November 2009

News from NCEES

NCEES Approves New PE Exam in Software Engineering

The NCEES Board of Directors has approved the development of a new PE exam for software engineers. The decision came during the Board's August 11 meeting in Louisville, Ky., in conjunction with the organization's annual business meeting.

A study of professional activities and knowledge is the initial step of the exam development process.  The study will include a survey of a diverse sample of software engineering professionals to gather information about the relative importance of various areas of knowledge within the discipline as they relate to the protection of the public welfare.  This information will be used to determine the topics covered in the exam.  After the survey is complete, exam items will be written for the initial exam administration.  After that, the exam will be administered yearly.

Partnering with NCEES as co-sponsor of the exam is IEEE-USA, which will be assisted by the IEEE Computer Society, the National Society of Professional Engineers and the Texas Board of Professional Engineers.

Groups representing software engineers have long maintained that software engineering should be licensed because it is increasingly practiced in areas that reach into the everyday lives of the general public, such as traffic control systems and the electrical grid.  An IEEE Computer Society survey of software engineers indicated that two-thirds of those employed in the industry support a licensure exam for their profession.

Prior to the approval of the software exam, the most recent PE exam to be added to the NCEES exam offerings is the architectural engineering exam, first administered in 2002.

NCEES Continues to Address Additional Education Requirement

NCEES LogoAt its 2009 annual meeting in Louisville, NCEES delegates continued to address issues related to the additional education requirement for engineering licensure that, upon adoption by any specific state-level jurisdiction, could go into effect as early as 2020.

The additional education requirement now calls for an engineering licensure candidate to obtain a master's degree or its equivalent prior to taking the PE exam, which is typically the final step in the engineering licensure process.  The first such language was approved for addition to the Model Law by Council vote in 2006. Over the past three years, several additions and modifications to the language were approved to adjust and clarify the requirement. Before 2006, NCEES Model Law required only an engineering bachelor's degree from an EAC/ABET-accredited program.

At this year's meeting, delegates passed a resolution calling for the Engineering Education Task Force to study alternatives to the master's or equivalent requirement, including an alternative to "reform the bachelor's degree program” to incorporate into undergraduate engineering degrees "the appropriate education requirements to practice at a professional level.”

Later in the business session, the Council approved a motion presented by the Engineering Education Task Force to move forward with developing a clearinghouse for evaluating candidates' education qualifications. The clearinghouse would be used when a candidate does not have a master's degree but presents additional education for consideration as being equivalent to a master's degree. In explaining the rationale for proposing such a clearinghouse, Task Force Chair Michael Conzett, P.E., of Nebraska said the clearinghouse would allow for consistency across NCEES member licensing boards in interpreting the "or equivalent” clause of the master's or equivalent requirement. The Council also formally incorporated into the Model Law language that further clarifies the master's or equivalent requirement.

"Judging from its actions at the annual meeting, the Council expressed its will to continue with the effort to strengthen the educational qualification for licensure but also to continue the dialogue with all concerned parties,” Executive Director Jerry Carter said. "It is clear that the Council members want to ensure that other feasible alternatives are investigated. I look forward to seeing how this process unfolds as NCEES works to build consensus on this important issue.”