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Revisiting The Question Of Why Four Years

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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



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Page Numbers

4.450.1 - 4.450.7

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Howard I. Epstein

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

Session 2515

Revisiting the Question of Why Four Years

Howard I. Epstein University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT


Over the years, there have been many programmatic models proposed and many voices calling for a degree program, at least five years in duration, as the minimum required for a professional degree. The proposals have generally recognized the need for dramatic changes in the way in which engineers are educated. The following introduction is excerpted from the author’s paper "Why Four Years" that appeared in ASCE’s Journal of Issues in Engineering, Education and Practice in 1991 1:

There’s an old Bob Newhart routine about baseball. In it, an adult game manufacturer is talking on the phone to Abner Doubleday who is explaining the rules of his new game, baseball. Doubleday explains, "Three strikes and you’re out, four balls `." "Why four balls?" asks the manufacturer. Why, indeed?

The engineering curriculum, leading to a Bachelor of Science degree, has been a four-year program at most institutions for as long as they have offered degrees. Programs that required longer eventually found it difficult to compete for students. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, most five year programs in existence were being phased out as the engineering programs, in general, were reducing credit requirements. The reduction was accomplished by elimination of many skill courses (such as drafting). Also, certain courses were pushed back to high school. When this transition was taking place, many engineering educators justified the reduction in credits by arguing that a Master’s degree would become the minimum requirement for entrance into the profession. While some schools at the time adopted a professional program, they were few and far between.

In 1958, ASCE conducted a survey in which 66 percent of its membership favored extending the civil engineering curricula to five years 2. In 1960, the ASCE Conference on Civil Engineering Education addressed this subject extensively 3. A group of 30 eminent civil engineering educators adopted the following resolution:

Resolved that "the growth in universities and colleges of a pre-engineering, undergraduate, degree-eligible program for all engineers 8with at least 75%-- interchangeably among various engineering curricula, --be followed by a professional or graduate CE curriculum 8leading to the first engineering

Epstein, H. I. (1999, June), Revisiting The Question Of Why Four Years Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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