Point of Beginning

Technology Benchmark: Call to the State Boards of Engineering and Surveying

March 3, 2009
I have one suggestion to help resolve the unemployment and under-employment issues facing our professions: The state boards of engineering and surveying should expand the work that requires a professional license by issuing new position statements.



In this economic downturn, all engineers and surveyors are hurting. Yet with our education and skills, and with the liability we undertake for the good of the public welfare, why are so many in our field unemployed or under-employed? Considering the state of America’s infrastructure, this should be the “Era of the Engineer and Surveyor.” The ASCE grading system for the nation’s infrastructure shows us at barely a D grade-worse than many Third World countries.

I have one suggestion to help resolve the issue: The state boards of engineering and surveying should expand the work that requires a professional engineering or professional survey license by issuing new position statements.

Don’t dismiss this suggestion too quickly. Such actions have been taken numerous times before in other fields. Consider the ongoing issues of aerial surveyors requiring a survey license in many states. This battle has been occurring for about 10 years in Virginia. States are also dealing with a GPS data prep licensing issue that began in 2006, escalated in 2007 and continues now in 2009. In fact, many states now require that anyone performing data prep for machine control construction must be under the responsible charge of a PE or LS.

So why not include some other tasks that affect the public welfare? Some thoughts in this area include:
  • Anyone washing their car must be under the responsible charge of a PE due to the water pressure and the fact that the water is usually sourced at the city. (Only kidding!)
  • On the serious side though, GIS workers should be under the charge of an LS due to the magnitude of property line issues now occurring in that field. I understand that some states have already implemented this requirement or are considering it.
  • A growing number of police agencies now perform surveying for accident reconstructions and collecting data from accident sites or catastrophic structural engineering failures. I suggest that the individuals performing the scans should be licensed surveyors or hired same under contract for the effort. A lot of money and perhaps jail time could hinge on this data being collected correctly.
  • Many engineering firms (and others) now perform a preponderance of “studies.” I believe that anyone doing a study pertaining to public works, all types of transportation, structural, water conveyance, hydrological, rainfall events, etc., should be under the responsible charge of a PE or perhaps an LS.
  • All 3D modeling and data prep intended for GPS machine control should be under the charge of a PE or an LS. Either contractors can add this capability to protect themselves (as many do already), or the engineering and surveying departments performing the design can be added to the team.
  • 3D Models and any computer-generated or photorealistic renderings or animations should be under the responsible charge of an engineer or surveyor. This requirement might come into effect if the renderings are going to be displayed at public hearings or in courtroom trials as forensic of trial evidence.
  • Property appraisals should also perhaps fall under an LS due to the required property computations.
  • Perhaps college and university professors should be required to have a PE or LS when teaching civil- or survey-related academic subjects. While many have these credentials, some do not.
I think you get my point. Considering the economy we are in and the impact of the many tendrils of the civil engineering and surveying industry on the nation’s infrastructure, more tasks legally should fall under the responsibility of these licensed professionals. Perhaps we can look forward to this being the “Era of the Infrastructure Professional,” be it engineer or surveyor.

What other responsibilities should be shifted in our direction? Please share your thoughts below.

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