certification and engineers

Subject: certification and engineers
From: Katie Henry x3432 <khenry -at- AUSTIN -dot- ASC -dot- SLB -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 18:38:32 CDT

Arlen Walker wrote:

> Engineers don't have to have the initials in order to
> work, so if the certifying organization tried to prevent
> them from working, they could simply drop the initials and
> still get work.

Well, that depends on the industry. In Texas, engineers
who design projects for outside clients must be registered
by the State Board of Professional Engineers. (By "projects"
I mean things like bridges, factories, and office buildings,
especially where public safety and liability are issues.)

My husband is an electrical engineer. He works for a company
that designs semiconductor manufacturing plants. If he worked
directly for Motorola, he wouldn't have to be registed,
because Motorola assumes the liability for the work of its
employees. But because he works for a consulting firm, he has
to be a Professional Engineer (P.E.). He's responsible (and
liable) for every drawing that goes out under his seal.

If he couldn't get registered (not enough experience or
couldn't pass the tests), or if his registration was
withdrawn because of incompetency, he could legally work for
Motorola (or whoever), but it's unlikely that he'd get hired
as a facility design engineer. The P.E. indicates knowledge
of standards, practices, and codes, and most employers will
require the P.E., or significant progress towards it.

He could always get a job designing printers or oscilloscopes,
but the work isn't as interesting to him and the money isn't as
good.

> If it isn't mandatory, then it doesn't serve one of the
> purposes proposed for it, that of getting the incompetant
> writers out of the profession. If it *is* mandatory, then
> we have given over a piece of our freedom to a collection
> of bureaucrats.

Certification does keep incompetent engineers out. Maybe not
all of them, but my husband has testified at hearings that
resulted in the engineer being censured or losing his
license, so it does happen. And getting registered is
a long and arduous process.

I think it's worth a piece of freedom to know that a qualified,
competent engineer designed the bridge I drive over every day.

Someone else mentioned that certification is used as a method
of reducing competition and protecting turf from new-comers.
Many states have reciprocation agreements with other states,
so that an engineer with a P.E. in one state can practice in
others. Texas isn't one of them, so if hubby were to move he'd
have to get recertified. My impression is that the various
state licensing boards can't agree on the amount of experience
required and the content of the tests.

(DISCLAIMER: None of this means that I think tech writers should
be certified. As a college drop-out who drifted into the field
by accident, I'd have a hard time qualifying for anything. I
do think that certification is a joke for many occupations.
But I wanted to defend engineers.)

Katie Henry
khenry -at- austin -dot- wireline -dot- slb -dot- com


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