The Engineering Body of Knowledge for Professional Engineers

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February 4, 2014
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Stacey A. Ober
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

–The National Society of Professional Engineers has recently released the first edition of the Engineering Body of Knowledge (EBOK), a document aimed at defining the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for the practice of engineering as a professional engineer. While other organizations have developed bodies of knowledge specific to their engineering disciplines, this is the first effort within the U.S. engineering profession that addresses those issues specifically related to professional engineers and is applicable to all disciplines.

“Preparing this Engineering Body of Knowledge has been particularly challenging because of the many and varied engineering disciplines, the different employment sectors in which engineers practice, and the various roles that engineers play in society,” said Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE, chair of the EBOK Committee during its development. “However, NSPE met this challenge through the work of a 27-member internal committee, including representation from eight different disciplines, and with detailed review and input from teams of engineers from other engineering societies representing chemical, civil, electrical, and agricultural/biological engineers. Every paragraph has been dissected by a large group of engineers in formulating this consensus description of the EBOK.”

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. Thirty basic capabilities and the related abilities necessary in the practice of engineering are broadly defined, in three basic categories:

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

The first edition is available for free download at It is anticipated that a second edition will be prepared in subsequent years to incorporate additional input from all engineering disciplines and employment sectors.

“NSPE makes two requests of those who review the forward-looking EBOK. First, with respect to their individual roles or as the representative of organizations in the engineering profession, think about what the EBOK might suggest they do differently in the future,” said Stu Walesh, P.E., F.NSPE, the current chair of the EBOK Committee. “Secondly, recognizing that this is a first edition addressing a challenging topic, provide input to NSPE on important concepts that might not be included in this first edition, or on perspectives from their individual practice area that might merit inclusion in a subsequent edition.”

Comments or input are welcome on this publication by e-mailing NSPE’s Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwartz, at All input will be considered for the second edition.

Additional Notes: 

The National Society of Professional Engineers is the national society of licensed professional engineers from all disciplines that promotes the ethical and competent practice of engineering, advocates licensure, and enhances the image and well-being of its members. Founded in 1934, NSPE serves more than 35,000 members and the public through 53 state and territorial societies and just over 400 chapters. For more information, please visit