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On Professional Degree Requirement For Civil Engineering Practice

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.403.1 - 4.403.8

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Paper Authors

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Loren Lutes

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James T. P. Yao

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2515


James T. P. Yao, Loren D. Lutes Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

I. Introduction

In May 1998, ASCE NEWS announced that the Board of Direction “approved a resolution endorsing the master’s degree as the first professional degree for the practice of civil engineering.” The July 1998 ASCE NEWS clarified the earlier article by quoting the definition of the “first professional degree” used by the U.S. Department of Education. It is defined as “a degree that signifies both completion of the academic requirements for beginning practice in a given profession and a level of professional skill beyond that normally required for a bachelor’s degree.” Such a degree is generally required for dentists, physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, theologians, and architects. It is usually based on a total of at least six academic years of work. Arguments that have advanced for considering such a professional degree for civil engineering practice include: • The bachelor’s degree is no longer adequate preparation for civil engineering practice. • This change would improve the professional stature of civil engineers and thus improve the compensation of practitioners. • It would provide a clear distinction between civil engineering graduates and technicians.

The same July 1998 article reported that the ASCE Board of Direction is contemplating promotion of a policy being prepared by the Educational Activities Committee. Also, the Board may decide to seek support from such organizations as the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Indeed, ASCE may become a leader in this effort. Recently, the ASCE Board of Direction approved a policy statement that is given in the Appendix.

The authors are in favor of (1) strengthening the education of civil engineers, (2) meeting the employment needs of industry and government, and (3) increasing the professional stature of practitioners. Furthermore, there are many demands on engineering education at this time, suggesting that it may be timely to re-organize the curriculum from scratch. Some of those demands relate to calls for a curriculum that would: • integrate skills in communication, teamwork, and leadership into technical courses, • establish a solid base in mathematics and science, • expose students to economics and socio-political implications of engineering works, • use mechanics and risk-based decision analysis as common threads, • provide a broad-based undergraduate education, • present specialized education at the upper undergraduate and graduate levels, and • emphasize quality rather than quantity in the education of future civil engineers.

Lutes, L., & Yao, J. T. P. (1999, June), On Professional Degree Requirement For Civil Engineering Practice Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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