Monday, April 28, 2008

B+30

B+30, that's the short name for engineers requiring a Bachelor's Degree + 30 additional credit hours before getting licensed.

I'm sitting in the hotel room in Columbus, MS on a 2-day business trip. Like usual when on travel, I didn't sleep well. But the one good point of traveling on business, I get to catch up on reading trade journals. In this case, because the first leg of the flight from Phoenix to Atlanta was long enough, I watched the Simpons Movie, too.

In the latest edition of NSPE's PE Magazine, reader comments continue to discuss B+30 and the relavent articles that have appeared numerous times in this magazine. It's time I sound off on this topic.

B+30 is horse rubbish.
1) Any good engineer is going to seek out additional education, either in the form of advanced degrees, seminars, or other continuing education, whether it is required or not.
2) Engineering is such a misunderstood profession that marketing it to students as a career path often falls short. How many grade school kids do you know that aspire to be engineers? Personally, I hear police officers, doctors, teachers, fire fighters, and astronauts. I don't hear engineers.
3) With the potential "crisis" looming over engineering shortages, forcing higher education levels - and increased cost, will not motivate more people to enter engineering.
4) Cost is a huge issue. The engineering profession, at least in the US, is becoming a commodity. Salaries are marginal for the level of responsibility an engineer absorbs. Add increased school costs so fresh grads start deeper in the hole is not a solution to this growing concern. I compare it to Physical Therapists. They are at a time in their field that a doctorate is required to practice, but they don't get paid doctor's wages. Why would anyone want to be a physical therapist anymore? If I were in school and had to spend that many hours on a degree, I'm going to spend them in a field that pays better.

There is also a lot of discussion about the type of education new grads are getting. Most certainly, more technical knowledge has accumulated over the years and it must be dispersed to engineering students, but perhaps the classroom is not the best way to do that. Instead, let the classroom teach some of the soft-skills that are also needed to enter the workforce: ethics, accounting, law, team development, etc. and let the industry mold the recent grads to the specialist positions they need.

I will say one positive thing about B+30. When it comes to making the engineering profession more of a revered profession like doctors and lawyers, requiring at least a master's level degree in order to become licensed is probably the only way. Until that point, engineering will continue to be just a commodity. But, a definitive difference between engineer and designer will have to be drawn, with engineers compensated appropriately.

This is a hot topic and I have plenty of opinions. But this is a blog, not a white paper. Hopefully the points I mention here are enough to build further discussion.
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