The Engineering Body of Knowledge (First Edition)

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.

The National Society of Professional Engineers has released the first edition of “The Engineering Body of Knowledge” (EBOK), a first effort on behalf of the profession in defining the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for the practice of engineering as a professional engineer in responsible charge of engineering activities that may impact public health, safety, and welfare. The EBOK is intended to apply to all disciplines of engineering.

The 60-page document is intended for a broad audience—engineer interns and practicing engineering supervisors and mentors, employers, engineering students and faculty, licensing boards, engineering societies, accreditors, and specialty certification boards. It addresses three basic topics: guiding principles and trends that will shape the practice of engineering in the future, the key requisite attributes of professional engineers, and the broadly described capabilities and abilities necessary for the professional practice of engineering. The EBOK purposely does not tease apart what of these knowledge, skills, and attitudes should be imparted in education and experience, as both are critical and will vary considerably in different disciplines and employment situations.

Thirteen key attributes are suggested. The successful professional engineer needs to be:

  • Analytical and practical;
  • Thorough and detail oriented in design;
  • Creative;
  • Communicative;
  • Able to apply mathematics and sciences;
  • Knowledgeable in a selected field of engineering and conversant in related technical fields;
  • Skillful in management;
  • Able to provide leadership;
  • Professional and positive in attitude;
  • Aware of societal considerations in an increasingly global context;
  • Aware of laws, standards and codes;
  • Ethical in practice; and
  • Dedicated to increasingly critical lifelong learning.

This might seem to be a “tall order,” but think about practicing engineering absent any of these key attributes.

Thirty basic capabilities of professional engineers and related abilities necessary in the practice of engineering are broadly defined, in three basic categories as listed below:

Basic or Foundational: mathematics, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

Technical: manufacturing/construction, design, engineering economics, engineering science, engineering tools, experiments, problem recognition and solving, quality control/assurance, risk and uncertainty, safety, societal impact, operations and maintenance, sustainability, and technical breadth and depth.

Professional Practice: business aspects, communication, ethical responsibility, global awareness, leadership, legal aspects of engineering, lifelong learning, professional attitudes, project management, public policy, and teamwork.

Think about these capabilities in your engineering practice. Do all of them apply in your practice? Are there others that are not mentioned?


NSPE is seeking feedback on this first edition from all engineering disciplines and from all employment sectors with the anticipation that a second edition will be prepared in subsequent years to incorporate such input. Is it too broad? Are important capabilities missing? Are there aspects of your engineering discipline that it doesn’t address?

What can you do? Click on the button below to download the PDF. Review the document and provide comment as you wish from your perspective. Be forewarned: It’s 60 pages, and some have commented that it takes some thinking to “get your arms around it.” After reviewing the EBOK, you can get back on this blog article page at a later date and provide a comment in the box below, or send your written comments to NSPE General Counsel Arthur Schwartz at

Download the EBOK

Additionally, NSPE hopes that organizations and individuals having a stake in engineering will study the EBOK and ask themselves this question: What are the implications for us and what should we do about it?

Your input is encouraged and will be considered by the next group of engineers in the preparation of a second edition.

Follow new postings of these blog articles on Twitter: @CMusselman1

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


Published November 19, 2013 by Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE

Filed under: The Engineering Body of Knowledge; EBOK,

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