Engineering: Continuing Education for the Engineering Professions

Degree programs in engineering typically cover how the application of science and mathematics can be used to solve an array of real-world problems. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for engineering graduates.

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There are many opportunities for engineers to continue their education and further their careers. Many engineers opt for graduate studies but specialized licensure and other certifications can open up many options for an engineer.

Essential Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most engineers require the minimum of a bachelor's degree in their field to find employment. To get into more advanced positions, to get licensed, or to conduct research, some engineers may need graduate degrees. There are licensure requirements for engineers who provide their services directly to the public, per the BLS; some fields that often require licensure include mechanical, civil and environmental engineering. To maintain licensure, most states require professionals to complete continuing education, and information on that process can be found below.

Career Titles Mechanical Engineer Civil Engineer Environmental Engineer
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree;
Graduate degree required for some research-based positions
Bachelor's degree;
Graduate degree required for some advanced positions
Bachelor's degree
Licensure and Certification Licensure may be required; certification is voluntary Licensure may be required; certification is voluntary Licensure may be required; certification is voluntary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) +5%* +8%* +12%*
Median Salary (2015) $83,590* $82,220* $84,560*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Continuing Education for the Engineering Professions

Becoming a licensed engineer requires passing two exams and earning the requisite work experience. Individuals near graduation may sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Upon passing the FE, engineers must complete four years of work experience before they can sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to become licensed. Licensed engineers may need continuing education to remain eligible and can consider professional certifications for career advancement.

Continuing Professional Competency

Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) standards are required by many states to maintain licensure. CPCs may come in the form of professional development hours (PDHs), the requirements for which vary by state. Most states set an hour requirement that must be met either annually or biannually. A PDH is an hour of instruction or presentation that meets established standards.

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) has established national standards for what constitutes a PDH and how many hours they are worth. Depending on the length of an event and the commitment needed, PDH assignments can vary. According to the NCEES, attending or presenting at a conference is worth only a single PDH, while a semester-long course at an accredited college course is worth 45 PDHs (www.ncees.org). This organization also defines activities that are not counted as PDHs.

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Career Options

Mechanical Engineer

As one of the broadest fields of engineering, mechanical engineers review and fix problems by designing and constructing thermal or mechanical devices. Mechanical engineers conduct a lot of research and testing as they review different problems, and they also build many prototypes to test out their solutions.

Civil Engineer

These professionals apply engineering methodologies to the planning, construction, and design of buildings, bridges, roadways, airports, and other large construction projects. Civil engineers oversee these projects, and some of their duties may include conducting research and analysis of each building site, verifying the structural stability of building materials, testing building tools, and reporting their findings to the public.

Environmental Engineer

These types of engineers use engineering sciences to come up with solutions to environmental problems. Some environmental engineers address global issues, such as deforestation, global warming, and ocean pollution, but other environmental engineers focus on more local problems, such as recycling programs, public health concerns, and waste disposal.

Professional Certifications

Many professional engineering organizations offer recognized certifications. These credentials may demonstrate professional competency or allow an individual to concentrate in a branch of the engineer's field. Some engineering organizations offer certifications for companies to perform inspections or work with specific equipment. Similar to professional licensure, organizational certifications may require a passing score on an exam and continuing education standards to maintain it.

Engineers from all disciplines with experience in quality control may seek the Quality Engineer Certification, which is offered by the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Individuals need several years of experience in a decision-making position to qualify for this credential. ASQ also offers Reliability Engineer, Software Quality Engineer and Six Sigma certifications.

Whether you're a mechanical, environmental, civil or another kind of engineer continuing your education can be an effective way of furthering your career and taking it to new heights. With the plethora of opportunities in graduate studies, licensure and other professional certifications you can pick the path that best fits your career goals.

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