To the Daily:

I feel I should point out two very important things that Joe Sugiyama may have overlooked in his recent viewpoint (Mastering Engineering, 02/15/2010).

First, he suggests that “Maybe we could follow the example of our friends across the pond and institute a five-year program resulting in a master’s degree.” Such a program already exists at the University. It’s called the Simultaneous Graduate/Undergraduate Study program. All engineering majors offer it. Though Sugiyama recommends it for all engineering students, the program requires a minimum cumulative 3.2 GPA, or even higher in certain departments, which not all engineering students have.

I got my BSE and MSE through the program, and based on my experience I recommend it. Still, graduate school isn’t for everyone, and students who plan on stopping at a master’s degree will likely have difficulty receiving funding for the extra year the five-year program requires. Loans for four years of tuition are bad enough.

Second, not all types of engineers can or should obtain Professional Engineering licenses. When I looked up Sugiyama’s directory entry I was not surprised to discover that he is a civil engineer. It is much more difficult to obtain employment as a civil engineer without the PE qualification. The requirement is therefore advertised in civil engineering classes at the sophomore level.

However, in nuclear engineering, the PE qualification is not particularly common, and since the exam tests heavily on nuclear power reactor knowledge, any other type of nuclear engineer — those specializing in radiation measurements, medical imaging, radiation beam therapy or radiation protection, for example — would waste their time by taking the exam. This holds true for some engineers in other specialties as well. Additionally, if an engineer plans on working for a firm or corporation, only one person in the organization needs to have a PE qualification in order for the entire organization to be able to offer engineering services for government contracts or the public.

Many engineers learn just as well or better through experience as opposed to more time in academia, and many engineers cannot or should not seek the Professional Engineer Certification. I want to ensure that engineers just starting their careers are not misled by Sugiyama’s viewpoint. Though it was well-written and well-intentioned, it does not apply to all engineers and should not scare off anyone who does not wish to go to graduate school or take the PE exam.

John Harvey
Rackham Engineering Ph.D. candidate

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