The American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 Daniel W. Mead Student Contest involves writing a 2,000 word essay on the following topic. Below I write my own blog essay on the topic as it relates to civil engineers in mining—and there are many of us doing great work. But first the essay topic.
TOPIC: “Body of Knowledge – Is it Ethical to Associate Credentials With Competency”
The following can be used to stimulate, but should in no way limit, the discussion:
Credentials are sometimes described as “paper” qualifications obtained by completing a formal educational experience resulting in a certificate, diploma or degree. Competencies have been defined as measurable skills which can relate to one’s ability to perform the specific tasks and duties of their chosen occupation or profession. When compared to competencies or experience, credentials are relatively easy to measure and evaluate when comparing the qualifications of individuals. The American Society of Civil Engineers Policy Statement 465 supports the concept of the master’s degree or equivalent as a prerequisite for licensure and the practice of civil engineering at the professional level. Some questions to consider:
- What, if any, are the ethical responsibilities the profession has in setting licensure prerequisites?
- What are the potential ethical issues of using credentials as a measure of professional competency?
- What are the ethical issues of continuing to maintain current licensure requirements in light of the ever-increasing technical complexity of our profession?
- What are the ethical considerations of engineering educators who are being pressured by universities, elected officials or governing bodies to reduce the number of credit hours required to award an engineering degree?
- What are the ethical issues of only presenting competencies as qualifications?
I am opposed to “raising the bar” as the issue has been called. In summary, raising-the-bar would mean that you would have to have a master’s degree before you could register as a professional engineer. There is an escape route in the phrase “or equivalent.” I do not know what is equivalent to a master’s degree. For the sake of this essay let us speculate that it is years of experience; or a magnificent engineering works designed and constructed before the silly requirement is instituted; or maybe a book written by an academic otherwise too busy to get professional registration.
To the point: those who advocate for a master’s degree for professional certification are the same bunch as those who demand “ongoing education” as a pre-requisite to maintain professional certification. Among the loudest in this chorus of cries for more education are the academics who want to force more students to do master’s degrees. The academics want more students as the ultimate metric of their success is the number of students they push through the teach-machine. Added to the chorus are the commercial organizations that provide quick route to master’s degrees and countless on-line and late-evening ongoing learning courses. These commercial organizations want more students as that is the fastest way to higher profits.
Before I proceed with this attack on those demanding master’s degrees and ongoing education, let me note that I have a master’s degree and a post-graduate law degree (equivalent education?) I have written many online courses for EduMine, including the following:
- Tailings Facility Design, Operation, and Closure
- Mine Closure: The Basics of Success
- Geotechnical Engineering for Mine GeoWaste Facilities
- Groundwater in Mining
- Heap Leach Pads
- An Introduction to Mining Investment – Understanding the Risks
- Surface Water Management at Mines
- Mine Water and Chemical Balance Analysis
Another on groundwater modeling is being loaded as I write. And I make a comfortable income from these courses and associated webcasts. I maintain my P.E. in California, as I often do civil engineering work for mines in California—this week I will work in Irvine, CA on knotty issues regarding cement stabilization of very fine grained tailings destined for filter pressing and dry stacking.
Thus I would not be affected at all if this crazy policy were implemented. Indeed I might earn even more from my EduMine courses.
I believe that a master’s degree is only required if you seek to make consulting your profession. You do not need a master’s degree if you are going to do civil engineering for mines, municipalities, industry, or civil society. Just as you need a PhD to teach at a university but not to be a good consultant. You need a master’s degree to succeed as a consultant, although a bachelor’s is good enough for many of those doing the ordinary work in most consulting companies. The point is that the better educated you are, the better a consultant you are likely to be—you simply know more and that is the only reason to sit for a few more years listening to lazy or overworked professors.
Point is most professors I know are not all that professional. They are nice people; they are smart people; but they all put outside consulting way ahead of research and teaching. Now I reckon that that is totally unprofessional. How can they, in clear ethical conscience, put grubby consulting ahead of research and teaching. The reason they consult instead of teach is that consulting brings in money and is easier and more glamorous than teaching or researching. But still they are shortchanging the tax payer, unfairly competing with genuine consultants, and absolutely ignoring the demands and needs of their student. In short, we cannot put higher education for the purposes of professional certification in the hands of unprofessional academics.
As for the commercial organizations, including EduMine: they do provide a valuable service. They do it for money. People use their services because they want to learn for practical career reasons, not to be more ethical. It is a miss-focus to think that attending commercial learning institutions will make an engineer more professional or ethical. Read my EduMine courses and you will be smarter and better informed—but I do not think for one moment you will be a more professional or ethical person.
The ASCE should work on its mandate to be a society for all civil engineers. Leave it to the states to decide what is required to license an engineer as a professional. After all at basics to be a licensed professional engineer in a particular state means that the citizens of the state have granted you a certain right and responsibility to act on their behalf and to their benefit. That is not the same thing as saying the citizens of the state recognize that you are educated. This fact is why I maintain my P.E. in California but no other states. All the other states where I was once a registered P.E. demand that I spend countless hours pretending to learn from clueless professors droning through dull, irrelevant courses.
Most mining engineers are not registered. They generally do not need to be registered to be a good mining engineers or to work successfully at their jobs. If they need a P.E. stamp on a drawing or report, they hire a consultant. So from the perspective of the mining industry, this ASCE move is at best a storm in a tea-cup, and at worst yet another underhand effort to boost the consulting fees mines have to pay.
Thus in about one thousand words or less, I reject the ASCE proposal as a misguided, selfish attempt to meddle where they have no need or mandate to interject themselves.