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The Sociology Of Professions: Application To Civil Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

ASCE Policy 465: Raising the Bar

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1252.1 - 14.1252.13



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Paper Authors


Stephen Ressler United States Military Academy

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Colonel Stephen Ressler is Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. He earned a B.S. degree from USMA in 1979, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering degree from Lehigh University in 1989, and a Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1991. An active duty Army officer, he has served in a variety of military engineering assignments around the world. He has been a member of the USMA faculty for 17 years, teaching courses in engineering mechanics, structural engineering, construction, and CE professional practice. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia and a Distinguished Member of ASCE.

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Jeffrey Russell

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

The Sociology of Professions: Application to Civil Engineering Abstract

This paper applies the sociological theory of professions, as espoused by Abbott and Freidson, as a conceptual framework to assess the critical issues associated with the ongoing American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Policy Statement 465 initiative. The sociology of professions provides an objective basis for judging the appropriateness of various aspects of Policy 465 implementation, such as publication of the civil engineering body of knowledge, raising educational standards for licensure, collaboration with other engineering disciplines, and the role of university-based research. This analysis demonstrates that Freidson’s model of professionalism is highly applicable to civil engineering; that most aspects of Policy Statement 465 implementation are consistent with the model; and that this initiative is contributing to the strength of the profession as intended. Based on this analysis, the authors derive concomitant recommendations for the future direction of the “Raise the Bar” initiative.


In 1988, sociologist Andrew Abbott revolutionized the study of occupations with the publication of his groundbreaking book, The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor.1 Abbott’s work effectively created a theory of professions, which profoundly influenced subsequent sociological research in this area. In more recent years, Eliot Freidson incorporated and expanded upon Abbott’s work. In Professionalism: the Third Logic—On the Practice of Knowledge, Freidson articulated a comprehensive theoretical model for professionalism—a rich conceptual framework, within which the professions can be analyzed and better understood.2

Ten years after The System of Professions first appeared in print, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) initiated a far-reaching effort to better prepare civil engineers for entry into the civil engineering profession.3 This effort ultimately resulted in the adoption of Policy Statement 465 by the ASCE Board of Direction. The most recent version of this policy statement, published in October 2004, is as follows:

The American Society of Civil Engineers supports the attainment of a Body of Knowledge for entry into the practice of civil engineering at the professional level. This would be accomplished through the adoption of appropriate engineering education and experience requirements as a prerequisite for licensure.4

In conjunction with the implementation of Policy Statement 465, ASCE initiated a broad-based effort to formally define the profession’s body of knowledge (BOK). The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century was first published in January 2004,5 and a revised edition appeared in February 2008.6 A concurrent analysis showed that the civil engineering BOK cannot be adequately addressed in the current four-year undergraduate degree program; thus, the “Raise the Bar” initiative is also attempting to influence professional licensure laws, such that a master’s degree or equivalent will become the academic prerequisite for entry into the civil engineering profession.7 (A more comprehensive account of the development and implementation of ASCE Policy Statement 465 can be found in Reference 8.)

Ressler, S., & Russell, J. (2009, June), The Sociology Of Professions: Application To Civil Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4927

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015