June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
For the past two decades, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has been pursuing its “Raise the Bar” initiative, for the purpose of better preparing civil engineers to attain the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge and enter into professional practice. The ultimate goal of this initiative has been to change state licensure laws, such that a master’s degree or equivalent (augmented by appropriate work experience) would become the academic prerequisite for licensure as a professional engineer in the U.S. In support of this goal, ASCE has partnered with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) to promote “Raise the Bar” legislation in several states. However, despite these efforts, no U.S. licensing jurisdiction has yet adopted such legislation.
Acknowledging this lack of progress, the ASCE Board of Direction formally initiated a major change in the direction of the “Raise the Bar” initiative in March 2018. The Board’s new approach is to use Society-administered credentialing, rather than licensure, as its principal mechanism for raising the bar. Charged with exploring the feasibility of this proposed new paradigm, the recently reorganized ASCE Raise the Bar Committee (RTBC) has now begun its work.
In support of the RTBC’s charge, the purpose of this paper is to propose and justify a new paradigm for the ASCE “Raise the Bar” initiative. Consistent with the ASCE Board’s guidance, we propose a developmental model aimed at achieving the strategic goals of the initiative through Society-administered credentialing, superimposed upon the existing U.S. licensure system.
We begin our analysis with an overview of the credentialing system currently used in the U.S. medical profession. This comprehensive, highly structured system of licensure and board certification is used to validate the attainment of expertise within well-defined medical specialties (e.g., neurology, cardiology, internal medicine), according to standards controlled by the profession itself. We also describe the medical profession’s “carrot and stick” approach to motivating board certification, resulting in 80% of U.S. medical doctors currently achieving this milestone.
We then describe the existing system of board certification in the civil engineering profession, and we assess its suitability for application as ASCE’s principal instrument for raising the bar. As part of this assessment, we discuss the system’s principal limitations: • Unclear goals • Inconsistent standards • Inconsistent application across specialty areas • Lack of formal definition of the specialty areas themselves • Lack of a clear market-based incentive for board certification
Finally, with these analyses as background, we propose a comprehensive three-level developmental model that raises the educational bar for civil engineering, using credentialing mechanisms that are entirely within ASCE’s control. Our model is derived directly from the medical credentialing system but is adapted to accommodate differences in the educational paradigms of the medical and engineering professions. The structure of our proposed model is based on progressive attainment of the following three career milestones:
• Licensed professional engineer – corresponding to attainment of the existing education, experience, and examination standards for P.E. licensure.
• Board-certified engineering professional – corresponding to attainment of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge (to include expertise in a civil engineering specialty area), achieved through a master’s degree or equivalent, additional experience in the specialty area, and a formal board certification process.
• Diplomate – corresponding to the attainment of eminence in a civil engineering specialty area, achieved through additional experience and a higher-level board certification.
We conclude with recommendations for implementing this model—to include the all-important challenge of stimulating demand for board-certified professionals and diplomates in the marketplace.
COORDINATING NOTE: This abstract is submitted at the specific invitation and request of Tom Lenox, the coordinator of the ASCE Liaison Committee’s sessions for the Civil Engineering Division of ASEE in 2019. It should be considered for inclusion in the session on “Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession – and ASCE.” that the ASCE Liaison Committee is organizing.
Ressler, S. J., & Lenox, T. A. (2019, June), The ASCE Raise the Bar Initiative: A New Paradigm Based on Credentialing in the Medical Profession Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33370
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