Model Law 2020 - Alternate Pathways

For the past five years, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) has been considering how to structure an alternate pathway to licensure after 2020, based on input received largely from mechanical and chemical engineers who contend that post-graduate advanced learning in their areas of practice is predominantly industry- and practice-based, and not academic in nature. This article presents an idea that might help all parties move forward.

Background
In 2006, NCEES adopted modifications to its Model Law encouraging jurisdictions to consider revisions after 2020 to require additional engineering education as a prerequisite for licensure as a professional engineer. This has been termed “master’s or equivalent,” and includes pathways deemed equivalent: 1) a baccalaureate engineering degree from a program accredited by ABET EAC (Engineering Accreditation Commission) plus a master’s degree in engineering from an institution that offers ABET EAC programs; 2) a master’s degree from a program accredited by ABET EAC; 3) a baccalaureate degree in engineering from an ABET EAC accredited program that requires 150 credit hours or more, or 4) a baccalaureate degree in engineering from an ABET EAC accredited program plus 30 credit hours of additional upper level undergraduate or graduate level coursework.

Several years ago, ASME, in concert with AIChE and ACEC representatives, proposed to an NCEES task force an alternate pathway to licensure after 2020. In addition to the above items, the pathway to licensure would require additional years of experience, industry- and practice-based training/educational experiences, and mentoring of that educational process by licensed professional engineers. Since that time, NCEES task forces and committees have given thought to the structure of such an alternate pathway with the “master’s or equivalent” moniker. All parties have been “wrapped around the axle” in trying to equate this different pathway to “master’s or equivalent.” Some claim that this pathway isn’t equivalent, but rather different, although still potentially protective of public health, safety, and welfare.

Current Engineering Education Licensure Structure
The current structure of engineering education licensure requirements is presented in Table 1 below. A BS from an ABET EAC accredited program is the so-called gold standard, and is the education requirement for an engineer to receive expedited comity licensure in most jurisdictions (MLE, or Model Law Engineer, in the tables below). Most state rules allow for an “or equivalent” to this standard, although those with “equivalent” qualifications do not receive expedited comity as an MLE because jurisdictions make different and individual decisions regarding equivalency requirements. Beyond the Model Law provisions, most jurisdictions provide “alternate pathways,” typically requiring more years of experience, for applicants with different educational backgrounds.

Current Education Requirements
Current Model Law Education Requirements

ABET EAC BS, Gold Standard
MLE
Or Equivalent
NOT MLE
Current ALTERNATE Pathways
State by State
ABET TAC BS + Add'l Exp.
30 Jurisdictions
MEng w/non-ABET EAC BS
35 Jurisdictions
Related Science BS + Add'l Exp
20 Jurisdictions
No Degree + Add'l Exp.
8 Jurisdictions
 
+/-

“Master’s or Equivalent” Alternate Pathway Structure
For the past five years, consideration has been given to adding this proposed alternate pathway after 2020 to the Model Law as an additional pathway under “master’s or equivalent,” in the fashion as outlined in Table 2. The problem with this approach is that determining how this different, alternate pathway would be “equivalent” to “master’s or equivalent” has been difficult for all parties to define. And considering this alternate pathway to be included in the separate Model Law definition of a Model Law Engineer requires that all jurisdictions adopt the same requirement and interpret all of the complex details in the same way, contrary to the current practice of interpreting the much simpler “or equivalent” to a BS ABET EAC on a state-by-state basis.

Model Law 2020
Education Requirements

"Master's or Equivalent"
ABET EAC BS + MEng
MLE 2020
ABET EAC M
MLE 2020
ABET EAC BS 150
MLE 2020
ABET EAC BS + 30 Credits
MLE 2020
AND
 
Alternate Pathway?
MLE 2020?

Idea
An idea recently presented to invited representatives of other engineering societies and to the NCEES Education Committee is to consider structuring the engineering licensure requirement in the fashion presented in Table 3. This structure, simply using “or” rather than “and,” may free all parties considering this concept to stop focusing on “equivalence” and to focus instead on what is needed to assure sufficient qualifications to adequately protect the public health, safety, and welfare in the long run. Debating the equivalence of things that are fundamentally different would be a thing of the past. The alternate pathway would be different than “master’s or equivalent,”  and in all likelihood it would not confer MLE status due to the detailed judgments required on the part of each jurisdiction’s PE board. Perhaps this concept would lead to effective and appropriate compromise on the part of licensing boards and various engineering societies on the future of engineering qualifications. The “devil is in the details” with this concept, but this different way of thinking may allow a consensus to develop.

Model Law 2020
Education Requirements - Idea

"Master's or Equivalent"
ABET EAC BS + MEng
MLE 2020
ABET EAC M
MLE 2020
ABET EAC BS 150
MLE 2020
ABET EAC BS + 30 Credits
MLE 2020
OR
 
Alternate Pathway
Not MOE
Not MLE 2020

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Review and input for this article was provided by L. Robert Smith, P.E., F.NSPE; and, Bernard R. Berson, P.E., P.L.S., F.NSPE

Published February 3, 2014 by Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE

Filed under: Model Law, Alternate Pathways,

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.

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