Professional Engineering Practice Status

Adopted: July 2010
Latest Revision: April 2012

The National Society of Professional Engineers is vitally interested in the concerns of engineers to practice engineering within their technical competence for the continued betterment of society. Such practice is subject to disciplinary control by and through the state boards of engineering licensure and by the appropriate committees on engineering conduct.

Engineers in Education
NSPE recognizes the responsibility of engineering faculty in formulating curricula and teaching students to prepare them for the practice of engineering. To fulfill this responsibility as it relates to the public health, safety, and welfare, engineering faculty teaching advanced engineering subjects should be licensed professional engineers. An engineering educator who heads an engineering department or division or who is dean of an engineering college should be a licensed professional engineer at the time of appointment.

This practice should be mandatory in engineering school administration and a part of the criteria for accrediting engineering programs as administered by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

All engineering institutions are urged to properly identify the licensed professional engineer faculty members as "P.E." in the catalog of the school and in other publications where names of faculty appear.

Engineers in Research
The National Society of Professional Engineers strongly recommends and advocates the inclusion of a principal investigator(s) (PI) or a co-principal investigator(s) (co-PI) who is a licensed professional engineer on all federal and state (or other jurisdiction) research and development (R&D) contract/grants that involve the practice of engineering, including applied research and development associated with public health, safety, and welfare. Execution of basic research is not within the scope of this position statement as basic research is generally intended to enhance the knowledge in science, not engineering; for a brief description of R&D categories, please see below.

R&D Category Description
Basic Research. Basic research is directed toward enhancing the knowledge in science. It is a systematic, scientific study directed toward developing a greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications, processes, or products in mind. It is farsighted high payoff research that provides the basis for technological progress. Basic research may lead to subsequent applied research and advanced technology developments, and new and improved functional capabilities.

Applied Research. Applied engineering research is a systematic study to understand the means to meet a specific, recognized need. It's an expansion and application of knowledge to develop useful materials, devices, systems, processes, techniques, or methods. It may be oriented, ultimately, toward the design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet the requirements. Applied research may translate promising basic research into solutions for broadly defined needs, short of system development. This type of effort may vary from systematic mission-directed research beyond basic research to sophisticated prototype hardware, study, programming and planning efforts that establish the initial feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions to technological challenges. It includes studies, investigations, and nonsystem specific technology efforts. The dominant characteristic of applied research is that it is directed toward developing and evaluating the feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions and determining their parameters.

Development. Development is the systematic use of scientific and technical knowledge in the design, development, testing, or evaluation of a potential new product or service (or an improvement in an existing product or service) to meet specific performance requirements or objectives. It includes the functions of design engineering, prototyping, and engineering testing.

NSPE believes strongly that state engineering licensure laws should apply to all individuals who practice engineering as defined in the NCEES Model Law. All employers are urged to promote professional licensure of all qualified individuals and to utilize licensed professional engineers in performing engineering work. NSPE will assist and cooperate with employers in the development of programs which encourage the licensure of qualified employees.

Land Surveying
The model law for licensure of land surveyors as prepared by NCEES is endorsed. Cadastral and topographic surveying and mensuration and the preparation of maps, plats, and profiles depicting topography, property boundaries, and the location of certain other surface features is within their appropriate area of practice. Accordingly, NSPE supports land surveyors having the lead or primary role for the preparation and certification of documents pertaining to such work, consistent with state law.