Continuing Professional Competency

Talking Points

  • The purpose of mandated continuing professional education for licensure renewal is to ensure the competency of a professional engineer.
  • NSPE supports a policy of mandatory continuing professional education.
  • State legislatures should be encouraged to pass legislation that would mandate continuing professional competency (CPC).
  • Forty states have already passed mandatory CPC laws.

NSPE Position
NSPE endorses the efforts of the professional and technical societies, engineering schools, and industry in the area of continuing education and supports a policy of mandatory continuing professional competency for engineers and land surveyors.

Although concerned about the possible inequity of mandated continuing education for licensed engineers (only about 20% of practicing engineers are licensed), one of NSPE's objectives is the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare through licensure and the associated minimum competency requirements.

NSPE commends NCEES for exercising a leadership position in developing the Model Rule for Continuing Professional Competency. The model rule details the recommendations for the profession regarding CPC requirements.

NSPE also endorses NCEES Professional Policy 15 on Continuing Professional Competency to maintain comity among licensing jurisdictions. Further, NSPE encourages each jurisdiction to evaluate carefully any additional requirements for licensure that would tend to interfere with reciprocal licensing between them.

Licensed professional engineers have always voluntarily engaged in activities to improve their level of technical and professional knowledge. However, the trend is to require professional engineers to formalize their completion of these activities in the form of continuing professional competency requirements. In some cases, consumer protection advocates have successfully urged the state legislatures to require engineers and other professionals to maintain their competency through educational activities. In other cases, the engineering profession itself has promoted CPC requirements. CPC requirements are not unique to engineers. In fact, the requirements are widespread among the states for several professions, including accountancy, law, and medicine.

CPC requirements, also referred to as continuing professional development or continuing education requirements, mandate that professional licensees demonstrate to the licensing authority the satisfactory completion of specified activities as a condition for renewal of the individual's professional license.

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, the umbrella organization of the state and territorial professional engineering and land surveying licensing authorities, has adopted a model CPC rule that suggests that licensees earn professional development hours (PDHs) during each annual license renewal period. A PDH is an hour of instruction or presentation.

Acceptable activities include attending NSPE Professional Edge session in conjunction with the annual meeting or semester-term college course; continuing education course; completing a correspondence, televised, video, audio, or other short course or tutorial; presenting or attending a qualifying seminar, in-house course, workshop, or professional or technical presentation; teaching or instructing in one of the above categories; authoring a published paper, article or book; active participation in a professional or technical society; or obtaining a patent.

The model rule recommends that, at the time of license renewal, individuals should be required to report their successful completion of the required PDH credits. Licensees should also be required to maintain records for three years that support their claim.

NCEES Model Rule on Continuing Professional Competency
Professional Policy 122 - Continuing Professional Competency
Status of CPC Requirements in the States

Issue Brief and Position: