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What Do First-year and Senior Civil Engineering Students Think About Raising the Bar on the Education Requirements for Professional Licensure?

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Accreditation and the BOK

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She serves as the ABET assessment coordinator for the department. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E.

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While the civil engineering profession has endorsed “raising the bar” on the formal educational requirements for professional licensure, other engineering disciplines have opposed this change in part due to a concern that this change might reduce the number of students pursuing engineering degrees. This research presents the opinions of first year and senior civil engineering students on the potential requirement for a Master’s degree or 30 additional coursework credits (M/30) prior to professional licensure. First year and senior civil engineering students attending a large, research-intensive public institution provided their feedback in fall 2015, 2016 and/or 2017. Among first-year students (n=81), 64% supported M/30 for professional licensure and 36% opposed it. Among civil engineering seniors (n=76), an in-class poll found that 16% felt that M/30 should be required for PE licensure in all disciplines, 38% felt M/30 should be required for PE licensure in civil and structural engineering but not all engineering disciplines, and 46% felt that M/30 should not be required for PE licensure. On a homework assignment, 13% of the seniors supported the change, 12% opposed it, and the remainder did not clearly state their personal opinion. Most seniors (85%) described beneficial reasons for the requirement for additional formal education. Fewer seniors (22%) discussed reasons in opposition to raise the bar (including some who did not make their personal opinion clear). The reasons for personal opposition included: higher cost to students and feeling that universities were just being greedy without a significant professional benefit to a Master’s degree; feeling that real-world experience was more valuable than additional formal education; feeling that the change would introduce economic disparity and could decrease the diversity of licensed engineers. The results point to elements that should be considered when marketing raise the bar to engineering students.

Bielefeldt, A. R. (2018, June), What Do First-year and Senior Civil Engineering Students Think About Raising the Bar on the Education Requirements for Professional Licensure? Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31233

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