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Licensure Requirements for Teaching Civil Engineering Design Courses in the United States

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Key Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession - and ASCE - Part 1

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Brian J. Swenty P.E. University of Evansville

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Brian J. Swenty, Ph.D., P.E. is a professor in the Mechanical and Civil Engineering Department at the University of Evansville. He earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Missouri-Rolla (Missouri S T) and his M.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida. He is a licensed professional engineer in California, Florida, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. He has held positions as an active duty Army officer, a senior civil engineer with a consulting firm, and the director of Missouri’s Dam and Reservoir Safety Program. Since 1993, he has been at the University of Evansville, serving as department chair for the past 21 years. He continues to work as a consultant on projects involving the design and construction of new dams, modifications to existing dams, and the investigation of dam failures.

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Matthew K Swenty P.E. Virginia Military Institute

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Matthew (Matt) Swenty obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering from Missouri S&T and then worked as a bridge designer at the Missouri Department of Transportation. He obtained his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech and worked at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center on concrete bridge research. He is currently an associate professor of Civil Engineering at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). He teaches engineering mechanics and structural engineering courses at VMI and enjoys working with the students on bridge related research projects and with the ASCE student chapter.

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The issue of faculty licensure has been a controversial topic that has generated much discussion in recent years. Many engineering professional societies including the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) have debated this issue and created policy statements. Although influential, these policy statements are not legally enforceable laws. The EAC-ABET civil engineering criteria includes language about faculty licensure, but it does not explicitly require faculty who teach design courses to be licensed professional engineers. The legal issues associated with teaching advanced engineering courses are complex and require an understanding of engineering licensure in the United States. The tenth amendment to the U.S Constitution delegates the professional engineering licensing process to states; there is no federal government oversight. State statutes define the practice of engineering, create a licensure board that oversees the process, authorize administrative rules, and describe the requirements for individuals to become licensed. Each state licensure board promulgates administrative rules to elaborate the requirements of the licensure law. These rules address how the board regulates and enforces the licensure process and the practice of engineering under its jurisdiction. The statutes and rules define the practice of engineering, responsible charge, and acceptable engineering experience, which may include teaching advanced engineering and engineering design courses.

This study focuses on the content and wording of state engineering licensure laws. All fifty state licensure statutes and administrative rules were examined to determine how each state 1) defines the practice of engineering and 2) addresses the licensure requirements of civil engineering faculty who teach upper level civil engineering courses. The study found that forty seven of fifty state statutes define the “practice of engineering.” Fourteen state statutes specifically define “teaching advanced engineering courses or engineering design” as the “practice of engineering” which requires a professional engineer’s license. Three of the fourteen state statutes define “teaching upper level engineering courses” as the practice of engineering, but specifically exempt faculty who teach engineering courses from licensure requirements. The other thirty-six state statutes do not require a professional engineer’s license to teach upper level engineering courses. This study concludes that there are no uniform state licensure laws and civil engineering faculty who teach the same upper level courses in different states are subject to different licensure requirements. Unlicensed faculty with significant design experience who teach design courses do not comply with licensure laws in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Two recommendations are offered to resolve the inconsistencies in the professional society policy statements, accreditation criteria, and state licensure statutes.

Swenty, B. J., & Swenty, M. K. (2020, June), Licensure Requirements for Teaching Civil Engineering Design Courses in the United States Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34925

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