Engineering Technologists and Engineers – What is the Difference?

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.

This is the second in a series of articles about the licensure of engineering technologists in the U.S. The first article described the current status of licensure of technologists as professional engineers and indicated that some 17 jurisdictions do not provide a pathway for technologists to become licensed, while the balance of the jurisdictions do, generally requiring additional years of engineering experience, averaging about six years. Licensure as a professional engineer requires a technologist to pass both the FE and PE examinations, which address a technical engineering body of knowledge, and not necessarily an engineering technology body of knowledge. This article will describe the differences between educational accreditation criteria and typical curricula for engineers and technologists. This discussion of engineering technology is limited to accredited four-year degrees in engineering technology, not two-year technology degrees by which technicians are educated.

There is a huge difference in the number of graduates annually. Data presented on the American Society for Engineering Education Web site indicate that there were about 6,400 baccalaureate degrees awarded in 2012 in engineering technology in the U.S. This compares to over 88,000 baccalaureate degrees in engineering awarded in 2012, an all-time high.

Engineering and Engineering Technology Accreditation Criteria
ABET accreditation criteria are prescribed by means of “general criteria” that apply to all disciplines and “program criteria” that are established and apply to each specific discipline. For engineering, the accreditation criteria are those of the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC), and, for engineering technology, the criteria for the ABET Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission (ETAC) apply. The differences between the general criteria are subtle but significant, summarized in the following fashion. These are examples; refer to the ABET criteria at the links above to fully understand the differences.

ABET EAC General Criteria
Engineering Technology
ABET ETAC General Criteria
Mathematics as specified in Program Criteria-see tables below
Calculus, or other mathematics above algebra/trigonometry
Basic biology, chemistry, and physics applicable to discipline
Physical or natural science
Engineering Sciences
Broadly described bridge from science to engineering
Applied science/engineering
Design systems/components in broad societal context
Design systems/components to solve technology problems
Design/conduct experiments and analyze/interpret data
Conduct tests/experiments and analyze/apply results

Next, let’s consider the differences in program criteria for two selected sub-disciplines: electrical and civil engineering and engineering technology.

Electrical Engineering and Electrical Engineering Technology Program Requirements
Electrical Engineering Program Criteria
Electrical Technology Program Criteria
Calculus, statistics, linear algebra, complex variables, discrete math
Above algebra/trigonometry with some advanced math
Analyze and design complex systems
Analyze, design, develop and implement systems
Technical Breadth
Breadth AND Depth
Breadth OR Depth
Civil Engineering and Civil Engineering Technology Program Requirements
CivilEngineering Program Criteria
Civil Engineering Technology Program Criteria
Math through calculus/differential equations
Calculus or other math
Apply math, science, and engineering science to solve engineering problems
Technical skill to design systems
Knowledge in four technical areas
Standard design capability in three sub-disciplines
Design systems in more than one technical area
Design systems, specify methods/materials, estimate costs
Professional Practice
Management, public policy, leadership
Not specified

Engineering and Engineering Technology Curricula
According to data presented on the ASEE website, Purdue University graduates the greatest number of technologists in the US each year. Presented below is a very brief summary of the sample 2012-13 plan of study for electrical engineering, and for electrical engineering technology, from the Purdue University website. The major components of the typical curriculum are as follows:

Purdue University – 2012-13 Electrical Engineering Plan of Study
Math – Calculus I and II, multivariate calculus, differential equations, linear algebra and probabilistic methods
Science – Chemistry, Physics/Mechanics, Physics Elect/Magn Interactions, Science Elective
Engineering Science – Linear circuits I and II, introduction to electronics, electric and magnetic fields
Design – 10 design courses and electives

Purdue University – 2012-13 Electrical Engineering Technology Plan of Study
Math – Calculus for Technology I and II, Statistics
Science – General Physics I and II, electives
Technology and Design – 18 courses in various aspects of technology and design

The electrical engineering and electrical technology program curricula at Purdue clearly show the difference. The engineering program provides a substantially greater math background, more science, a background in engineering science and engineering design. The electrical technology program provides a much more basic background in math and science, without substantial engineering science, and with extensive technology and design content. Engineers generally are trained to analytically apply the theory and practical applications of math, science, and engineering science to design while engineering technologists are trained to apply technologies to design in what some have described as a hands-on fashion.

Both the accreditation criteria and the typical curricula cited above prescribe very different “bodies of knowledge” imparted in engineering and engineering technology education. Engineering education includes a significantly more extensive background in both mathematics and the sciences, which leads to a foundational background in engineering science. Design capability is then built on that math/science/engineering science foundation. Engineering technologists develop a basic understanding of math and science, and learn applied science and engineering built on a different foundation.

It is interesting to note that the ABET program criteria for civil engineering technology states as an objective that baccalaureate degree programs prepare graduates “to analyze and design systems, specify project methods and materials, perform cost estimates and analyses and manage technical activities in support of civil engineering projects.” In our licensure system in the U.S., each of those activities, when potentially impacting public health, safety, and welfare, need to be under the responsible charge of a licensed professional engineer, and those designs and specifications need to be stamped by a professional engineer. In one-third of the states, there is no pathway for technologists to be licensed as professional engineers. In the other two-thirds of states, technologists are required to pass the Fundamentals of EngineeringExamination, which assesses the engineering body of knowledge, and not the very different engineering technology body of knowledge, and additional years of engineering experience are required for technologists in many states. Those who review FE exam institution reports provided to technology programs indicate that the pass rate for engineering technologists on the FE exam is typically substantially lower on a national basis than the national pass rate for EAC-accredited engineering program graduates. This would be expected because the typical engineering technology education does not cover a fair amount of the FE exam content.

This begs two questions. First, is the current system appropriate? In order to become licensed, technologists are required to pass a fundamentals examination with content that was not included in their education in many technology programs. Those engineering technologists who can pass the two examinations work as professional engineers, and those who cannot, likely work as technicians. And secondly, is this a problem? I don’t know the answer to this second question. Is it a problem for technologists or employers that technologists can’t get licensed as PEs in one-third of states, and is passing the FE examination by technologists too formidable a hurdle in the other two-thirds of states? These two-thirds of states have determined that those technologists who do pass both exams, perhaps with a few more years of engineering experience for good measure, are qualified to practice as professional engineers. Is that a problem?

A subsequent article on this topic will address what is being done in some other countries with respect to licensure of technologists separate from licensure of engineers. Should we continue to license some engineering technologists as professional engineers, or does the licensure of engineering technologists merit consideration? The more I consider this topic, the more ambivalent I have come as to whether there is a sufficient problem here to consider change. Is there a problem?

Input for this article was received from: L. Robert Smith, P.E., F.NSPE; Bernard R. Berson, P.E., F.NSPE; Carmine C. Balascio, Ph.D., P.E.; Michael A. Clark, CAE; and Jon D. Nelson, P.E., Dist.M.ASCE.

Published August 15, 2013 by Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE

Filed under: Engineering Technologists, ABET Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission, licensure of technologists as professional engineers, ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission,


I have a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering Technology. During my senior year, I found out that I would be unable to be licensed in certain states. This was news to me. I thought that if I could get licensed in my current state, then I could get licensed anywhere. Myself and about 65% of us passed the FE exam. So I was faced with a decision...Do I go back to school somewhere else to get a BSCE? or Do I go to work wherever I can find a job and just hope that I will be okay in the long run? or Do I go to graduate school to get a Master's degree in Civil Engineering? I realized that it would be very hard to progress in my career if I would not be able to become a licensed PE in whatever state I work in.
I chose to seek a master's degree in Engineering. Some may disagree with my  reasoning but these are  some of my thoughts about it. I truely felt that my undergraduate coursework covered the majority of what most BSCE programs cover. The classes might not have been quite as rigorous, but I felt as though we covered 95% of the topics/theory. The primary difference was math as we did not have to go through Diff eq. However we used alot of calculus in our classes. Because of this I felt as though I would not be progressing if I went to get a BSCE. Also, I felt that having a master's in a specialized field (water resources engineering) would open up doors for a career path where a PE license would not be an absolute requirement (i.e. Hydrologist, Water Management, etc.). I was accepted to a respected Civil Engineering program (my job experience and high GPA really helped). I was required to take the additional math through Diff Eq. I did that, and it was difficult but not a problem...I actually enjoyed the extra math courses. My undergraduate preparation in fluid mechanics, hydrology, hydraulics, soil mechanics helped me transition quite well to graduate level hydrology/hydraulics courses that included advanced theory, numerical modeling, etc. There were a few topics where I had to spend a little extra time, but for the most part I did well.
So what is my point? Now I am working for an organization where I analyze and solve large water resources related problems. I work around engineers who have masters and PhD's from highly respected programs all over the country. I have been here about a year and a half and I hit the ground running and have been able to learn and progress at a fast pace. I am planning to take the PE in a state that will allow me to in another year or so.
Having gone through all of this, I feel as though I am fully competent EIT/EI who has the background and capability to do my job in a way that keeps people safe. This is a result of all of my experience and combined education. If I could do it over again I would have pursued a BSCE from day 1. I think my Eng Tech program was unique and probably built more like an engineering program. As a young person entering college, I had no clue the difference between ABET/TAC and EAC. I just enrolled in the nearest school and chose to major in something "cool."
It is still hard to know that I may not be able to pursue certain jobs in certain states due to my education, however I have commited myself to becoming very very good in my field and I believe that I will be able to have a successful career in something I love to do.
So to answer your question in the article...If I were making the rules, I would allow Eng Tech graduates to pursue licensure, however I would say they need to demonstrate their ability through 1. Pass FE 2. Pass PE 3. Masters degree in Engineering from program that offers ABET/EAC undergrad (similar to 2020 plan) 4. 6 years of experience under a PE (instead of 4 years)
If someone can demonstrate all of those things, I would say they have proved they know what they need to know. Also, I have learned quickly that if you don't your stuff in this industry that you will be quickly weeded out.
Those are my thoughts as of right now. Thanks for the article.

Thursday, February 19, 2015 11:30 AM by Sam

This blog reminds me of my strange journey which began in 1980, which was the year I completed my associate degree in engineering technology (ET) and then discovered my local South Carolina university would not accept my credits toward a BS degree in Civil Engineering. This one simple meeting with their academic advisor changed the course of my college career. As recommended by my advisor, I thought I would “fix” the problem by simply transferring out of state to a highly regarded 4-year degree program in ET since all of my associate degree coursework would transfer. I was never informed about any future licensing issues, and I was clueless about any differences between ET and engineering undergraduate education. I graduated with a baccalaureate degree in Architectural Engineering Technology in 1984 and moved back to Columbia, SC. I discovered BSET graduates were not eligible for licensing in South Carolina. Angry but undeterred, I became so obsessed with licensure I drove to Atlanta to take the EIT (FE) in 1985, and passed on the first attempt. In the 1980’s, Florida was the closest state that would allow me to take the PE four years after graduation. In 1988 I drove to Jacksonville, Florida and passed the civil/structural PE on the first attempt. And get this…..I noticed that “National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, Clemson, South Carolina” was printed at the bottom of my exam. Was I dreaming? Nope. Honestly, you cannot make this stuff up. So here I was way back in 1988 – licensed as a PE in Florida, having passed the South Carolina PE exam developed at NCEES in Clemson, but living and working in South Carolina as a non-PE. When I explained the reason why to people, they were extremely confused. Why wouldn’t they be, since they knew I took the same exam that all other engineers in South Carolina took? I relocated to Charlotte in 1992, and was licensed in North Carolina by reciprocity. I eventually became licensed in South Carolina in 2009 after their laws were revised, requiring an extensive career portfolio submittal and formal interview process that took 15 months.
As strange as it may seem, I agree with NSPE regarding their stance on minimal educational requirements for PE licensure. Why? Because I believe uniformity is needed, and all 4-year degrees that could lead to PE licensure (regardless of what they are titled) should have the same basic undergraduate coursework requirements. ABET ETAC engineering technology degrees could be limited to associate degree programs, and BSET programs could be revised to become the equivalent of an applications-based ABET EAC BS in Engineering (BSE) degree. Graduates of associate degree programs could transfer to an EAC BSE degree program in order to achieve licensure if they want that career path. And just as critical, students in BSET programs who want to transfer to a BSE program and complete an ABET EAC degree should not have to climb Mt. Everest to do so.
One would think that creating a more cooperative curriculum between ET and engineering would have been achieved decades ago. Look, it’s not like we are comparing programs in Archeology versus Accounting. Most people in engineering circles know that BSET degrees emphasize more application and less theory. However, both types of graduates are usually working side by side at the same companies, performing similar duties with the same job title in most cases. This is particularly true in the design consulting business, and I have been there and done that for over 30 years. Every BSET graduate I have ever worked with has been employed in a capacity similar to a BSE graduate. Interesting isn’t it? If industry demands more design application in our college curricula, can we not make that happen within our EAC degree programs? Or do we need two separate curricula for graduates to end up in the same place doing the same job? How does a BSET student/graduate get from technologist to engineer if he/she wants an EAC BSE degree? The protocol from university to university for BSET students/graduates to earn an EAC BSE is all over the place, and is largely subjective. How do BSET graduates pursue MS degrees, and how do those who want to become PhD level professors get there without starting over? This graduate studies issue is just as important as professional licensure because it significantly impacts career options. Why create a terminal BS degree in the first place?
The academic/licensing community seems to emphasize certain core undergraduate coursework, and questions the rigor of BSET programs with respect to higher level theory and mathematics. What makes this so paradoxical is that hands-on design experience is the chief ingredient in preparing an intern engineer for professional licensing. Many state licensing boards want to see a more sophisticated math and theoretical background in undergraduate coursework, but in reality it is the ability to perform analysis and develop design calculations and details within our respective discipline’s standard of practice that gets engineers through the PE exam. It seems that ultimately what really matters is applications-based design experience. I cannot understand why this ET versus engineering issue continues today, and I feel it does not benefit our profession. I personally can confirm from a long career in professional practice – few people know or care about the term “technologist”, and I have personally never met anyone classified as such who was working in the design business. It is a term that is basically meaningless – you are considered either an engineer, an intern engineer, a designer, or a drafter/technician….period. The most peculiar aspect is that the career paths for BSE and BSET graduates are connected in many ways within industry, and these graduates are regarded as being similar, but in academia they are treated as being in two separate galaxies. Why such a major disconnect between academia and industry? The truth is that BSET education is misunderstood - it suffers from a lack of identity, a lack of appreciation in academic circles, and inconsistent organizational representation. Folks, if we are going to have two separate ABET 4-year degree programs for students to become professional engineers, the two programs must be equivalent in terms of academic standing.
In my opinion there should be one academic standard for undergraduate education for prospective engineers. The primary concern should be preparation for professional practice, and consistency should govern that preparation. BSET’s could be modified and retitled as applications-based EAC programs; it’s a simple choice actually – BSET’s either need to be made equivalent (however that is defined) to BSE’s, or phased out. Honestly, to expect students to devote four years of study to earn a baccalaureate degree and end up being potentially ineligible for PE licensure or engineering graduate studies makes no sense. Options after graduation are just too limited for BSET graduates. Thousands of BSET grads trying to trudge through the minefield of licensing laws, figuring out if their state is a go or no-go, having to wait longer for exam eligibility (a real head scratcher in itself with no defined rationale whatsoever), perhaps having to relocate to another state, wanting to do graduate work but feeling like they are at a dead end.…..this is ridiculous. Had their curricula been modified to be similar to a BSE, this would be a non-issue. The NSPE position is the best way forward – we desperately need nationwide consistency, and insisting on ABET EAC baccalaureate degrees is one way to achieve consistency. We as a profession need to develop a clearer picture of exactly what we are trying to achieve in our academic programs.
Example - consider calculus. I personally have never seen anyone in my entire career use calculus; actually I don’t think I have even heard the word mentioned unless someone was reliving their college days. Academia wants more theory, but industry, which drives the need for PE licensing, wants more application. Are we educating engineers to be more like scientists while industry is emphasizing design application? How much theory is needed at the undergraduate level? It depends on who you ask. Therein lies the problem. I completed two semesters of calculus, but have never used it since passing the FE exam in 1985. Is calculus needed in research? I would say very likely yes. But is it needed in professional practice and PE licensing? No, not from my experience. BSET’s require calculus, but not to the degree that BSE’s do. But if calculus is not used routinely in industry, how much is needed in undergraduate programs? I took two physics courses back in 1979, but they were not calculus-based. (Why is physics taught from two different perspectives in the first place?) Anyway, I can drive either a stick shift or automatic transmission to work each day, but as long as I get from point A to point B, does it matter which car I drive? Do we need calculus-based coursework if we are not using calculus-based analysis in professional practice? Should there not be a strong parallel between the BSE academic world and the industry we work in? That is supposedly why BSET’s were created, to bridge this perceived gap. News flash - why have a gap in the first place? Again, do we need two separate programs for satisfying the needs of the marketplace? Are we designing EAC BSE curricula to develop PE’s and supply the consulting industry with the skills it needs, or are we designing the curricula for potential PhD’s and careers in research? Or are we trying to do both? Can we do both?
There are perplexing differences between the undergraduate education that various engineering boards require for licensure and what universities require of students to be awarded a BSE or BSET degree. Even more astounding are the differences in attitude between various engineering schools when they compare BSE and BSET curricula, with some simply dismissing BSET courses as immaterial. It really is mind-boggling - it seems that at some engineering schools, BSET courses transfer about as well as courses in Art History, and that is no exaggeration. Case in point: the North Carolina Engineering Board, and most others, consider my undergraduate education acceptable for licensure. However, my local university considers my undergraduate education inadequate for even a reasonable class standing if I were to hypothetically pursue an EAC BSCE. Ok… think about this carefully. I am entrusted with designing structures and protecting the welfare of the public when doing so, and that certainly includes facilities at the college of engineering on this same university campus. Since my first set of sealed structural plans dating back to 1990, I have served as the Structural Engineer-of-Record on hundreds of projects, more than I could ever recollect – multi-story building design for commercial, industrial, educational, and military, post-earthquake/hurricane assessment and structural remediation, seismic retrofit, structural forensics, etc. But based on what my local university told me, to simply earn a BSCE I would need to complete over two years of full time coursework. ET coursework doesn’t transfer, and no explanation was given other than it’s “different”. Hmm, must be that mysterious “calculus versus non-calculus” thing again. Is re-taking physics using calculus somehow going to benefit my career after 31 years of practice? To reduce this down to a simple premise, consider this question: if serving as a Professional Engineer for designing structures at the university is not a problem, why is obtaining credit for their design related coursework for becoming an engineer in the first place a problem? So….hypothetically speaking, if I was enrolled I could be sitting in a classroom building that I designed as Engineer-of-Record, having to take classes that teach students how to analyze and design structures to become an Engineer-of-Record. Seriously?
Isn’t it time to acknowledge the issue and address the long term future of BSET degrees? Either level the playing field to create two unique programs of equal stature, or stick with one ABET EAC program, and stop kicking the can down the road.

Friday, March 06, 2015 2:54 PM by Lee

I agree. Like I said in my comments...I have a BSET and a Masters in Engineering.
At the end of the day, they are both preparing students for an engineering career. BSET I felt was geared more towards a career outside of academia, while the engineering program I went to prepared students for academia or other career paths.
I think my BSET program was outstanding and provided the background and foundation to do well in any design/analysis capacity. However, in certain states and organizations there are people who make the rules and requirements who are not looking at it objectively. They have an agenda to make BSET's less superior to Engineering grads...maybe due to an extra math class or two. That really is the only difference. I know because I have sat in the classrooms of both...The textbooks are the same, the equations are the same and the methods are the same. However, my BSET program added more applied experience to it which really helped in understanding and retaining concepts. The FE exam was easy and I am excited to take the PE soon.
They really do need to make a way for BSET's to be acceptable everywhere...or not have those programs at all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 10:12 AM by Sam

Great article, and yes there is a problem, but it really goes beyond obtaining a PE license. The problem mainly deals with the bizarre inconsistencies that exist between various states and universities with how they regard BSET degrees. I am a BSET graduate, a PE in several states, and have been working in consulting for over 30 years. Many years ago a former coworker of mine, Dave (also a BSET graduate), visited the head mechanical professor at his local university to inquire about an engineering graduate degree. Dave was an experienced mechanical PE with over 15 years in the design business, and was interested in strengthening his credentials. The professor reviewed his transcript and indicated an objection with accepting BSET coursework. Dave was assuming all along that some remedial coursework in advanced calculus, fluid mechanics, etc. may be required, but the professor indicated that extensive rework for his junior and senior level classes would be needed prior to beginning master’s level coursework. This made no sense to Dave. Why the “extensive rework”, and what would be the point since Dave was already a senior mechanical engineer in his firm?

While the professor was speaking, Dave noticed a large set of rolled drawings on his desk, and he inquired. The professor, although surprised by the question, stated he was reviewing them in preparation for a meeting to discuss interior renovations of their engineering building, which was constructed just a few years prior. The professor, also a PE, then asked Dave about his work experience and his current level of responsibility. And although he was respectful in his tone, he seemed to question whether BSET graduates are qualified to become licensed. He then asked Dave what his most prominent design project was as Engineer-of-Record. Dave, still curious about the drawings, asked to look at them. He unrolled the mechanical drawings, and with his PE seal and signature in the title block, Dave replied, “the building we are sitting in”.

Dave’s situation poses some intriguing questions. Why were his credentials as a Professional Engineer accepted by the state licensing board and the university which hired his firm, but the academics that prepared him for his career to begin with were deemed inadequate by that same university? He had coordinated extensively with the engineering dean and other university representatives during the design and construction. He was well respected, and was the Engineer-of-Record legally responsible for the design of all the mechanical systems. What would be the point of “extensive rework” of undergraduate classes he took 15 years previously? His academics prepared him for the same FE exam that is taken nationwide. That’s why the exam is administered to begin with – to test applicants’ overall knowledge of engineering fundamentals. Same with me, I took it once, passed, done deal.

To me this article does a great job of illuminating the issue of BSET degrees versus BS Engineering degrees when it comes to the FE pass rates for the two graduates. Similarly, my story of Dave is a great example of the academic bias between the two degrees, and the fact that BSET’s are sometimes viewed as inadequate. The real solution is to eliminate the need to ponder these issues in the first place – either make BSET degrees equivalent to BS Engineering degrees or get rid of them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 4:12 PM by Terry

I am deeply disappointed in the message this article sends, but frankly I am not surprised.  Many of NSPE's efforts in this area appear to be deliberately negative on a level that I have heard described more than once as "Anti-Engineering Technology".  In particular I am disappointed that this article, like many other forums for this discussion, is focused exclusively on civil and electrical disciplines, and ignores the mechanical discipline.  I believe this discussion addresses a very complex, multi-faceted topic while many of the solutions are very simplistic and utilize a "one size fits all" approach.
I am a graduate of a BSET program from Texas A&M University.  My degree is a bit unusual; it is a hybrid of mechanical and manufacturing related course work.  We are required to take Calculus 1 and Calculus 2, along with calculus-based physics (the same physics required by the ABET-EAC accredited engineering programs in Mechanical, Civil, and Electrical also offered at Texas A&M). I originally started in the BSME program, but was not happy with the manner in which the department was being managed or with how the curriculum was executed, and so after 4 semesters I made a decision to change majors.
I graduated having taken Calculus 3 and Differential Equations (both required for the BSME program), and have spent 10 years working as an engineer in the oil and gas industry, designing pressure-containing equipment such as valves.  My father, a BSME graduate with 35+ years of experience, works in the same industry and has had a career path very similar to mine (he has 50+ patents where I have 1 issued and 4 applications in process).  Both of us have spent most of our careers doing stress analysis and design of machine elements; our lists of engineering projects reads like the chapters of the table of contents for the classic "Mechanical Engineering Design" textbook by Joseph Shigley and Charles Mischke.
Neither of us has needed math more advanced than Algebra; the formulas for mechanical design dont require them.  So I think there is a piece to this story about the scope of the job that a graduate goes into, and whether the degree meets the requirements of that job.  The vast majority of mechanical engineers that I have known work in jobs where they are using less than 20% of their college coursework (including my father).  Coming from a more applied degree, I have found, like many of my fellow MMET graduates, that I am more capable at mechanicl design than many traditional BSMEs, because the focus of my degree is to create engineers that can design products that are functional AND relatively easy and inexpensive to manufacture.
Design optimization for manufacturing processes is not a common topic in a mechanical engineering curriculum, but it is a very common need for working mechanical engineers, and is not a skill that can be easily provided by an industrial engineer who doesnt understand the design intent of the product being considered.  There are many other areas of a mechanical engineer's job that seem to have the same problem.  For example, in my degree we are required to take a course in people and project management; this is a valuable professional skill to a mechanical engineer, but is not required by ABET and largely not taught in BSME curriculums.  In a similar fashion, a quality assurance course is part of our curriculum, critical for wide segments of the mechanical engineering industry, and not required nore taught in most BSME programs.
Graduates of my degree take a large number of roles, including technicians, the NSPE definition of "technologist", the traditional description of "engineer", and engineering managers.  I have worked in all 4 of these roles, and in truth have found that being an "engineer" and a "technologist" is really an argument of semantics.  A design engineer that cannot function as a technologist has minimal value to a company that produces products as its revenue stream and in reality may cost the company more money through poorly-designed components and systems.  Likewise, an engineer that doesnt understand assembly through a technician's eyes will have simialar difficulties.  My first two employers both required new-grad engineers to spend a lot of time in shopt environments and working as technicians to build this practical, hands-on skill set, but a 1-month rotation in a machine shop or an assembly-and-test facility doesnt have as much impact as a core curriculum that is focused on applications.
I have long heard the argument that engineering technology graduates are exposed to material on the FE exam that isnt in their curriculum.  Having spent time in both programs, I know for a fact that there is material on the mechanical FE exam that isnt covered by a BSME curriculum, for example advanced materials knowledge and statistics (both of which are part of the MMET curriculum).  Likewise, heat transfer is not a part of the MMET program but IS part of the BSME curriculum.  So I think it is an even match, as both degrees cover physics, statics, kinematics, thermodynamics, calculus, engineering chemicstry, engineering economics, solid mechanics, material science, etc.  I passed the FE on my first try scoring 82% with no different preparation than most BSME students.
I recently applied for and was approved for my PE license in my home state of Texas; my last stage gate is the PE exam (which I am taking next April).  I work for an international company and was encouraged to also pursue my Engineering Chartership (the UK version of a PE, which is more widely recognized and understood in the international community).  The process used by the UK Engineering Council doesnt require any exams, but has a holistic approach that requires demonstration of a wide body of competencies and includes an interview process.
Unfortunately, NSPE's hard line stance on engineering technology in years past has created an unnecessary hardship for me personally, and many of my fellow ET graduates.  I once had the privilege of being accused of not being a "real engineer" despite being an EIT; the justification that was used was actually an NSPE statement about engineering technology.  In order to prevent a recent promotion from being revoked, I had to point out that my program is ABET accrediated, eligible for PE licensure, and recognized by professional societies such as ASME (which allows engineering technology as a suitable degree for membership).  I have also been in many interviews where people have cited NSPE's statements as a primary driver for their not wanting to hire me (based on my degree).
My thoughts on licensure (having gone through both the US and UK process) are as follows:
I believe that there is a perception on the part of organizations like NSPE, ABET, and NCEES that there are hard boundaries between engineering and other job roles.  Industry has made it very clear that this is not a realistic interpretation of the paradigm.  A competent engineer is either a highly specialized subject matter expert, or widely competent generalist capable of utilziing multiple perspectives simultaneously.  Many engineering disciplines (such as industrial and structural) are offshoots of other, older disciplines.  I think it is important to realize that different industries may hire the same degree for similar jobs with vastly different required skillsets, and that universities have responded directly to industry feedback to create specialized and hybrid programs that meet those needs.  This points to a strong, industry-based need for an inclusive licensing schema that will allow companies to hire the talent and skills that they need, while still taking advantage of the benefits that come from hiring licensed engineers.  Simiarly, I think that NSPE needs to seriously re-think the objective of NICET, and recognize that while some ET degrees may be a good fit for that type of credential, it is generally not recognized by the US Federal Government, State Governments, and foreign governments, and therefore doesnt really serve much more than a "feel good" purpose.
I believe very strongly that the system utilized in Texas is appropriate; although I disagree with the requirement that ABET-TAC accredited degrees must have double the work experience to become licensed.  I think it is an unfair assumption that all ET graduates are less competent than traditional engineering graduates; blanket statements like that are detrimental and serve no purpose if the licensing system is truly functional and screens out incompetent people.
I also have had the experience of having a faculty member at multiple universities suggest that being an ET graduate does not qualify me to pursue a master's degree in engineering.  It is an unusual disconnect, since my bachelor's degree qualifies me in the eyes of my home state's professional engineering board, the engineering boards of most other states, my federal government, and most other governments world-wide.  I attribute this disconnect in perceptions in large part to statements from organizations like NSPE, and including articles like this one (although the authors may not have intended this outcome).
I would strongly encourage NSPE to have a dialogue with ET graduates that have become licensed and work toward a holistic, inclusive solution that works in the very complex paradigm that we have with this combination of industry jobs, degrees, and the common link between them, the skill set of the graduates.
If anyone from NSPE would like to contact me to discuss this in more detail, I may be reached at my personal email:  .
Thank you and have a nice day.

Monday, October 26, 2015 11:54 AM by Jeremy Cain

The definition must be considered within the context of the environment that it will apply.  If the definition applies to an international perspective the NSPE description of an engineering technologist would be in conflict with the ETMF definition which is as follows:
“The work should have required the exercise of independent engineering judgment, the projects or programs concerned should have been substantial in duration, cost, and/or complexity, and the applicant should have been personally accountable for their success or failure. Applicant may be taken to have been in responsible charge of significant engineering work when they have:
(a)    planned, designed, coordinated and executed a small project; or
(b)   undertaken part of a larger project based on an understanding of the whole project; or
(c)    undertaken novel, complex and/or multi-disciplinary work.”b   
(ETMF Forum, 2014, p6)
Exam difficulties for engineering technologists may result from being trained to satisfy an unacknowledged occupational distinction.  With the licensing criteria removed, asking an engineering technologist to take an exam for traditional engineering maybe equivalent to asking a paleontologist to take an exam for archeology.  They are acquainted scientific fields but each is a specialty occupation under anthropology.  A separate Professional Engineering Technology exam should be created to test the individual applicant with the focus of their chosen study.
The second issue is one of inequality.  Many families and individuals struggle with the increased costs of tuition and other expenses associated with education.  The traditional student that has wealthy parents can afford to send their kid(s) to college and they can stay on campus so that they can attend traditional engineering classes. They are not impacted.  It is the stay at home moms and the blue collar worker that is unable to attend traditional classes that is influenced.  
The community college student occasionally has one option to attend engineering technology programs due to their financial status.  Additional classwork to convert their studies into the traditional ABET/EAC path could be considered an unfair burden for the middle class.  If the student is employed upon completion of their BSET degree at the technician level they will be required to pay their student loans with the compensation that is at an associate’s degree wage.  They would be disenfranchised from the financial reward that is usually associated with achieving a higher education.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 6:30 AM by Paul Clark

Mr. Clark - your comment about how getting an engineering degree (versus the jr. engineering degree) is more difficult for stay-at-home moms and blue collar workers than for the offspring of wealthy parents is true. So what? You sound like a whiny liberal. I know many people who earned a real engineering degree via night school and hard work. Guess what? The pay is usually the same whether you went to MIT or Eastern State U. At least it usually is 5 years down the road.
If you want to be reconginzed as a PE then get an engineering degree at a university with an accredited program. Quit complaiing and quit being a whiner.

Monday, February 01, 2016 11:40 AM by Jeff

Technologist are real engineers Jeff.  Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Tesla are examples of this fact.  None of the famous pioneering engineers had the formal education to be considered "real engineers" by today's professional licensing standards within the United States.  The issue is that disadvantaged students are railroaded into technology programs.  A study of 2 year degree STEM programs within the United States reveals that 88% of the offerings are non-ABET/EAC programs and graduates of these programs are linked to minority attendance.  The students that graduate from the technology programs experience marginalizations in education tranfers to four year universities, reduced job placement opportunities, and credit acceptance dispartities when applying to sit for the professional engineering exams in states that do not directly acknowledge technology program credits.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016 6:48 PM by Jeff

A couple of noteworthy items/questions:
1) There is currently only ONE ABET accredited BS program called "Electronics Engineering," (without the word "technology").
2) There is not even ONE ABET accredited MS or PhD program in the US with the word "technology" in its title.
3) There is no need for PE licensure in many disciplines that require technical knowledge, including: manufacturing, electronics, computers, biomedicine, food production, logistics and even aerospace.
4) Can ElectrICAL and ElectrONICS engineers do the same things?  (That one is a bit rhetorical...)
5) How many times have you used calculus or especially differential equations in order to do your job?  (Be honest...)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 9:31 PM by Jim

I hold a BSMET, and am licensed in 2 states.
I obtained a 94% on my PE exam, and left both the morning and afternoon session over an hour early.  To note, there weren't many engineers that left in each session before me. To put things in an even better perspective, this was at the Reliant Stadium in Houston, so I was taking the test with hundreds, if not thousands, of other engineers.
As I enjoy Engineering and continuing my education, both for personal and state PE reasons, I am constantly learning more design concepts and capabilities, very far removed and external to my 4 year degree classes.
I am treated no differently at work, and am typically looked up to from all engineers for my quality of work.
This preconceived notion of technologists not being suitable for engineering jobs, as well as for holding licenses, needs to be dismissed.

Monday, February 22, 2016 7:17 PM by Daniel

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments are moderated and don't appear on the site until after they are reviewed.