The Institute - March 2018 - 12
Several of our blog posts inspired comments from readers
W E P UB L IS HE D A PA I R O F B LO G PO S T S about Mats Järlström and
his case with the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering
and Land Surveying. Last year the state board ruled he was
illegally practicing engineering when he critiqued traffic-light
systems. Järlström has a bachelor's degree in engineering, but
without a state license, the board said, he had broken the law by
describing himself using the word engineer. He sued the board,
which in June admitted that its interpretation had violated Järlström's First Amendment rights.
Many readers complained the title engineer was being used to
describe too many positions. These include garbage collectors,
technicians, mechanics, and locomotive operators. Others wondered whether people who write software should be called engineers. And what about circuit designers? Don't they engineer?
In response to those concerns, we published a post in October
that cited an article by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. In
that article, Tony Gray, a chief engineer in the United Kingdom,
suggested that professional associations develop a strategy to protect the title. Peter Finegold, IME's head of education, disagreed.
He said the problem was the public's perception of the nature of
engineering, and protecting the title wouldn't solve that. Instead,
he argued, engineers need to talk about the contributions they
make to society. Here are some readers' comments to that post.
TH E IN STITUTE MAR CH 2018
We don't have a problem calling
people with Ph.D. degrees doctors.
If we're referring to a person who
is licensed to practice medicine
we say M.D. You don't see states or
medical boards going after anyone
using the title doctor who is not
claiming to practice medicine.
So, we use the P.E. title
for licensed professional
engineers. I think it's extreme
to have laws against the generic
use of the title engineer.
In some cases, the title of engineer
is overused. It should be limited.
Sanitation engineer, for example,
should be reserved for people
who design water treatment,
sewage processing systems, and
landfills-not those who pick
up your trash. An engineer's
job is to innovate, design, build,
maintain, and improve.
Nothing needs to be done
to elevate the stature of the
engineering title. However, the
regulations need to allow people
who do engineering to accurately
identify themselves and their
work as engineering. The use of a
protected title should be granted
to those with the appropriate
license, but that should be distinct
from being called an engineer.
I have an electrical engineering
degree and was a practicing engineer
for 30 years. But most of my time
was writing firmware, and later I
was given the title software engineer.
I can't imagine that some group
might decide that it is illegal for me
to write software because I don't
have a computer science or software
engineering degree. Software
engineering didn't even exist as a
major when I went to university.
The term engineer has been
and always will be a generic one.
We should use certifications to
ensure competency, but make
sure those certifications are open
to anyone, including those who
transferred from other fields.
Professional engineer is a specific title
that makes sense for the traditional
disciplines, for example, civil,
mechanical, and electrical. I'm not
so sure that a person with a master's
degree in telecommunications
engineering, for example, would
find any advantage seeking a
P.E. license, but they should still
be considered an engineer.
After 50 years of being an IEEE
member, I say it is about time
engineers get some respect.
Engineers are professionals, just
like lawyers and doctors-yet
we are treated more like day
laborers. Our title is meaningless.
We should be appreciated like
people in the other professions
and paid like them. Historically,
IEEE has failed at this effort.
Real engineers possess a spirit
of innovation, wonder, curiosity,
persistence, and the willingness to
advance through education. Having
a title because you got higher
education means nothing if you are
not already an engineer at heart.
CHRISTOPHER STEVENSON/GETTY IMAGES
Has the Title
If you graduated from an ABETaccredited college, you should
be able to use the title engineer.
If you pass a state licensing
exam you can use the title
professional engineer (P.E.).
My first boss had the title
principal engineer even though he
never took the state licensing exam.
Despite this, he gave advice to many
professional engineers who heeded
his word because his experience
and knowledge were clear and
evident. Let's establish some
simple rules and work together.
-Edward B. Farkas
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Institute - March 2018
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