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Increasing the Preparedness of Masters- Level Structural Engineering Graduates during their First Five Years of Professional Practice

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Beyond BS: Issues Affecting Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.739.1 - 23.739.11



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Paper Authors

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Zsuzsa Balogh Metropolitan State University of Denver


Marvin E. Criswell P.E. Colorado State University

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Dr. Marvin Criswell is professor emeritus in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University.

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Increasing the Preparedness of Masters- Level Structural Engineering Graduates during their First Five Years of Professional PracticeStructural engineering practice combines engineering knowledge as can be provided in theacademic environment and many professional practice skills and expertise as practiced in thedesign and construction environments. Thus, it is generally accepted that a masters-levelprogram in structural engineering, as configured in the U.S., does not fully prepare its graduatesto immediately become an independent practicing structural engineer. Rather, the aspiringyoung structural engineer typically learns many or most of the professional practice skills in hisor her initial time in professional practice as an employee.This paper presents information from a Delphi-type survey providing information on theadditional competencies expected by the structural engineering community to be gotten by theentrance-level engineer during the first 5 years of experience following a masters-level graduateprogram. It does this by defining the competencies (using Bloom’s Taxonomy) expected in 43specific areas within the following 5 general areas: A-Basic Mechanics and Engineering Tools,B-General Structural Engineering Tools, C-Technology and Communication Tools, D-StructuralEngineering Topics and Tools, E-Management and Professional Tools at both the time ofcompletion of the masters-level program and after the first five years of professional experiencefollowing the masters-level program. The difference in the expectations at these two timesdefines the professions expectations for the initial employment period.The survey also evaluated the perceived importance of five general sources by which the youngstructural engineer can obtain the desired additional expertise, these being Added courses, Shortcourses and seminars, In-house training, Self learning, and Experience in practice, for each of the43 specific areas.To better define the opportunities present in the “Added Courses” area, the survey included anassessment of the competency levels the survey participants generally expect to be available atthe typical larger structural engineering program through additional courses that not all or mostgraduate students would take. With these “elective” courses serving special individual interestsand needs, including needs of a PhD program, associated University research endeavors, andadditional academic opportunities for those in the profession.As could be predicted, the expectations for the various sources for additional expertise variedwidely with the structural engineering area. For example, expectations for In-house training andExperience in practice were assigned much less importance for the general topic A, BasicMechanics and Engineering Tools, than for General topic E, Management and ProfessionalTools, for which the overall structural engineering community have long had the primary roleand responsibility.

Balogh, Z., & Criswell, M. E. (2013, June), Increasing the Preparedness of Masters- Level Structural Engineering Graduates during their First Five Years of Professional Practice Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19753

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