February, 1934


The Registration of Engineers


TWENTY-SEVEN of the states of the Union now require or permit the registration of engineers and the number is increasing. It is high time that we should concern ourselves about the matter in Nebraska.

Moreover, the proposal should emanate from the body of engineers practicing in the state rather than from any limited part of the group. If the some-time law requiring registration is to be effective and fair, it must have the approval of ALL of us. That approval should be attained for the bill, before it is introduced into the legislature. A dispassionate discussion of the needs and the means should be forthcoming in all engineering circles.

With this end in view, the Fourth Annual Nebraska Engineers' Roundup will give attention to the subject, on Saturday forenoon, February 24. I hope that every engineering student will be sufficiently interested in his own future to sit in on the discussion, for it is a foregone conclusion that nearly all of you will have to practice under such a requirement either here or elsewhere.

Several of our national societies are now cooperating in promoting such laws, in standardizing them as fully as is practicable, and in working out reciprocal relations under which engineers may practice.

Just as an introduction to the subject, may I point out a few items of importance?

First. I would boldly assert that the registration of engineers is not to be justified on the basis of its benefits to engineers.

The only proper foundation for such a requirement lies in its benefits to society or the State, as we call it. Unless these are real, the law should not be enacted. To this end, the law should serve as a potent influence in establishing higher ethical and professional standards of practice, greater safety and economy. It should serve to make available to the public, qualified servants who may design and erect engineering works and perform other engineering services upon a basis of established confidence.

Incidentally, the engineering profession would receive benefit from the general standardization of requirements for recognition of competence in the various fields.

While the practices in the 27 states do not coincide in detail, there is partial agreement that is rather far reaching. There is, in general, an appointive or an ex officio Board of Examiners to conduct examinations, registrations, certification recording, etc.

Eligibility to personal registration requires either:

(1) An engineering college course, plus an experience record of two to four years, with examination in certain subjects,
(2) An engineering experience of 6 to 8 years, in addition to an examination in the major work covered by an engineering college course.

These examinations are required in fifteen of the twenty-seven states, and are conditional in the others.

The fee for registration varies from $10.00 to $25.00. An annual renewal fee amounts to $2.00 to $5.00. An engineering firm may register, if the practicing members are registered.

Exceptions to the requirement extend to Federal employees, to men in subordinate positions, and to those from other states covered by reciprocal arrangements. The second of these items provides a route by which young men may secure the experience necessary to registration.

Different states have acted differently with re-spect to coupling- with the engineers either land surveyors or architects. That is a matter for local determination.

A Federal aspect of the question is now appearing in the proposal that a national code of qualifications be provided, which will give to registration boards in the several states information concerning individuals. It is recognized that the Federal Government can not give a permit to an engineer to practice in any state. The national board would therefore certify as to the qualifications of the examinee, which certification would serve as information to the State Hoard. The latter would have to act upon the registration.

All states having laws of this type have agreed to admit to registration rather freely at first all who have been practicing the profession prior thereto. This is known as the "grandfather" clause (for historical reasons you may recall), and its effect terminates after a few years. Gradually, therefore the registered engineers of the state will be-come a standardized body, with the fly-by-nights eliminated.

You will do yourself a service by getting first-hand information upon the subject and what is being proposed for Nebraska, at the Engineers Round-up, to which students are invited.