expiration and renewal dates until after their return to the U.S., waiving of examination fees, providing fee waivers, and expediting licensure for spouses of transferred military personnel.

Theposition statement adopted by the NSPE L&QP Committee(PDF) advocates the following.

  1. Flexibility
    • Experience:NSPE advocates that PE boards provide flexibility for experience references from supervisors and other licensed professional engineers as is provided in that state for engineers in industry. The military is in some cases similar to situations in industry where commanding officers of PEs, or supervisors in industry, may not in all cases be licensed professional engineers. NSPE also recommends that the progressive engineering experience be the same for veteran applicants as would apply in the civilian workforce.
    • Renewal and CPD:NSPE advocates that licenses of veterans serving overseas be maintained as active by state boards until 180 days after their return to the U.S. and that the PDHs required for continuing professional development be waived during overseas service.
    • Licensure for Spouses:NSPE advocates that state PE boards facilitate the licensure of duly qualified spouses who are relocating due to military transfers.
  1. Rigorous Licensure Qualifications:While advocating the flexibility outlined above, NSPE also advocates that qualifications requirements for licensure be rigorously maintained for veterans and for all licensees. To assure protection of the public health, safety, and welfare, the educational standards, examination requirements (FE and PE), and progressive engineering experience requirements should be precisely the same for veterans as for all licensed professional engineers.

Delaying licensure renewal dates and waiving PDH requirements for a period of time for military personnel overseas in harm’s way is the least we can do to accommodate our returning veterans, and will have no impact on the protection of public health, safety, and welfare. Maintaining the same rigorous licensure qualifications for veterans as for civilian engineers is equally important.

Review and input on this article has been provided by L. Robert “Larry” Smith, P.E., F.NSPE; Bernard R. Berson, P.E., L.S., F.NSPE; and by the following veterans: Thomas “Dudley” Hixson, P.E., F.NSPE; Howard N. Blitman, P.E., F.NSPE; John F. Ourada, P.E., F.NSPE; and Scott Haraburda, Ph.D., P.E., F.NSPE.

Published May 22, 2013 by Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE

Filed under: Licensing, Engineering Licensure, veterans,

Comments

My initial professional experience as an engineer came immediately after my graduation and commissioning into the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) of the U.S. Navy.  Unlike other military communities, the CEC prides itself on professional licensure, so virtually all of the superior officers I encountered, that had been in the military for more than 4 to 5 years, was already registered/licensed, either as a P.E. or R.A. Professional licensure was a definite plus when it came to consideration for promotion. I think that NSPE should also work with the military services and various engineering communities to promote professional licensure to the same extent as the CEC does in the Navy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 12:05 PM by Jim Rodriguez, P.E.

It's my understanding that the military is far more aggressive on professional licensure than the civilian federal government.  I've been told that young Engineer officers (O-2 & O-3) at the Advanced Course don't get to leave Leonard Wood until they get their Missouri PE (in my day they all seemed to go after the Virginia PE because it was a Belvoir).  Other branches are also full of engineers: Signal, Ordnance, Aviation, Artillery, etc.

Maybe what NSPE needs is a special NICET program for veterans who don't have NCEES-level qualifications, where their military qualification records are recognized for many of the tasks.  

Monday, May 27, 2013 11:25 AM by Danny Kahler, PE

The statement as written gives all military engineers carte blanche to not keep up their professional educational requirements when not actually in a documented war zone.  From 2001 to 2006, I was stationed as a DOD Civilian overseas at Ramstein AB, Germany for three years and at RAF Lakenheath, England for two years. There were ample opportunities to attend the local SAME chapter meetings, attend USAF sponsored engineering satellite coursework, and attend engineering conference/training.  

Monday, July 08, 2013 8:02 PM by Brian Carr, PE

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The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of and should not be attributable to the National Society of Professional Engineers.