Engineering Technology

NSPE Position
NSPE believes that a bachelor's degree in engineering from a program accredited by ABET's Engineering Accreditation Commission, or one assessed by ABET/EAC as substantially comparable, should be the minimum educational requirement for professional engineer licensure. NSPE endorses the NCEES Model Law, which establishes as the sole minimum educational requirement for PE licensure that the individual possess an engineering degree from an engineering program accredited by ABET/EAC. NSPE opposes efforts to establish legal competency criteria for engineering technicians and technologists. However, NSPE supports the establishment of recognized levels of competence for technicians and technologists, and has sponsored the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies with this interest in mind.

Background
Under the requirements of professional engineer licensing laws, an individual's competence to practice engineering is determined by subjecting him or her to a rigorous process. This process typically requires the individual to obtain a bachelor of engineering degree from an engineering program accredited by ABET's Engineering Accreditation Commission, successfully complete two comprehensive examinations written by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, and demonstrate a level of acceptable engineering experience.

Many state PE laws also provide routes to PE licensure that bypass the ABET/EAC education requirement. Some states explicitly permit individuals holding a bachelor of engineering technology degree to become licensed as PEs. This reflects a lack of understanding of the distinction between engineering and engineering technology.

Engineering and engineering technology are recognized as distinct points on the technical occupational spectrum. For example, ABET's accreditation criteria defines engineering as "the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to use economically the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind." Engineering technology is defined as "that part of the technological field that requires the application of scientific and engineering knowledge and methods combined with technical skills in support of engineering activities; it lies in the occupational spectrum between the craftsman and the engineer at the end of the spectrum closest to the engineer." In other words, the engineer is the person who conceives the design, while the engineering technologist is the person who implements it.

The distinction between engineering and engineering technology emanates primarily from differences in their educational programs. Engineering programs are geared toward development of conceptual skills, and consist of a sequence of engineering fundamentals and design courses, built on a foundation of complex mathematics and science courses. Engineering technology programs are oriented toward application, and provide their students introductory mathematics and science courses, and only a qualitative introduction to engineering fundamentals. Thus, engineering programs provide their graduates a breadth and depth of knowledge that allows them to function as designers. Engineering technology programs prepare their graduates to apply others' designs.

This distinction between engineering and engineering technology is acknowledged in several ways. For example, ABET establishes separate accreditation criteria for each program. The criteria prohibits an accredited engineering technology program from claiming that it gives its graduates the equivalent of an engineering education. In addition, a comparison of the pass rates on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam between engineering and engineering technology graduates indicates that technology graduates have a significantly more difficult time with the exam than do engineering graduates.

Proponents of PE licensure for engineering technologists argue that, for purposes of licensure, the engineering technology program provides a substantially equivalent education to the engineering program. They argue the prohibition on PE licensure for technologists unduly restricts otherwise qualified individuals from seeking licensure. Proponents also point out that because over half of the states permit technology graduates to become licensed, those states that prohibit such licensure are essentially depriving their citizens of economic and professional opportunities in their home states.

References
Professional Policy 128 - Technology/Engineering
Professional Policy 152 - Licensure and Qualifications for Practice
Professional Policy 166 - Professional Engineers/Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists Relations
Administrative Policy 21- Education and Certification of Engineering Technicians and Technologists
NCEES Model Law and Model Rule
ABET Criteria for Accrediting Programs in Engineering
ABET Criteria for Accrediting Programs in Engineering Technology
Engineering Licensure Laws – 2004 Edition

Issue Brief and Position: