June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
This paper addresses three closely related research questions:
(1) From the perspective of the engineering profession, what is the appropriate relationship between the civil engineering and structural engineering disciplines? (2) What is the appropriate developmental paradigm for acquiring the professional body of knowledge and attaining professional licensure in structural engineering? (3) Should structural engineering programs be ABET-accredited; and, if so, at what level?
In addressing these questions, the authors present a comprehensive summary of relevant published sources documenting current policies and practices. These sources include:
• Formal policy statements of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI), and the Structural Engineering Licensure Coalition (SELC) • Current ABET accreditation policies and organizational structure • Current accreditation criteria of the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) • Current trends in the accreditation of advanced engineering specialty areas • The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Model Law and Model Rules for engineering licensure • Current state licensure laws and practices • Current design of the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering Exam • Current design of the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam • Representative curricula of current baccalaureate-level and master’s level structural engineering programs
We also summarize relevant published sources suggesting possible future directions for structural engineering education and accreditation—and, more generally, for education and accreditation in advanced engineering specialty discipline areas. These sources include:
• Widely accepted theoretical frameworks from the Sociology of Professions • Strategic plans and vision statements published by ASCE, SEI, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and other professional organizations • Work products and correspondence associated with the Task Committee on ABET Accreditation of Structural Engineering Programs from 2011 to 2013. • Opinion pieces published in professional periodicals
Based on this review of documentary sources, two distinctly different perspectives emerge:
Perspective #1: Structural engineering is an advanced specialty sub-discipline of civil engineering. The most common developmental paradigm associated with this perspective incorporates (1) an ABET EAC-accredited baccalaureate degree in civil engineering, which provides a broad foundation in technical and professional practice topics across the CE discipline; (2) master’s-level education in the structural engineering specialty sub-discipline; and (3) appropriate qualifying engineering experience. Consistent with this paradigm, practicing structural engineers seek licensure first as professional engineers (PE), then as structural engineers (SE).
Perspective #2: Structural engineering is a stand-alone engineering discipline, comparable to other major engineering disciplines, such as civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering. The developmental paradigm associated with this perspective incorporates (1) an ABET EAC-accredited baccalaureate degree in structural engineering; (2) master’s-level education in structural engineering; and (3) appropriate qualifying engineering experience. Consistent with this paradigm, practicing structural engineers seek licensure only as structural engineers (SE).
Having articulated these alternative perspectives, we assess the appropriateness of each one, with respect to the relevant authoritative published sources suggesting future directions (as summarized above). Based on this analysis, we draw conclusions about the appropriateness of ABET EAC accreditation of structural engineering programs at the baccalaureate and masters levels.
We suggest that this analysis is broadly applicable, not only to the specific case of structural engineering, but also to the other traditional civil engineering specialty sub-disciplines (e.g., geotechnical engineering, transportation engineering) and to the many emerging specialty curricular areas in other disciplines (e.g., mechatronics, energy systems engineering).
**************************** COORDINATING NOTE: This abstract is submitted at the specific invitation and request of Tom Lenox, the coordinator of the ASCE Liaison Committee’s session(s) for the CE Division of ASEE in 2017. It should be considered for inclusion in the session “Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession – and ASCE” that Tom Lenox is organizing.
Ressler, S. J., & Lenox, T. A. (2017, June), Structural Engineering Education and Accreditation: Perspectives, Developmental Paradigms, and Recommendations Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28855
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